The Blue Ridge Irish Music School in Charlottesville has been celebrating Irish culture for 21 years. Teaching Irish dance during a pandemic wearing a mask hasn’t been easy with several concert cancellations and the switch to an online teaching platform.
Chris Boros from WMRA spoke with BRIMS Director Lori Madden about the challenges BRIMS faced in 2020.
WMRA: So how was last year for Brims?
Lori Madden: Everything went remarkably well. We have completely moved to an online model and while I know a lot of people burn out about Zoom, our students and instructors have been outstanding. It’s not ideal, but it went pretty well.
WMRA: Well, that’s good to hear. Have you had to reduce my offers at all this year?
LM: Oh, absolutely Friday March 13 a year ago, I was sitting here in front of my computer watching it all go blank. We had to cancel Lunasa, Karan Casey, Martin Hayes, Kevin Burke, John Doyle was due to come in June. And so, on that fateful day, everything bit the dust a little.
WMRA: I will say all of those names you just mentioned are big names in Irish music – John Doyle, Karan Casey, they’re at the top of the game.
LM: Yes, and we’ve been very fortunate over the years to have hosted the best of the best, so we’ve gradually moved forward and will keep trying until we can all be back in person.
WMRA: My wife and I had tickets to see Karan Casey. When it was canceled we were so sad.
LM: Well, hopefully you can catch the next gig we have coming up, Dervish’s. It’s a concert they recorded in Glasgow for Celtic Connections. And they also have special guests in this concert, including Bela Fleck, Abigail Washburn, and Peggy Seeger.
WMRA: I saw on your site that classes resume next week Tuesday. What can you tell us about the courses you are offering this spring?
LM: Well we have banjo, violin, tin whistle, Irish flute, and all kinds of dance lessons.
WMRA: How did you find this music – Celtic music, Irish music, Irish dancing – were you brought up in it when you were a kid or did you find it some other way?
LM: No, I was not brought up there. Although I have a little bit of Irish ancestry. But of course, you know, you don’t have to have one to participate or to like it. I entered it through my kids and we haven’t looked back.
WMRA: Well I’m glad you didn’t because I think you know I’m a huge fan of this music and there is something so special about Irish and Celtic music. It boosts morale like nothing else, at least for me.
LM: That’s right and last year you asked me in our interview what I like about Irish music and I was taken aback by that question because there are really so many different genres and that she speaks to people in different ways. Sometimes it’s one thing among Irish musicians to talk about St. Patrick’s Day and how everyone wants you to sing Danny Boy and we kind of roll our eyes. But I have to say there is a place for all different genres and one of the things that really moved me was hearing a singer recently – Seamus Begley is his name and he comes from a big family. well-known Irish musicians and singers. – and he sang Danny Boy in a concert in Irish and it was very beautiful and gave me a whole new appreciation. So yes, there are several kinds.
WMRA: You’re right though, Danny Boy is kind of a cliché that when you’re really into music and hear Danny Boy, you roll your eyes a bit. But then you’re right, you can be completely caught off guard by a new release and it opens up a whole new world for that song.