The craic in the Catskills is about to explode up and down Route 145 in East Durham, New York; the heart of the Irish Catskills. It’s time for the 18th Annual Catskills Irish Arts Week hosted by the Michael J. Quill Irish Cultural and Sports Centre taking place July 15 to 21 in the historic hamlet. It is the largest gathering of Irish traditional musicians in North America at the internationally respected summer school known as the “Willie Clancy Summer School of the West” upon which it was modeled. High praise indeed since the WCSS is celebrating 40 years this July also right before the CIAW and quite a few teachers will be at both schools.

The focal point is 100 daily classes mostly graded to different ability levels in all the major instruments associated with traditional music taught by a very distinguished faculty highly regarded from both sides of the Atlantic. When those classes finish, each day a topical lecture is presented in the late afternoon by one of the staff experts for all attendees and the general public to enhance the knowledge of the devotees. Each evening relaxing star-studded open-air concerts are presented on the Quill Festival Grounds starting at 7:30 p.m. from Monday to Friday included in the student tuition and open to the general public for a reasonable $10 from Monday to Thursday and $15 on Friday evening. Highlighting the concerts will be a special Cherish the Ladies Thursday night concert with a salute to two flute-playing flag bearers, Mike Rafferty and Jack Coen who passed away in the past year.

Starting at 10 p.m. a series of leveled sessions spring up in all the resorts and roadhouses around the East Durham with the staff musicians assigned to anchor each of them and to sit alongside students or some of the best session musicians in the country. These include a nightly Listening Room Session where master musicians are grouped many for the first time to provide a clinic in how to build and maintain a session that is of concert quality.

For ceili dancers, the best of music will be provided from Sunday, July 15 to Saturday, July 21 at no lest than eight ceilthe on tap at the Shamrock House, Weldon House and the Inn at Leeds and these are open to the public also. Dancers can practice their steps with set dancing master Padraig McEneany from Ireland for the intermediate and advanced sets and with Bridie and Jon Dal Pizzol for the beginners and improvers. Dance legend Donny Golden provides step dancing classes in the contemporary genre while Kieran Jordan works on the Sean Nos (Old Style) steps with its more informal approach.

The faculty and performing staff include popular artists from past years like Mary Bergin, Matt Cranitch, Jackie Daly, Paul deGrae, Catherine McEvoy, Caitlin & Bernadette nic Gabhann, Cherish the Ladies, Billy McComiskey, Patrick Ourceau, Rose Flanagan, Felix Dolan, Patty Furlong, Mary Coogan, Mairtin de Cogain, Jimmy Crowley, Pauline Conneely, Willie Kelly, Tony DeMarco, Don Meade, Anna Colliton, Eileen Gannon, Benedict Koehler, Mike McHale and Jimmy Kelly.

Artists teaching and performing for the first time are Brid Harper, Mick Conneely, Dermot Byrne & Floriane Blancke, Gabriel McKeon, Michael Black, Cathal McConnell, Fintan Vallely and Dympna O’Sullivan from Ireland, Sheila Friel from Scotland by way of Donegal. From the USA first time teachers include Loretta Egan Murphy and Grainne Murphy (from CTL) and Reiden O’Flynn heads the revamped Children’s Program.

The week concludes with the Andy McGann Irish Music Festival on Saturday, July 21 from noon to 7 p.m. featuring most of the CIAW faculty all on the Quill Festival Grounds on two stages including a ceili in the Dance Pavilion (4:30 to 6 p.m.) which is being supported by the Irish Arts Center in New York City with a special grant.

Full Schedules and concert details will be posted in the week prior to the CIAW on the and also available by phone to the Quill Centre at 518-634-2286 or by email to A Cairde Catskills pass is available for all events at $75 to help underwrite the daily events of the CIAW.


It's all about to kick off in the Catskills