Belfast Summer School of Traditional Music


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The team of international tutors is made up of master performers with proven track records as teachers and educationalists. The primary means of teaching and learning is ‘by ear’ with an emphasis in the less experienced classes of assisting pupils to develop oral/aural skills in addition to instrumental competency and developing core repertoire.

  • Classes take place Monday 30th July - Friday 3rd August, 2018, 10:00am - 1:00pm at Ulster University Belfast Campus on York Street.
  • Classes are designed for intermediate to advanced (minimum 2 years instrument experience) adults and children over 6 years of age with exception of the Traditional Singing Classes, Fiddle Classes and unless specifically titled a 'Beginners Class'. See individual classes for full details. 
  • Fee includes admission to all programme events with exception to the evening concerts.
  • There is a maximum of 12 students per class.


Fiddle - Gerry O'Connor, Bríd Harper, Liz Doherty, Martin Dowling & Méabh Smyth

Fiddle - Gerry O'Connor, Bríd Harper, Liz Doherty, Martin Dowling & Méabh Smyth


Classes take place Monday 30th July - Friday 3rd August 2018 10:00am - 1:00pm at Ulster University Belfast Campus.

Fiddle classes are designed for all abilities from Beginners to Advanced adults and children over 6 years of age.

Students will be graded by tutors on first morning and placed in the appropriate class. 

Fee includes admission to all programme events with exception of evening concerts & Trad trail. 

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Bríd Harper

Bríd Harper is undoubtably the doyenne of Irish fiddlers. From Castlefinn in Co Donegal, Bríd started learning the fiddle at 9 years of age. She won all the underage competitions at All Ireland level and in 1988 was recipient of Senior All Ireland, The Fiddler of Dooney and Oireachtas na Gaeilge titles. Many traditional musicians cite Bríd as a major influence on their playing and she has been described as one of the finest exponents of traditional fiddle playing of our time. As well as performing solo Bríd teams up with Dermot Byrne, Steve Cooney, Tony O’Connell and Cyril O’ Donoghue on a regular basis. She continues to tour extensively and has featured on many RTE and BBC TV and Radio broadcasts. Her debut album in 2015 has enjoyed much success to date and she is much in demand today as a performer and teacher.

Gerry O'Connor

Gerry O’Connor is regarded as one of Ireland's master fiddlers. He grew up in the town of Dundalk in a family of musicians, dancers and singers. His mother Rose  (née O’Brien) taught Gerry and his siblings at home and she continued to teach from there for the next 40 years. Students travelling from Armagh and Dublin as well as closer to home to learn from the doyenne of fiddle teachers. His father Peter was a singer whose seven uncles all played music.

From an early age Gerry was involved Irish music and dance, winning numerous All Ireland titles between 1967 and 1973 in a range of formations including duet, trio and four Céili Band titles.

Playing with Michael Coleman’s contemporary John Joe Gardiner in the 1970’s formed Gerry's style of music, focussing on the fluid and ornamented lyrical fiddle playing of the great Sligo masters. His own background in step dancing translates into a vibrant pulsating dance music for which he is noted; today he is regarded as one of the great fiddle players of his generation.

He has played and recorded  with such highly-regarded groups as Lá Lúgh (Eithne Ní Uallacháin, Sony Music) and Skylark  (Len Graham, Gary O’Briain & Mairtin O’Connor).  Lá Lugh's album “Brighid’s Kiss”  was voted Album of the Year 1996 by readers of the Irish Music Magazine.   His solo album “Journeyman” was counted in the top five Albums of the year 2004 by the Irish Times. This critically acclaimed  solo album, co-produced with his son Dónal (At First Light), was heralded as a significant milestone in recording the music of the “Oriel” region of South Ulster.

A four times winner of The Fiddler of Oriel competition, Gerry was co-founder and first Artistic Director of Ceol Chairlinn, an annual teaching festival in Carlingford , Co Louth.  He is also the Traditional Arts coordinator  at the newly established Creative-Connexions Irish/ Catalan Arts festival in Sitges
He is in demand as a teacher at all the leading traditional music summer schools throughout the world and regularly teaches fiddle at the Willie Clancy Summer school and at master-classes throughout Europe. When at home Gerry works as a violin maker/restorer.

Liz Doherty

Liz Doherty, traditional Irish fiddle player and renowned teacher, imparts what is best about Irish music - sheer fun and joy! She brings to her playing an exuberant energy that is rhythmical and powerful. "Liz's style remains firmly on the Donegal/Scotland/Cape Breton axis. Yet within that style lie many diverse elements, crazy cross-cut bowing and delicate, almost
dainty, contrasts all underpinned by a masterly technique, an ideal illustration of just how powerful the fiddle is in the hands of a maestro."
 (Pat Aherne, The Examiner)

Liz has recently been appointed as Director of the new Acadamh Ceoil opening at Cultúrlann Uí Chanainn in Derry. She also runs a traditional music school – Scoil Trad Bhun Cranncha – with Jim Woods. She has been involved in international youth music projects such as the Strings Attached Project with Brian MacNeil at the Tonder Festival, Denmark (2010).

As a fiddle teacher Liz has taught at some of the major fiddle camps and schools internationally including:

  • Ag Seinim Traditional Arts Camp, Cavan
  • ALP Fiddle Festival, Edinburgh
  • Blazing in Beauly (Beauly)
  • Burwell Bash, Cambridge
  • Ceilidh Trail School of Celtic Fiddle Music, Inverness, Nova Scotia
  • Celtic Connections, Glasgow
  • Celtic Southern Cross, Tasmania
  • Feis Rois (Ullapool)
  • Fiddle Affair, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow
  • Fiddle Days, Wigmore Hall, London
  • Fiddles at Whitney, Dorset
  • Fiddles of the World, Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • Folkworks Adult Summer School, Durham
  • Folkworks Youth Summer School, Durham
  • Frankie Kennedy Winter School, Co. Donegal
  • Gaelic College, St. Ann’s, Nova Scotia
  • Inishowen Traditional Music Project (Co. Donegal)
  • Irish Festival, Copenhagen

Martin Dowling

Martin Dowling was born in Chicago of Irish parents in 1960. He began to play the fiddle professionally in the early 1980s while studying economics and history. His early influences included Liz Carroll and Kevin Burke, and he absorbed and studied the styles of all the great Sligo fiddlers, past and present. He married flute player and singer Christine Dowling in 1987 and they moved to Belfast in 1994 to further pursue music and Irish history. In 1998 he became Traditional Arts Officer of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and supported the traditional music community in Northern Ireland for the next five years. In 1998 he produced and performed on the CD "A Thousand Farewells" with Christine and Daithi Sproule, and has performed and recorded with many other Belfast traditional musicians over the years. In recent years he has been involved with experimental projects in traditional music. In 2013 he collaborated with harper and sound artist Úna Monaghan and poet Ciaran Carson to create "Owenvarragh: A Belfast Circus on the Star Factory", a historic realisation of a score by John Cage. He was also a member of the "Trad Noise Trio" with Úna Monaghan and pianist/composer Ryan Molloy which explored chance determined strategies for performing traditional music devised by composer and programmer Eric Lyon. The group released a CD in 2013 titled "TwentyTwelve."

Martin is also a sociologist and historian of Irish music, having held fellowships and lectureships in University College Dublin and Queen’s University of Belfast. Numerous academic publications on Irish music were followed in 2014 by the publication of Traditional Music and Irish Society: Historical Perspectives (Ashgate), a book which traces the evolution of Irish traditional music from the 18th to the twentieth century and gives his perspective on traditional music in Belfast during and after the troubles. Martin is a highly regarded fiddle teacher, appearing at festival workshops and summer schools in Europe and America and has taught at Scoil Samhraidh Willie Clancy in Clare since 1998.

Méabh Smyth

Méabh is a young fiddle player from Armagh whose playing has garnered great attention to date, in Ireland and further afield. She learnt her music in the Armagh Pipers Club and was the inaugural winner of the prestigious Ed Reavy Fiddle Player of the Year competition in 2016. She plays regularly in a duo with her brother Tiarnán and they were semi-finalists in the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Musician of the Year award 2017. She has played many festivals including the William Kennedy Piping Festival, Celtic Connections, Piping Live and the Baltimore Fiddle Fair, and has played support for acts such as Flook, Lúnasa and Four Men And A Dog.