ceol, cultúr, craic – the celtic music club

“ceol, cultúr, craic” – the Celtic Music club

Tuesday evenings, 6:30 – 8:30 pm
Howard County Public Library, Elkridge Branch

About the Celtic Music Club

The Celtic Music Club is a small group of musicians, dedicated to celebrating the music and culture from the Celtic nations, most notably, Ireland and Scotland.

Our main activity is a weekly gathering, during which we play instrumental dance tunes, on traditional instruments, including violin (fiddle), mandolin, guitar, flute, tin whistle, concertina, accordion, cittern (aka bouzouki), and bodhran (Irish drum). Other stringed and/or treble instruments, such as cello, are included – and welcome.

At the moment (September 2021), each Tuesday evening, from 6:30 – 8:30 pm, you can join a moderately-paced, Celtic-tunes session, and learn Celtic instrumental dance tunes – reels, jigs, hornpipes, marches, polkas and more.

Unlike open sessions that you might encounter in pubs or at festivals, we are very much a learn-as-you-go club.  In that sense, SHEET MUSIC and TUNE BOOKS are very welcome.  While some of our members have many, many tunes memorized, others do not.  We don’t mind.  And we have a great time every week!

What are “sessions”?

“Sessions” are basically gatherings of people for the purpose of playing music together. This is a tradition in celtic music, still widely practiced – all around the world, truly.

While, in theory, all players are welcome at all sessions, the truth is that particular sessions tend to be for players of a certain level. If you’re not at that level, you may not get as much out of the session as you’d like.

Very generally speaking, sessions break down in to a two types – slow and fast. Yet, even the so-called “slow” sessions usually play a bit too fast for beginners, and all session participants expect that you’ll have the tunes memorized – except for ours!

Each session will have a genre focus, such as Irish music or Scottish music. At some sessions, songs will be the focus; at most, however, the focus is on instrumental dance music (jigs, reels, horpipes, strathspeys, and so on).

What about our weekly session with the Celtic Music club?

Many, many years ago, when we began this session, it was a special, super-slow session, focusing primarily on the instrumental dance music of Ireland. The goal of this session was to bridge the gap between learning to play an instrument and getting to the point where you can go out and join in a public session.

These days, the members of the club have advanced quite a bit, and so, sometimes, we take the music at a fairly quick pace.  We’re still slower than an open session tends to be, though we probably can’t really call our session “slow” any longer.

Still, we like to give anyone a space to play with other musicians, and so, at least for some of the tunes, we’ll play at an accommodating pace!  And, our members play from select books and sheet music, and we also coach each other through the memorization process. We even learn some tunes the traditional way – strictly by ear.

During each session, we play through a variety of tunes, slowly building a repertoire of the most popular and commonly played tunes (see the related article, “what tunes should I learn?“). We learn the tunes by ear; by reading music; and by listening to others play. For most of the tunes, we use sheet music as part of the session.

While this session is not, strictly speaking, for complete beginners, we do welcome moderately intermediate and advanced players.

As a bonus, we also socialize a fair bit, and we share what we know about celtic culture, music history, and music theory – as the music often prompts related questions.

Most western folk instruments will fit in nicely at the session, with the most common instruments used in Celtic music being the fiddle, mandolin, guitar, 4-string tenor banjo, flute, accordion, tin whistle, cittern, and uilleann pipes.

So, join us for ceol, cultúr, agus craic.