Catskills Irish Arts Week kicks off in East Durham

Above: Musicians performing at the Catskills Irish Arts Week. Photo by Timothy H. Raab, from the Catskills Irish Arts week Facebook page.

Fervid followers of traditional Irish music and dance descend on East Durham this week for the twentieth annual Catskills Irish Arts Week.

The week-long event, which started in 1995 with 10 instructors and 70 participants, has grown to include over 70 instructors of music, dance, art and writing who will lead workshops to hundreds of participants. In the evenings, local pubs and music venues host performances and more informal music sessions.

On Saturday, the week winds up with the East Durham Trad Fest, a day-long celebration of Irish music, dancing and storytelling. This year's Trad Fest will honor Felix Dolan, a longtime member of the Catskills Irish Arts Week teaching faculty who died in 2013. 

Attendees can participate in classes taught by “Master traders” from across the country, Ireland and Canada in various artistic fields as well as witness nightly performance concerts.

Workshop classes on the schedule include step dancing, traditional "sean nós" singing and dancing, Irish waltz dancing, Irish knitting, ceili band, bodhran, harp, fiddle, bouzouki, uilleann pipes, guitar, tin whistle and more.

Youth program instructors will teach children in beginner music and dance courses as well as lessons in “Irish stories from myth and legend.”

The Catskills Irish Arts Week website describes the week as an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in Irish culture while mingling with instructors and new friends.

While the nightly music sessions will occur at local pubs, the event is based out of the Michael J. Quill Irish Cultural and Sports Centre, an educational non-profit corporation founded in 1987 created to help preserve Irish culture in East Durham, a place dubbed the “Irish Alps” in the mid-twentieth century, after it became a well-known vacation and tourism spot for many of Irish ancestry.

The centre, whose motto is “Keeping the Tradition Alive” hosts the Arts week, as a part of its mission to encourage the development of younger artists while maintain the traditions of their heritage.

Catskills Irish Arts Week runs from Sunday, July 13 through Saturday, July 19. Workshops and sessions at multiple locations around East Durham. A full schedule of Irish Arts Week programs as well as ticket prices can be found on their website.