In celebration of sean-nós singing, dancing, the Irish language, and instrumental dance tunes outside of Ireland’s Gaeltachtaí, the Sean-nós Northwest Festival is held annually in Olympia, Washington, every second weekend in April.

It’s possible that your recovery from St. Patrick’s Day festivities included a vow never to drink green beer again.

It’s also possible that you have heard enough renditions of “Danny Boy” to drown yourself in weepy nostalgia.

For many Irish Americans, green beer, “Danny Boy,” and “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” t-shirts are not only intensely representative of Ireland but feel like the real thing. To others, Ireland is all about its literary brilliance, or its archaeological monuments, or the kindness and welcome offered by its people. Each one of these is “real” to someone.

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There is another side of Ireland altogether.

In some of Ireland’s Gaeltacht regions, where Irish (Gaeilge, often called Gaelic in the US) is often the first language spoken, people of all ages enjoy and celebrate traditional cultural expressions that rarely see an American stage: sean-nós singing, sean-nós dance, the Irish language, and not just reels and jigs but slides, hornpipes, polkas, barn dances, airs, and rarer dance tunes.

Sean-nós (pronounced “shan-nōs”) means “old style.” In singing, it refers to songs in Irish, usually associated with Connemara, Munster, and Donegal. These songs are love songs and laments (as opposed to the ballads of traditional Irish songs in English). Joe Heaney was perhaps Ireland’s most famous sean-nós singer.

In dance, sean-nós predates the rigid-body step dancing (or the big-show-style dance of Riverdance) that most people outside of Ireland think of when they imagine Irish dancing. Sean-nós dance is much more relaxed, body-friendly, and closer to the ground, almost like one of its descendants, Appalachian clogging.

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In celebration of sean-nós singing, dancing, the Irish language, and instrumental dance tunes outside of Ireland’s Gaeltachtaí, the Sean-nós Northwest Festival is held annually in Olympia, Washington, every second weekend in April.

Each year features instructors from Ireland and the United States; this year’s featured teachers include Brian Ó Domhnaill of Donegal (singing), Patrick Devane of Connemara (dance), and John Prendergast of Kerry (language).

Instrumentalists include John Whelan, Colm MacCartaigh, and Dale Russ. The weekend features workshops, a concert, pub sessions, and great craic altogether!

Bígí linn/join us, April 13-14! More info at https://www.seannos.org/

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