The Blue Ridge Irish Music School in Charlottesville has been celebrating Irish culture for 21 years. Teaching Irish dancing during a mask wearing pandemic hasn't been easy with multiple concert cancellations and switching to an online teaching platform.
WMRA's Chris Boros spoke with the director of BRIMS, Lori Madden, about the challenges BRIMS has faced in 2020.
WMRA: So how has this last year been for Brims?
Lori Madden: It's been remarkably okay. We have moved to an online model completely and although I know that a lot of folks are getting burned out on the whole Zoom thing our students and instructors have been remarkable. It's not ideal but it's been pretty okay.
WMRA: Well that's good to hear. Have you had to cut back at all my on some of the offerings this past year?
LM: Oh, absolutely Friday the 13th of March a year ago, I was sitting here at my computer watching everything get cancelled. We had to cancel Lunasa, Karan Casey, Martin Hayes, Kevin Burke, John Doyle was supposed to come in June. And so on that fateful day everything kind of bit the dust.
WMRA: I will say, all of those names you just mentioned, those 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 lucky over the years to have hosted the best of the best so we've been gradually moving forward and we'll keep trying to do that until we can be all back in person again.
WMRA: My wife and I had tickets to go see Karan Casey. When that got canceled, we were so sad.
LM: Well, hopefully you can get to the next concert we have coming up which is Dervish. It’s a concert they recorded in Glasgow for Celtic Connections. And they have special guests also in this concert including Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn and Peggy Seeger.
WMRA: I saw on your website that classes are beginning next week on Tuesday. What can you tell us about the classes that you're offering this spring?
LM: Well, we have banjo, fiddle, tin whistle, Irish flute, and all kinds of dance classes.
WMRA: How did you find this music - Celtic music, Irish music, Irish dancing - were you brought up in this when you were a kid or did you find it somehow else?
LM: No, I was not brought up in it. Although I have a tiny bit of Irish ancestry. But of course, you know, you don't have to have any in order to participate or to love it. I got into it through my kids and we haven't looked back.
WMRA: Well, I'm glad you haven't because I think you know, I'm a huge fan of this music and there's something so special about Irish and Celtic music. It just lifts the spirits like nothing else, at least for me.
LM: That’s true and last year you ask me in our interview what I love about Irish music and I was caught off short by that question because there is really so many different kinds and it speaks to people in different ways. It's a thing among Irish musicians sometimes to talk about St. Patrick's Day and how everybody wants you to sing Danny Boy and we kind of roll our eyes. But I have to say there is a place for all of the different kinds and one of the things that really moved me was hearing a singer recently -Seamus Begley is his name and he comes from a large family of 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 many different kinds.
WMRA: You're right though, Danny Boy is sort of a cliché that when you're really deep into the music and you hear Danny Boy you kind of roll your eyes a little. But then you're right, you can be completely blown off guard by a new version and then it opens up a whole new world for that song.