The traditional music of Ireland is a body of tunes and song that has been handed down over several centuries. New tunes have been added steadily along the way as each generation of musicians makes its contribution to the repertoire. At our school we are currently focusing on the instrumental ensemble music, which primarily evolved to accompany solo or social dancing or was written for the harp. The tunes are given names like reel, hornpipe, jig, waltz, polka, slide or mazurka based on their rhythm and the type of dance steps they were written to accompany.
Traditional Irish music is played on a variety of acoustic instruments including violin/fiddle, flute, tin whistle (or pennywhistle), mandolin, tenor banjo, accordion, concertina, harp, uilleann pipes (Irish bagpipes), and bodhrán (Irish frame drum). Chordal and rhythmic accompaniment by guitar, cittern or bouzouki entered the tradition during the last century. These are also taught by our instructors.
Irish traditional music today is performed sometimes for listening, sometimes to accompany dancing, and sometimes just for the fun of it! In the latter category, “sessions” (which might be called jam sessions in other types of music) are held all over the world in pubs, coffee houses, kitchens and living rooms, where a group of musicians will gather on a regular or ad hoc basis to play for fun.