Minnesota Irish Music Weekend

storyThe Celtic community of St. Paul is in for a real treat over the coming days, as singers, fiddlers, guitar players and more gather for the Minnesota Irish Music Weekend. Festival coordinator Norah Rendell gives us the details.

What are your own roots?
I was born in Edmonton, raised in Vancouver and my family has been over this side of the Atlantic for five or six generations. My Mother’s side of the family (Sinclairs and Sangsters from near Kirkaldy and Aberdeen respectively) settled in the Canadian prairies as farmers and ranchers. The Rendell side of the family emigrated from Devon to Newfoundland in the mid-1800s and my great-grandfather “puddle-jumped” to Vancouver around the turn of the last century. My connection to Irish traditional music is purely through a love for the music itself! It has become the center of my whole life since I started playing it when I was about 20 years old.

When and why did you get involved with this event?
I am the Executive Director of the Center for Irish Music, a community music school based in Saint Paul Minnesota that serves over three hundred students each year through private lessons, group classes and events. I book the artists and work with a wonderful team of skilled volunteers who organize the Minnesota Irish Music Weekend.

Why is it an important event for the community there?
It is the one weekend each year when we invite legendary traditional Irish musicians (often from Ireland, but sometimes from North America as well) to come to the Twin Cities to perform and teach for students of all ages. It’s a very small, intimate weekend that is focused entirely on traditional Irish music.

Who attends the event?
Lovers of Irish music (mostly musicians themselves) from all over the country! We have a teen program, a children’s program and an adult program. Our youth programs draw from all over Minnesota, but particularly from the greater Twin Cities region. In our adult workshops, we have had participants travel all the way from L.A, Seattle, Montana, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Illinois!

What can they expect this year?
This year, we are thrilled to be bringing an excellent line-up of Irish traditional musicians, all of whom are passionate performers and teachers; Oisín Mac Diarmada (fiddle), Catherine McEvoy (flute), John McEvoy (fiddle), John Blake (guitar, piano, flute) and Rita Gallagher on song. They are also all lovely people to spend time with! We’ll be offering workshops in all of those instruments, plus workshops in Irish language song and sean nós dance with Brían Ó Háirt of Bua, lectures and interviews of the visiting artists hosted by Dáithí Sproule and a rare. Friday night is the Great Session Experience when we have sessions in every corner of the Celtic Junction building, each led by local session musicians. On Saturday night, there will be a rare and virtuosic concert featuring the visiting artists. There is something for everyone with our three programs: Beginner Children, Intermediate and Advanced Teens and Adult programs.

Will you remain involved with the event in the years ahead?
Absolutely! The Minnesota Irish Music Weekend has become an integral part of what the Center for Irish Music does.

How else are you involved with the Celtic community there?
I am involved in every capacity I can think of, as a performer (through my work with The Outside Track, as a singer and with the Two Tap Trio), a teacher, and in my administrative and artistic direction role as the Executive Director of the Center for Irish Music.

Is enough being done to preserve and promote Celtic culture generally?
In the Twin Cities, there is an exceptionally active community around Irish music. A significant majority of that community actively values traditional music, Irish language, dance, mythology and history.

What can we be doing better?
I would love to see more people out there spending their leisure time entertaining themselves through participating in cultural arts, at home and with their friends and families. Celtic arts such as dance, music and art bring people together and strengthen communities. Culturally-based arts activities also help to keep people in touch with their creative side which I believe brings meaning, and ultimately happiness to individuals and communities. So, I guess, get off our duffers and learn how to do something new, like play the guitar or fiddle or knit your grandson an Irish sweater! You’ll learn all sorts of interesting people through the process. Or, come to the Minnesota Irish Music Weekend and take a few workshops!