Teachers & Performers

TEACHERS/PERFORMERS

Pat Murphy, set dance teacher and nightly céilí leader

My earliest memories from my childhood when the Ballycommon Set, which was called the Plain Set at home, and the Cashel Set were the only ones we knew about. We lived in Upperchurch, Co Tipperary, in the South of Ireland

My father Jack played the accordian and he played for house dances in earlier years. I learned to play music from him, so my first connection with Irish Set Dancing was as a musician. As children, we also learned to dance at home with our parents and neighbours.

In the early 1980’s, when I was playing music for a dancing competition, I was asked to dance in one of the competition teams, as one of their male dancers was injured. I danced, we won and this begins my modern dancing story.

As an experienced, practising school teacher and musician, I think I had a good preparation for the set dancing world. Also, I have always enjoyed meeting and spending time with people. I was invited to teach the sets at a local club and I taught weekly classes for many years in Dublin and nearby counties. This was at the beginning of the set dance revival, so as there were not many people with enough knowledge available to teach, so I was asked to travel to other parts of Ireland at the invitation of various people who had attended or heard about my classes. This was the start of my life as a travelling Dance Master.

My travels over more than 30 years have now taken me to every county in Ireland and to most countries in Mainland Europe, including France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Russia. Some of the best Dance Festivals in my experience have taken place in France, Italy and Germany. I have visited many parts of America, including, California, Seattle, Chicago, Milwaukee, Florida and New York. I have travelled to Canada, to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. My travels have also enabled me to teach in Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

When I began teaching, I made notes on the dances and shared them with my dancing friends. In 1994, I was invited by Irish Publisher Mercier Press to write a book on Irish Set Dancing. My first book, entitled Toss the Feathers, Irish Set Dancing was published in 1995. It contained 64 dances and became the first standard reference Book for Set Dancers world wide. I continued writing and my second book, The Flowing Tide, More Irish Set Dancing was published in 2000.

Since then I have continued collecting dances and three more dance books have been published, the latest officially launched at the beginning of 2018.

Together, the five books form a complete anthology of Irish Set Dancing from the revival in the 1970s to this year, 2018.

Toss the Feathers, Irish Set Dancing (1995)
The Flowing Tide, More Irish Set Dancing (2000)
Apples in Winter, Irish Set and Social Dancing (2009)
Tabhair Dom Do Lámh, Irish Set and Social Dancing (2014)
Come West Along the Road, Irish Set and Social Dancing (2017)

I have also produced many instructional DVDs on Set Dancing.

Pauline Conneely, banjo

Pauline was born in Bedford, England, the daughter of Irish parents from Connemara and Longford, raised in a family steeped in Irish music, dance and culture. As a young girl she achieved great success, becoming a champion Irish step dancer before turning her focus to music. Under the tutelage of legendary musician Brendan Mulkere, Pauline honed her love of the banjo, eventually earning her status as renowned banjo player.

She founded the band Chicago Reel, who feature regularly at Irish festivals around the Midwest and East Coast. She frequently shares the stage with Grammy-nominated fiddler Liz Carroll, as well as many respected artists performing on the world stage today, including John Doyle, The Chieftains, Cherish the Ladies, Sean Keane, and Mick McGoldrick.

Brendan Dolan, tin whistle

Brendan Dolan is a multi-instrumentalist, excelling in the piano, Irish flute and tin whistle. He is the son of renowned Irish-traditional pianist Felix Dolan, a mainstay of traditional Irish music in New York since the 1950s.

Brendan has worked with accordionist John Whelan, singer/songwriter Cathie Ryan, Andy Statman, Itzhak Perlman, and the group Atlantic Bridge which also featured former Solas vocalist Karan Casey.

He maintains a vibrant school of Irish music for children in the New York City area and holds a master’s degree in Irish and Irish-American Studies at NYU, where he currently works as an archivist on the Mick Moloney Irish-American Music and Popular Culture Collection.

He plays at many céilís and concerts with various groups around the New York area and can be heard on the latest recordings of Billy McComiskey, Brian Conway and The Green Fields of America.

Marla Fibish, mandolin

A San Francisco native, Marla is one of the prominent voices of the mandolin in Irish music. She brings a deep and distinctive sensibility to the tradition on one of its lesser-heard instruments. She is a dynamic performer and a sought-after teacher.

She has performed and taught nationally and in Ireland, and was a featured performer at the 2018 Masters of Tradition festival in Bantry, Co. Cork.

Marla teaches privately, in group classes, and online with Peghead Nation, and has taught at many music camps, including The Swannanoa Gathering, Lark Camp, California Coast Music Camp, The Mandolin Symposium, Colorado Roots Music Camp, Portal Irish Music Week and O’Flaherty Irish Music Retreat.

Cormac Gannon, bodhrán

Originally from County Mayo in the west of Ireland, Cormac Gannon has lived in the Bay Area since 1991. A founding member of the band The Gas Men, Cormac also plays with other groups and in sessions and organizes the yearly Fairfax Irish Festival in Marin County.

Gannon’s bodhrán class is for players of all levels. People don’t have to bring an instrument if they don’t have one – he is making some bodhráns now and will bring them to class.

Golden Gate Céilí Band

The Golden Gate Céilí Band is a brand new, semi-rotating ensemble featuring the very best names in Irish traditional music from San Francisco and the surrounding areas. Formed in 2018 by Autumn Rhodes and Tim Hill, the band has performed for wildly successful céilís and fundraiser events in San Francisco, keeping the dance floor full for hours! Comprised of the classic, timeless sound of fiddles, flutes, concertina, button accordions and banjos for the melody instruments with the crucial rhythmic ingredients of céilí drums and piano, the Golden Gate Céilí Band is committed to preserving the musical legacies of Galway natives Joe Cooley and Kevin Keegan who, in the 1960s and 70s, cemented Irish traditional music in San Francisco. Additionally, the style and repertoire of many of the great bands of the past such as the Tulla, Castle, Aughrim Slopes, Kilfenora, Leitrim, and Innisfree Céilí Bands are evident in the group’s repertoire and musical influences.

The band members are Autumn Rhodes (Concertina and Accordion), Sinéad Lafferty (Accordion), Del Eckels (Drums), Darcy Noonan (Fiddle), Bill Dennehy (Fiddle), Kathy Buys (Fiddle), Tim Hill (Flute), Vinny Cronin (Flute), Ben Saylor (Flute), Hector Bragado (Banjo), Richard Mandel (Banjo), and Peter Persoff (Piano).

The Golden Gate Céilí Band can be found performing for monthly set dances at The Plough and Stars and for céilís at San Francisco’s United Irish Cultural Center.

Tim Hill, uilleann pipes

Born in the Philadelphia area, Tim has been immersed in traditional Irish music since he was a child. After taking up the uilleann pipes at the age of 11 upon the receipt of a practice set from local fluter and gentleman piper John Donnelly, he became entrenched in learning about the history of Irish music in the area. Players such as fiddler John Vesey, fluter Eddie Cahill, and the music of Ed Reavy were both early and continual subjects of study. Tim learned much of his formative music from Derry flute player/singer Paddy O’Neill and the legendary Tyrone accordion player Kevin McGillian. Having learned from two other American piping icons, Tim Britton and Jerry O’Sullivan, Hill spent his teenage years developing his own style derived from hours of scrutinizing recordings and transcriptions of pipers past and present. Additionally, the musicians recording in America during the cylinder and 78rpm eras, particularly the piping of Patsy Tuohy, James Early, and Leo Rowsome, as well as the music of Sliabh Luachra, Donegal, and Leitrim-Roscommon-Sligo areas remain as pillars of influence.

Now living in San Francisco, Tim serves as the current president of the San Francisco Piper’s Club and teaches pipes regularly. He has made a name for himself in the Bay Area and greater West Coast as a piper and flute player and performs frequently with his partner, concertina, flute, and sean-nos singer Autumn Rhodes, as well as with the Golden Gate Ceili Band, who will be opening and closing the convention céilís. Tim has also just released a solo album of piping, entitled Ceol ag an nGeata: Music at the Gate.

Vincent Keehan, singing

Vincent Keehan is a singer/songwriter from Beagh, County Galway. Living in the San Francisco since the early 1980’s, Vince has played and supported folk music throughout the Bay Area. He is a founding member of The Gasmen, a large, well known band often featured at venues such as The Plough & Stars, The Irish Cultural Center and St. Patrick’s Day parade and celebrations. Vince was involved in The Gasmen recordings Minding Mice and the Crossroads and Clement Street. In addition, Vince teamed up with Wicklow concertina player, Paddy Egan, on a project entitled Nights in Shanaglish. It is a live recording from Whelan’s Pub in the village of Shanaglish, Galway, which involves the local Irish community of singers, musicians and storytellers. Vince continues to sing at various music sessions in San Francisco.

Sinéad Lafferty, accordion

Growing up on the shores of Galway Bay, Sinéad had early immersion in all aspects of Irish culture. With parents from Galway and Clare, Sinéad and her siblings were actively encouraged to participate in the many musical activities that were happening locally. Starting on whistle, Sinéad rapidly progressed to flute, accordion and concertina. Under the tutorage of musicians like Mary Bergin, Joe Burke, Martin Connolly, Gary Shannon, Tim Collins and Denis Liddy, Sinéad rapidly became an accomplished player on a variety of instruments. Following family relocation to the San Francisco North Bay in 2007, Sinéad continued to hone her skills while gravitating to the accordion as her primary instrument. With her younger siblings, Sinéad recorded the family album Reeling in the Redwoods. In the years that followed she frequently travelled to Ireland for music festivals and Fleadh competitions.

Sinéad is holder of numerous awards both in Ireland and the US and has a vast array of accolades at county, provincial, regional and national levels in Fleadh and other competitions. In 2013 Sinéad relocated back to Ireland to complete her University education. During this time she tutored many students on a variety of instruments to develop musical skills over a four or five year period. Back in the Bay Area for the past few years, Sinéad continues to play when her busy work schedule allows. She is a member of the Golden Gate Ceili Band and plays at events in San Francisco and the greater North Bay Area.

Maldon Meehan, sean-nós dance

Maldon Meehan is a performer, teacher and scholar of Irish Sean-nós and set dance. Maldon holds a BA in Irish Studies/Theater Arts from The Evergreen State College and a MA in Ethnochoreology from the University of Limerick, Ireland. Maldon has over 18 years experience dancing, teaching and performing. She is a 2008 Regional Arts and Cultures grant recipient.

As a sean-nós dancer Maldon has appeared on the nationally televised 2005 Oireachtas at the Cork Opera House in Cork City (TG4) as well as on Connemara Community Radio and Raidió na Gaeltachta (RTÉ). Maldon placed 3rd in the 2005 Comórtas Chóilín Sheáin Dharach, a sean-nós jig competition held annually in Connemara. In 2005 Maldon and Ronan Regan released an instructional DVD of Sean-nós dance. Today the DVD has been sold in more than 17 countries.

Maldon has performed and or taught at the Boffin Arts Festival (Ireland), the Friday Harbor Irish Music Camp (Washington), Aladdin Theater (Oregon), Irish Connections Festival (Massachusetts), Sean-nós Milwaukee (Wisconsin) and the Cutler Majestic Theatre at Emerson College (Massachusetts).

Maldon is a founding member of Sean-nós Northwest, a non-profit organization dedicated to presenting dance, song and language in the Pacific Northwest. Maldon Meehan currently lives in Portland, Oregon where she teaches weekly classes, performs and tours nationally.

Mícheál Minihane, recitation and storytelling

Having grown up in the rich oral traditions of rural Ireland, Mícheál enjoys sharing the recitations he has learned as an adult and as a child. He’s looking forward to hearing what others bring to the workshop.

Colleen Mulvey-O’Leary, children’s workshop

Colleen is passionate about spreading her love of all things Irish in her hometown of Toronto. She credits both her parents for nurturing a great love and appreciation for Irish Culture particularly through music, song and dance. Colleen is the current vice chair for her home branch, Langan Gorman, and volunteers for many Irish organizations including the GAA where she plays football and started a camogie team which is in its third year.

One of the biggest thrills in Colleen’s life has been participating in the Toronto Irish summer camp for children. Not only does this mean that she gets to work with her talented and incredibly hard-working mother but she gets to see a whole new generation of children learning all things Irish cooking, sports, crafts, language, song, many instruments, and of course dance. She is so excited about teaching the children here in San Francisco.

Maureen Mulvey-O’Leary, céilí dance

Maureen Mulvey-O’Leary is the current Chair of the Langan Gorman Branch of Comhaltas in Toronto and Chair of the Canada East Region. Maureen was raised in Drumshanbo, County Leitrim. Her Dad was from Leitrim and Mom from County Down. From the age of three, Maureen was dancing step-dancing and she began teaching with the local dance teacher from the age of twelve. As a teenager she discovered and developed a love of céilí dancing. When moving back to Canada, Maureen started set dancing and has been teaching ever since for almost forty years. As a young girl Maureen would be the first on the floor jiving, waltzing and céilí dancing and teaching anyone who wanted help. Dancing for adults is alive and well because of Maureen in Toronto and all over Canada and the USA.

Maureen has taught céilí dancing at many CCE Conventions, including the last Convention in San Francisco in 1998. She is very proud to be the director of the long-running Irish Summer Camp in Toronto (and surrounding areas) teaching the children to experience all facets of the Irish culture. Maureen and her staff will be celebrating their twenty-first year of Irish Summer Camp in 2020.

Katie Murray, fiddle

Originally born in London, England, to Irish parents, Katie Murray moved to Co. Mayo, Ireland, at age 10 and quickly immersed herself in the South Sligo music scene which has highly influenced her style of fiddle playing. Under the guidance of legendary flute and fiddle player Peter Horan, Katie collected the repertoire of the area and cultivated a rhythmic style of playing, synonymous with the region.

During her years at Trinity College Dublin, she became the President of the Traditional Music Society and taught and played in sessions and ceili’s across the country. Following several years in Manchester, England, Katie moved to New Haven, Connecticut in 2015 where she now works as Research Scientist. Katie can be regularly found playing in Irish music sessions, festivals and ceili’s throughout New England.

Darcy Noonan, fiddle

Darcy is a born and raised Bay Area fiddler. She began studying violin with the Suzuki method at 6 years old. As a young adult she fell in love with the community and folklore of Irish music. This inspired her to move to Ireland and steep herself in the tradition. She honed her talent as a fiddler in Galway city, performing and studying with great fiddlers such as Mick Conneely and Frankie Gavin. She has many years of experience teaching violin, and is a current instructor at FiddleKids, and Lark in the Morning Camp.

Laurence Nugent, flute

Laurence carries on a great tradition of virtuoso playing on both sides of the Atlantic. As a well-established performer and recording artist, he has performed with scores of top musicians including The Chieftains, Van Morrison, Martin Hayes, Arty McGlinn, Paddy Keenan. Laurence has toured extensively throughout Ireland, the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan. He has been a featured performer at most major Irish music festivals and his playing has been heard extensively on the radio both the US and Ireland including: National Public Radio, A Prairie Home Companion, The Studs Terkel Show, and Ireland’s national radio network RTÉ.

Laurence Nugent comes from the village of Lack in County Fermanagh, an area of Northern Ireland that is steeped in the traditional arts of music, singing and storytelling. Nugent is a name long associated with fine traditional music in Fermanagh. Laurence’s father, the late Sean Nugent, a teacher and composer was at the helm of the All-Ireland winning “The Pride of Erin Ceili Band”. He taught Laurence, his siblings, and also hundreds of other musicians performing today. Like many young musicians of his generation, Laurence entered regional and national competitions held under the auspices Comhaltas. He took first prize in junior competitions three times in the late 80s, before going on to win the senior All-Ireland Championships in 1994 and 1995 at the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.

Pearl River All-Star Céilí Band
Autumn Rhodes, concertina

Autumn Rhodes was raised in a household full of Irish music. At the age of 12, while living in rural Indiana, she was given a tin whistle for a birthday present and took to it right away. She hasn’t looked back – she started performing professionally the next year and hasn’t stopped since. Shortly after, she progressed to the flute and studied with luminaries such as John Williams, Kevin Henry, and Laurence Nugent in Chicago.

She has since added the concertina to her endless roster of instruments, which she will be teaching this weekend at the convention. Throughout the years she’s toured throughout the United States with bands such as Soltré, The Bardic Apostles, Kennedy’s Kitchen, and The Wrenboys; she has played for various Irish dance groups including Siamsa, Celtic Fire, and Kaleidoscope, and has partnered up with Julie Henigan, Maldon Meehan, and others.

She now lives in San Francisco where she teaches music and performs regularly with uilleann piper Tim Hill, the Jammy Dodgers, and the Golden Gate Ceili Band.

Sourdough Céilí Band

The Sourdough Céilí Band features musicians who play regularly, in various line-ups, for set and céilí dancing throughout the Bay Area. They deeply love the traditional dance music of Ireland and feel it is at its best when performed in collaboration with dancers. The musicians are Art Friedman (fiddle), Cormac Gannon (bodhran), Julie Horner (fiddle, hammered dulcimer), Simon Lace (banjo, guitar), Michael LaGuardia (fiddle), Jason Pollack (flute), Valerie Rose (fiddle), and Lewis Santer (guitar, bouzouki), plus special guest Barb Southworth (piano).

John Whelan, button accordion

Often hailed as one of the world’s best living Irish button accordion players, seven-time All-Ireland champion John Whelan was born to Irish parents living in Dunstable, England. He was raised in the vibrant London Irish music scene of the 1970s, learning his craft from such legends as Lucy Farr, Roger Sherlock, Paddy Taylor, Mick O’Connor, and his teacher, Brendan Mulkaire.

John has received the “Musician of the Year” award from the Irish Music Association — twice. He has recorded more than 15 CDs and spent several weeks in the top 10 of the Billboard World Music Charts. He has also appeared on more than 30 albums with other artists, including the National Geographic: Ireland CD. John is known for being extraordinarily generous with his music and possesses a rare knack for mentoring and teaching, spotting talent in fledgling musicians — no matter the instrument — and helping them grow to their fullest potential.

John is also a sought-after composer and producer. He has written more than 65 original tunes, many of which have been recorded and performed by artists all over the world. John’s music has been featured on such TV shows as Sex and the City, History’s Mysteries, and History Detectives, and John himself has performed on Late Night With Conan O’Brien and in the movies Gods and Generals and Ang Lee’s Ride With the Devil.

John Whelan Céilí Band

The line-up of this stellar ensemble is John Whelan (accordion), Pauline Conneely (banjo), Brendan Dolan (piano), Katie Murray (fiddle), and Laurence Nugent (flute).

Often hailed as one of the world’s best living Irish button accordion players, seven-time All-Ireland champion John Whelan was born to Irish parents living in Dunstable, England. He was raised in the vibrant London Irish music scene of the 1970s, learning his craft from such legends as Lucy Farr, Roger Sherlock, Paddy Taylor, Mick O’Connor, and his teacher, Brendan Mulkaire.

Pauline Conneely was born in Bedford, England, the daughter of Irish parents from Connemara and Longford, raised in a family steeped in Irish music, dance and culture. As a young girl she achieved great success, becoming a champion Irish step dancer before turning her focus to music. Under the tutelage of legendary musician Brendan Mulkere, Pauline honed her love of the banjo, eventually earning her status as renowned banjo player.

Brendan Dolan is a multi-instrumentalist, excelling in the piano, Irish flute and tin whistle. He is the son of renowned Irish-traditional pianist Felix Dolan, a mainstay of traditional Irish music in New York since the 1950s.

Originally born in London, England, to Irish parents, Katie Murray moved to Co. Mayo, Ireland, at age 10 and quickly immersed herself in the South Sligo music scene which has highly influenced her style of fiddle playing. Under the guidance of legendary flute and fiddle player Peter Horan, Katie collected the repertoire of the area and cultivated a rhythmic style of playing, synonymous with the region.

Laurence Nugent carries on a great tradition of virtuoso playing on both sides of the Atlantic. As a well-established performer and recording artist, he has performed with scores of top musicians including The Chieftains, Van Morrison, Martin Hayes, Arty McGlinn, Paddy Keenan.

Imelda White, Irish language

Imelda White grew up in Ardara, Co. Donegal close to the Glencolmcille Gaeltacht. Imelda began teaching Irish at St. Athanasius School in Mountain View in 1979 and at Stanford University’s Special Language Program in 1987. Since then, she has taught consistently throughout the Bay Area and beyond. Her more recent appointments have been a weekly class at the United Irish Cultural Center in San Francisco from 2004-2016 sponsored by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. She served as Irish Language Lecturer in the Celtic Studies Program at UC Berkeley in 2017 and again as Irish Language Lecturer in the Special Language Program, Language Center at Stanford University in 2018. She traveled throughout the US to teach total immersion Irish language workshops – to Butte, Montana; Portland, Oregon; Olympia, Washington; Los Angeles. Throughout the years, Imelda regularly attended summer courses at Oideas Gael in Glencolmcille.

She is a graduate of the University of San Francisco. Besides teaching Irish, she held a full time position in administration at Stanford University. She is now fully retired and loves spending time with her friends and grandchildren and travels throughout the world.

Imelda is the Treoraí na Gaeilge for the SF Cooley Keegan Branch and the West Region. Her more recent appointments have been a weekly class at the United Irish Cultural Center in San Francisco from 2004-2016, and via Zoom since 2020, sponsored by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann.