Two years ago, I was captivated by an Irish language television show which depicted someone learning to sing a sean nós (translated from Irish “old style”) song in the Irish language. My fascination with Ireland and its customs, people and music goes back to my childhood, but I found something even more special in this ancient music tradition. I wanted to learn how to do it. So, I decided, I would just look on the Internet and find myself a sean nós teacher. That proved to be much easier said than done.
I had hoped to find a teacher in my immediate area, but I could barely find someone here who knew what sean nós singing was, much less how to do it or teach it. I began reaching out to different contacts I found on the Internet. Someone told me that it is not even easy to find a traditional sean nós teacher in Ireland itself. There are no textbooks or manuals for sean nós, I learned. You learn it by listening and feeling it and doing it. And that is what I learned by taking online sean nós singing classes with teachers from The Irish Gift, a school for traditional Irish music and singing located in central Tennessee and also offering classes in the Irish language, Irish fiddle, flute, uilleann pipes and bodhrán.
I began my classes with The Irish Gift late in 2012. For my first semester my teacher was Máirín Uí Chéide, a native of the Connemara region of Ireland. I am now meeting weekly on Skype with my instructor Micheál Ó Tnúthail (Mike Newell), originally from County Galway in Ireland. I have learned not only the sean nós songs themselves, but have been immersed in the richness of Irish history and language and culture. I have recently become familiar with some of the amazing sean nós singers in Ireland, both past and present. It is not a textbook course, but a dynamic hands-on experience.
Studying traditional Irish singing with The Irish Gift combines two of my passions: the Irish language and music. I feel very fortunate to have discovered sean nós, as well as The Irish Gift.
The Irish Gift is an invaluable resource in the preservation and sharing of the traditional musical heritage of Ireland.