Right now is the time to register for the Goderich Celtic College. Starting on the first Monday in August (August 2nd this year), this four-day program is a cornucopia for people looking to learn Celtic music, dance, and crafts. It’s one of the very best programs of its kind in the world and it’s just a four-hour drive away from Midland.
A day at the Celtic College starts with four 80-minute slots of classes, taught by some of the top teachers and performers of the music. You then get a few hours to rest, practice, and find dinner before the evening starts. Every evening has several hours of teacher concerts, followed by “multiple sessions at every level, a song circle and ceili dances.” Generally there’s some sort of music on the go until the pubs’ closing time (2am or so).
There’s also a welcome ceili and session(s) on the Sunday before, and Goderich’s spectacular three-day Celtic Roots Festival starts with class performances on Friday afternoon.
Music classes cover fiddle, cello (! — new this year), concertina, accordion, harmonica, harp, bodhran, piano, whistle, flute, pipes, guitar, banjo, mandolin, ensemble and tunes, songs, vocal harmonies, and sound engineering. Dance styles taught include Irish set, Irish ceili, Canadian step, Cape Breton step, and Appalachian clogging. Crafts include bronze and pewter casting, copper enameling, calligraphy, etc.
The star of the Irish teachers this year is Paddy Keenan, the piper from the legendary Bothy Band. Others include long-time teachers Patrick Ourceau and Brian Taheny, great American flute player Shannon Heaton, and the up-and-coming band Bua. Quebecois teachers feature Andre Brunet (from the Celtic Fiddle Festival) and his band De Temps Antan. Scottish teachers include the terrific band Malinky and Brian McNeil (founding member of the Battlefield Band). Newfoundland teachers include stellar instructor Christina Smith and the always-fun Jean Hewson, as well as hot new band The Once (teaching Harmony Singing). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Really, if you’d think you’d like to go, you would probably love it. Frankly, Goderich is so good that it has spoiled me to the point where other similar “schools” I’ve tried seem like a pale imitation.
(I may try to update this post with more links later, right now I don’t have the time to track them all down.)