LESSONS FROM THE CÉILÍ HOUSE: CORMAC BEGLEY

At the beginning of October, The Céilí House welcomed its second visitor: Cormac Begley, a bass, baritone, treble and piccolo concertina player from a West-Kerry musical family.

Cormac gave 2 workshops, a concertina workshop and an all-instrument workshop designed to help players find their own unique style in Irish music, and gave an amazing 2 set solo concert to a sold out audience.

For more about Cormac, or to purchase his amazing solo album, visit http://cormacbegley.com

Cormac Begley bass tina.jpg

At the end of the workshop, Cormac sat in a folding chair in the bay window of the Céilí House looking back at the group of 12 adults, seated in a circle in the living room.  Next to him were 6 giant Post-Its: 2 with tunes in ABC notation, 2 with exercises in dynamics, speed, and emphasis, 1 with a list of possible ornaments, and 1 with a drawing of the layout of the concertina.   The tri-color was waving in the breeze in the window behind him.

“You have to say something with the tune.  And you have to trust that what you say is valuable.  You should have confidence in your style.”

The clouds parted and the room lit up just then, and the heavenly angels could be heard saying “AHHHHHHHHHHHHH”.   At least that’s how it happened in my head.

Through some brilliant pedagogy, and no doubt putting to use his PhD in psychology, Cormac had bolstered our confidence in the choices we have to make in order to say something with the tune, and develop our own style in our home practice.   “And then play it however you want” is the unfunny punchline of most workshops, called out in passing as you are walking out the door, having spent however many hours learning the exact rendition of the tune as is being taught by the teacher.    In this case, we were given a tune, but spent the workshop time learning tools for self-expression and how to use them. Cormac had taught us to fish.

Thus the light of revelation, I assumed.  

We talked after and all felt extremely energized and inspired.

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Cormac was long gone back to Ireland and I was digging through a very overloaded inbox.  Buried in the middle was an email sent from me to me, with the timestamp from the middle of Cormac’s workshop, and the subject line “Cormac!!!” .  

It read: TRUST THAT WHAT YOU SAY IS VALUABLE.