Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Banjo Heaven - 2016 O'Flaherty Irish Music Retreat

Let me count the ways.  First there was Gary O'Meara teaching banjo.  Gary played with the Bock-McGuire Band - he took Enda Scahill's place - and he filled in for Enda in WeBanjo3 while Enda took a break.  He is very busy in the studio backing up every major star in trad music.

Then there was Daniel Mehalko the former wunderkind who grew up at O'Flaherty learning the banjo and a bunch of other instruments and is now a full time musician.  He taught the beginner banjo class.

And then there was Ken Fleming, a founder and the director of the O'Flaherty Irish Music Retreat,  who first heard Mick Moloney play and decided that he had to play the Irish tenor banjo.  Ken taught a class on session etiquette but is responsible for that greatest banjo players in the world coming to this Dallas based music workshop.  Here he is at his local session.

Cathal Hayden was there too, teaching fiddle.  He is another incredible banjo player.

And finally, the man himself, Mick Moloney.  Mick has given up teaching in workshops but he made an effort to come to O'Flaherty (the first time in 7-8 years he has done this) to teach mandolin.  Mick may have recorded the first trad tune on mandolin in the late 1960s and has been a leader in banjo and mandolin ever since. He is the inspiration of countless groups and has encourage thousands to take up the music and play.

So why were all these incredible banjo players there? I suspect it was due Ken Fleming.  Ken is a banjo player and he always has great teachers come this this event.  Apparently the perfect banjo storm occurred this October and he took advantage of it.  Another incredible time was had by me and if you are an Irish tenor banjo player, you have to come to this workshop.

Take Cathal Hayden, for example.  I mentioned that he taught the fiddle, but his first love is the banjo.  He has played with a number of groups, most well known is 4 Men and a Dog, has a new CD of all banjo music out, and is a master musician. Here he is with fiddle.

He also gave an "informance" which is a freestyle class in which the teacher and the students have a lot of interaction.  Here he is playing one of his tune sets.

And, of course, this:

Mick played with Jimmy Keane, Albert Alfonso, and Kieran Jordan (dancing) in addition to his mandolin class (which I took, hey, IT'S MICK.)

One of the things all these great musicians had in common was that the banjo was their first instrument.  In all the years I have been going to O'Flaherty there have been no bad banjo teachers (or any other instrument, for that matter.) All the teachers love these four days in October because they are treated well and the students learn.  They don't expect a mini-concert in class, there are plenty of those outside the class.  If you have a chance, go to it but sign up early as spots tend to disappear fast.

Michael Keyes
31 October 2016