Local West Allis resident, Randy Gosa, will be a featured instructor at the 25th annual Irish Fest Summer School, a week-long series of programs offering professional instruction by the world’s top authorities in Irish music, history and culture. The cultural program, which runs August 15-19 on the Milwaukee School of Engineering campus in downtown Milwaukee brings life-long students face-to-face with Irish masters – and you don’t have to be Irish, or experienced, to sign up.
“With a roster that includes hand-picked, Irish faculty, this program has the kind of unique instruction you’d find studying abroad in Ireland, but with the convenience of being in our own backyard,” said Jane Walrath, director of the Milwaukee Irish Fest Summer School. “It’s a slice of Ireland, delivered economically to students from the source.”
Gosa will teach intermediate and advanced Irish tenor banjo. This class will focus on melody playing and the use of tenor banjo in Irish traditional music. It will explore everything from basic picking hand rhythms to intermediate/advanced techniques for both the picking and fretting hands. Articulation, efficiency, tone, ornaments and directional patterns will be considered as well as the relationship between tenor banjo and other instruments in Irish music.
Gosa has been playing stringed instruments for the past 18 years. He studied traditional music at the University of Limerick as part of the Certificate Program in Celtic Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Gosa teaches tenor banjo and guitar at the year-round Irish Fest School of Music. A veteran of the Milwaukee area music scene, he has played with a number of bands including Cé and is currently with the Celtic ensemble, Myserk.
In addition to the opportunity to learn from local musicians, the music program at this year’s Summer School includes several instructors from the Ireland counties of Derry and Donegal which are being highlighted this year. Instructions will teach beginning, intermediate and advanced programs which offer a variety of opportunities whether you are a performer yourself or just looking to explore a new instrument. Additional music classes include:
• Recognized as one of Ireland’s finest fiddle players, Brendan Hendry, a Derry native and member of the Brendan Hendry Band, will present intermediate and advance fiddling with a focus on the varied rhythms of a range of Irish tunes.
• Seven-time World Bodhran Champion, Junior Davey will teach reel, jig patterns and other techniques to students from beginner to advance on the signature Irish bodhran drum.
• Named TG4’s 2010 Young Musician of the Year, Aidan O’Donnell – along with members of the Donegal-based traditional Irish fiddle trio, Fidil – will offer a unique opportunity to learn intermediate and advance fiddle techniques celebrating both traditional and modern styles.
• Dr. Liz Doherty, a Donegal native and lecturer at the University of Ulster, will explore aspects of the Donegal fiddle tradition, including the role of women fiddlers.
• Nodlaig Brolly, a well-known signer and harper from Derry who conducts advanced harp workshops in Ireland and France will teach harp at the intermediate and advance levels.
• Additional music programs include instruction with guitar, tin whistle, flute, and banjo instruments.
Highlighting the contributions of wartime to Irish and Irish American culture will be a new series of programs focusing on battle songs, war-era dance and military history. Programs include:
• Historian Derek Warfield, a singer-songwriter and founding member of the legendary Wolfe Tones, will discuss the inspiration behind Irish music during the American Revolutionary War in a presentation called “Ballads & Rebel Songs.”
• David Kincaid, a historian and musician who performed in critically-acclaimed 2003 Hollywood film, “Gods and Generals,” staring Jeff Daniels, Stephen Lang, and Robert Duvall, will present a compelling combination of the history and song of Irish soldiers who fought in the American Civil War.
• Mary Pat Kelly, author and award-winning filmmaker of the PBS series, “To Live for Ireland,” will give a talk on the little-known role of Derry’s Beech Hill Country House in serving as an important military base and shelter to marines during WWII. The presentation will cover the building’s history and its use today as an elegant, rural manor hotel, research center and tourist destination for veterans and their families.
• A special dance class exploring Celtic influences on social dance during the American Civil War era will feature low-impact, easy to learn dances, Victorian dance games and hints of ballroom etiquette.
Literature and Film
The literature and film of Ireland will come alive through discussions and presentations such as “Narnia,” a discussion hosted by Sandy Smith on the Irish upbringing and influences of C.S. Lewis, the internationally known author of “The Chronicles of Narnia.” Award-winning actor and filmmaker, Mary Pat Kelly will screen the film “Home Away from Home: The Yanks in Ireland” giving a broad view of WWII in Northern Ireland. Derry harper, Nodlaig Brolly, will screen the award-winning documentary, “Queen of Music,” which documents her rediscovery of the ancient Irish wire frame harp and the music associated with it.
Students can also take classes on dance, language, arts and crafts, and sampler programs, including a Friday morning children’s workshop filled with storytelling, theatrical games, crafts, and more.
“The Irish Fest Summer School program enriches the cultural sensibilities of the Milwaukee community,” added Walrath. “Everyone can get something out of going back to school.”
About Irish Fest Summer School
The Milwaukee Irish Fest Summer School marks the kick off to the world’s largest celebration of Irish music and culture, Irish Fest at Maier Festival Grounds, – amounting to a full week of Irish education and entertainment for both locals and national and international travelers. Course registration is open now through August 15 and early enrollment discounts apply through June 30. Fees vary with each class and some programs are complimentary. On-site housing is available for interested students. For more information and to register for classes, visit: www.irishfest.com/schools or call (414) 476-3378.
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