Music » Folk

Licks of the Irish

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Enticed by the enchanting music of the Emerald Isle but looking for something a little more traditional than the sounds of U2 or Hozier?

With St. Patrick's Day fast approaching, enthusiasts of everything green and clovered may want to check out classes being held by the Irish Arts Academy of Indianapolis.

Classes in Irish music, step dancing, and language will begin this Saturday, March 7 and run through May 16 at the Garfield Park Arts Center on Indianapolis' Southside.

Learning Irish music doesn't require infinite knowledge of its finer details, but rather by "playing to the ear."  - COURTESY OF THE IRISH ARTS ACADEMY OF INDIANAPOLIS
  • Courtesy of the Irish Arts Academy of Indianapolis
  • Learning Irish music doesn't require infinite knowledge of its finer details, but rather by "playing to the ear."

Music aficionados ranging in experience from beginner to expert can learn how to play such traditional Irish instruments as the bodhr√°n (an Irish frame drum similar to a tambourine), highland pipes, dulcimers, fiddle, Irish tenor banjo, mandolin, Celtic harp, flute (both Irish and traditional), whistle, accordion and guitar.

The eclectic sounds created by band members combine to form that quaint, familiar Celtic sound.

"Irish music is based in community," says Dmitri Alano, director of the Irish Arts Academy of Indianapolis. "It brings all ages of people together and it brings people of different backgrounds together, all for a common cause."

Irish music is primarily learned by "playing to ear" and learning from examples set by others, meaning it does not take encyclopedic knowledge of its finer details for someone to be able to pick up.

"The tradition of Irish music is an oral tradition so it's just learned by listening and copying other players," Alano says.

Even those without any familiarity with Irish music can take part in the academy's classes. Alano recommends novice Irish musicians start with the whistle.

"There's no embouchure [use of facial muscles to create notes] requirement like with the flute, and you don't necessarily need as much dexterity to start as with the fiddle."

Dmitri Alano hopes people who take the classes gain a skill that lasts a lifetime. - COURTESY OF THE IRISH ARTS ACADEMY OF INDIANAPOLIS
  • Courtesy of the Irish Arts Academy of Indianapolis
  • Dmitri Alano hopes people who take the classes gain a skill that lasts a lifetime.

Musicians who may not be so familiar with Irish music will find that it is very diatonic in nature, which can make it easier for musicians new to the genre.

"Irish music doesn't venture out of a single key very often," Alano says. "It's based mostly on 16-measure melodies."

He hopes that those who take classes are left with a skill that lasts a lifetime.

"We hope they walk away with a positive musical experience that is something that they would like to continue doing," Alano says.

For more information on these and other classes and events coming up at the academy, visit IrishArtsIndy.org.

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