Another one of the outstanding summer schools in North America is the Augusta Heritage Center’s Irish/Celtic week taking place July 22-27 in Elkins, West Virginia, a great mountain retreat.
Known as either Elkins or Augusta, the Irish week is celebrating its 30th year this summer and, as far as I know, was the first of its kind in North America founded and helmed by Dr. Mick Moloney for its first 25 years before he handed it off to protégées Joanie Madden and Dr. Daniel Neely this year.
Taking place at the bucolic Davis and Elkins College, classes are intensive and communal since meals and accommodations are on the one campus which also features a marvelous concert hall where the staff are showcased in concerts Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
Neely has recruited a top-notch staff in his first year as coordinator, and it includes Ivan Goff, Mick Conneely, Mairtin de Cogain, Jimmy Crowley, Patrick Ourceau, Dylan Foley, Dan Gurney, Niall O’Leary (stepdancing), Mick Mulkerrin (set dancing), Troy McGillivray, Brian Holleran, Cillian Vallely, Donna Long, Dennis Cahill and Brian O’hAirt.
For more info on the Augusta Heritage Center go to their website at augustaheritagecenter.org
Back in the 1980s I spent a couple of years at both the Willie Week and Augusta summer schools and found them invaluable in developing my own appreciation of Irish music, song and dance which I have put to good use since then in myriad ways.
Having the luxury of spending a week with gifted masters of their art is special, and I will always treasure the times with set dancing master Joe O’Donovan in Clare and song-catcher Frank Harte in Elkins in those years and all that they taught me.
Miltown, Elkins or East Durham are not the exotic climes one dreams about vacationing in, but those who travel the roads to these centers of Irish cultural heritage will have a bountiful experience to bring home with them and most likely stay with them all their lives.