The Sean-nós Northwest Festival celebrates and promotes three aspects of traditional Irish culture: sean-nós singing, sean-nós dancing, and the Irish language, otherwise known as Gaeilge. These cultural treasures are incredibly rare to find anywhere outside of Ireland. We aim to sustain a vibrant community for these and other Irish cultural arts (including storytelling, poetry, and decorative arts) throughout the Pacific Northwest.

We haven't finalized some of the details yet, but we're almost there. We'll post updates as appropriate.

Festival Schedule

FRIDAY -- APRIL 7, 2017

7:30 - 9:00ish pm

Session/Performance at the Hotel RL "The Living Stage"


All workshops listed in order of:  language, singing, dancing, music, culture

8:30 - 9:00 am


9:00 - 9:15 am

Welcome and building orientation 

9:15 - 10:30 am

Workshop Session 1

  • Introduction to Gaeilge with Pa
  • Introduction to Sean-nós Singing with Doimnic
  • Sean-nós Dance Basics/Warm Up with Shannon and Sarah
  • Introduction to Irish Fiddling with Randal
  • Drawing Celtic Knots with Jill

10:30 - Noon

Workshop Session 2

  • Continued Intro to Gaeilge with Pa
  • Songs in Dangerous Times with Colleen
  • Sean-nós Jigs (all levels) with Alicia and Felim
  • Fiddling for the Dance with Randal
  • Sean-nós, Harping, and Poetry with Doimnic

Noon - 1:30 pm


1:30 - 3:00 pm

Workshop Session 3

  • Intermediate Gaeilge with Pa
  • Songs in Gaelige with Doimnic
  • Set Dancing with Shannon and Sarah
  • Playing Reels for Dancing with Felim
  • Bodhrán 1 with Colleen

3:00 - 3:30 pm

Tea and Treats

3:30 - 5:00 pm

Workshop Session 4

  • Bingo as Gaeilge with Bob
  • Songs of the Female Protagonist with Colleen
  • Dance Improvisation Games and Exercises with Shannon and Randal
  • Playing for the Session 1 with Felim
  • Irish Cooking with Sean

5:00 - 7:00 pm

Dinner on your own

7:00 pm

Festival Concert

SUNDAY -- APRIL 9, 2017

9:30 - 10:00 am

Registration/check-in for Sunday only attendees

10:00 - 11:00 am

Workshop Session 5

  • Use of Gaeilge in Song with Sean
  • Songs of Revolution with Colleen
  • Sean-nós Reels (all levels) with Shannon and Randal
  • Playing for the Session 2 with Felim
  • The Legend(s) of Knockgrafton with Kimberly

11:00 - Noon

Workshop Session 6

  • Intermediate/Advanced Gaeilge with Pa
  • Collecting and Documenting Irish Songs with David and Doimnic
  • The Maggie Pickie Dance with Shannon and Felim
  • More Fiddling for the Dance with Randal
  • Bodhrán 2 with Colleen

Noon - 1:30 pm


1:30 - 3:00 pm

Workshop Session 7

  • Advanced Gaeilge with Pa
  • Songs in Gaeilge with Doimnic
  • Dance Feedback and Community with Shannon and Sarah
  • Playing Jigs for Dancing with Felim
  • Zoomorphic Animals with Jill

3:00 - 3:30 pm

Tea and Treats

3:30 - 5:00 pm

Workshop Session 8

  • Compass Directions in Gaeilge with Bob
  • Irish Singing Seminar with Colleen and Doimnic
  • Seminar: Lineage & Personal Style with Alicia
  • Getting the Tunes with Your Ears, not Your Eyes with Randal
  • Introduction to Hurling -- Pa

5:30ish - ???

No-Host Closing Session at Cooper Point Public House

Driving Directions to the College

The Evergreen State College is located at 2700 Evergreen Parkway NW, Olympia. To get there from I-5, take Exit 104 for Highway 101. Follow Hwy 101 to the third exit for TESC and Mud Bay Road. At the Y, follow the road to the left. Follow Evergreen Parkway to the roundabout. Follow the roundabout through to the college entrance and park in the lot on your right.

Map showing festival and parking locations -- tesc communications building & parking lot c

Map showing festival and parking locations -- tesc communications building & parking lot c

Friday Evening Social Event

Our Friday evening social event this year is something new -- a special session/performance that is open to all comers!

Hotel RL has a feature called "The Living Stage" as part of their Lobby/Main Floor. The stage is usually made available for performers, musicians, speakers, and other community events. This year, the hotel has graciously offered the stage to us for our Friday evening event! The evening will be similar to a session, but will be recorded and broadcast through the hotel so guests can watch the performance. That means we might be a little more formal than a typical session. But everyone is welcome to attend and we welcome musicians, singers, and dancers to join in. We hope you can join us for at least part of the evening.

The Hotel RL is located at 2300 Evergreen Park Drive SW, Olympia. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS NOT THE SAME ROAD AS THE ONE YOU TAKE TO GET TO THE COLLEGE!  The hotel is on Evergreen Park Drive SW. The college is located on Evergreen Parkway NW. They are NOT close together!

Guest Instructors

We were thrilled to have an amazing lineup of guest instructors again this year:

Gaeilge Studies:  pa sheehan

Pa is originally from Sixmilebridge, County Clare and is an Irish and French second level teacher in Ireland. He has an undergraduate degree in Applied Languages and is currently working at the University of Montana as a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant. He recently completed a thesis on the hurling pitch as an Irish language learning space and will be teaching a session on hurling!  

Sean-nós Singing: Doimnic Mac Giolla Bhríde

Doimnic is a well known sean-nós singer from Gaoth Dobhair, County Donegal who was the winner of Corn Uí Riada, the Oireachtas sean-nós singing competition, in 2009. He has been immersed in the culture of his native home from a young age and has taken guidance from well known local sean-nós singers like Caitlín Ní Dhomhnaill and Lillis Ó Laoire. He has performed in many festivals and concerts in Ireland and throughout Europe in the past few years. More information is available at

Traditional singing:  colleen raney

Currently on tour with Irish supergroup Solas, Colleen was born into a family where Irish music and dance were part of the fabric of everyday life, learning songs from her older siblings was very much a part of Raney's formative years. Colleen began her musical career with her oldest brother Mark, who studied with legendary singer and song collector Joe Heaney. After attaining her MFA in Acting from the University of Washington, and working as a professional actor for a decade, Colleen dove back into the traditional music world with her first album Linnet in 2008. Her 2013 release Here This is Home is without question one of the finest works in recent years. Colleen has toured extensively, both at home and abroad. Highlights have included The KVMR Grass Valley Celtic Festival, Maine Celtic Celebration, Winston-Salem Celtic Festival, Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts, and Seattle’s respected Northwest Folklife Festival, where she was a regular performer from 1980 to 2013.  Her music can be heard on radio from Italy, to Ireland, to New York, to Hawaii, to Japan and all parts in between. More information is available at

sean-nós dancING:  shannon dunne

Shannon is a renowned teacher of sean-nós/percussive dance.  She has studied Connemara sean-nós dance (through funding by the DCCAH) with Pádraig Ó hOibicín, Róisín Ní Mhainín, Mick Mulkerrin & Máiréad Casey; Clare battering with Aidan Vaughan; and Munster (old-style) step dance with Patrick O’Dea.  She also studied flatfooting/clogging with Eileen Carson, Megan Downes and Christine Galante.  She is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the 2008 Dance Fellowship and multiple Folk Arts Grants from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.  She is on the roster of the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, and was the recipient of a 2006 Performers Grant from the University of Milwaukee.  Learn more about Shannon from her web site at

Irish Fiddle:  Randal Bays

Randal Bays is an American musician who's been playing Irish fiddle for more than thirty years. He's now widely recognized as a master of that complex and ancient art, in particular the fiddle styles of rural western Ireland. He has worked with such greats as James Keane, James Kelly, Gearoid O'hAllmhurain, Roger Landes, Martin Hayes, John Williams, Daithi Sproule, and the late Michéal O'Domhnaill. Besides his touring and recording successes, including concerts and festival in the U.S., Europe and Canada, Randal is a highly respected as a teacher of Irish fiddle. Some of his students have gone on to become performers and teachers themselves, helping to extend and deepen the tradition of Irish fiddle music in North America. Bays co-founded and directed the Friday Harbor Irish Music Week for ten years, and is currently the Program Director of the Cascadia Irish Music Week (now based at The Evergreen State College as well). He's taught at most of the important Irish music camps in the U.S. and Canada.  More information about Randal is available at

Irish Accordion:  Felim Egan

Felim was born Ballinasloe, County Galway and raised in Cloghan, County Offaly (west Offaly). His father has a passion for music and encouraged him to play. He began lessons at the age of four with his father and then with a local Offaly fiddler Dan Cleary. He comes from a family of five children, all well accomplished musicians. He has many musical influences which include Matt Molley, Tommy Peoples, Charlie Lennon and Frankie Gavin, to mention a few. In 1993 he moved to Portland where he played his first gigs with Robert Soper and Aidan Brennan and was a regular at Mikey Beglan’s East Avenue Tavern session. He started composing tunes in the early 1990s. Felim is a regular fixture in Irish traditional music in Portland.

And our regulars!

Returning again this year are our regular Sean-nós NW Instructors Alicia Guinn (dance), Jill Sattler (art), Bob Burke (language), David Ingerson (song), Seán Williams (cooking and travel), and Kimberly Goetz (storytelling).

Workshops Available

  • Beginning & Advanced Irish Language

  • Traditional Irish Sean-nós Dance

  • Traditional Singing in Irish & English

  • Traditional Irish music, including fiddle, accodion, and bodhrán

  • Irish Storytelling & Poetry

  • Irish Cooking and Culture

Attending the Festival

I'm new to all this -- what should I expect?

Welcome! We're especially glad you joined us. Here is some helpful information and a few answers to common questions we are asked.

Sessions and the Concert

If you've never been to an Irish session, you're in for a treat! These are casual get-togethers that are common in Ireland. A session is kind of like a no-host party at the local pub. Musicians will play tunes, dancers might get up and show off their steps, and singers will entertain those in attendance with their melodies. If you're lucky, you might even get to hear a famous poem or funny story. Our festival session will be held at a local pub. There is no cover charge for this get together, but food and drinks are on your own.

Sean-nós NW is proud to offer a concert as part of our festival, featuring each of our instructors demonstrating their craft. You'll be able to hear and see some of the best traditional singing and dancing around! You can get tickets to the concert as part of the full-weekend registration package. A limited number may also be available separately for those who can't come to the workshops.

What should I bring and what should I wear?

Our festival is very casual. Jeans are completely appropriate. Since it is April in the Pacific Northwest, we recommend you wear layers to account for our ever-changing weather. We also recommend that you bring a notepad. If you're going to take one or more dance classes, you should bring a water bottle and appropriate shoes (character shoes, ballroom dance shoes, penny loafers, or men's leather dress shoes are good choices if you don't have dedicated dance shoes). NO METAL TAPS, PLEASE! Wood taps are fine.

What about lunch?

We have arranged for an optional lunch again this year, but are not going to have the lunches catered like we did in previous years. Instead, this year we have arranged for attendees to get a lunch ticket to the Greenery Café on campus. The Greenery previously provided our catered lunches, so you know the food is great! Providing lunch tickets to the Greenery instead of having them cater the lunch means you get to choose from any of their offerings.  There will be multiple vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and other healthy meal offerings each day (and it's the basically same price). We thought this was a great option and hope you agree! 

If you are not going to get the lunch option, you'll either want to plan to bring your lunch, grab something on campus, or drive into town for something to eat. There are coffee shops on campus in addition to the Greenery, but no chain-type restaurants within walking distance. 


We have a variety of options available to you to help manage your budget.  The total price for an adult weekend includes all classes both Saturday and Sunday, the Saturday evening concert, and admission to the sessions on Friday and Sunday evenings (no host).

The only options that include the Saturday evening concert are the Full Weekend options.  The Saturday-only options are for classes only, not the concert.

Adult Full Weekend Pass $130 (including lunch both Saturday and Sunday) or $110 (no meals) plus $4 ticket fee
Single-day Passes $70 (including lunch) or $60 (no lunch) plus $3 ticket fee

Kids are half price -- $35 for one day (plus $2 ticket fee) or $70 for both days (plus $3 ticket fee) including lunches

For concert tickets only, adults are $20 and seniors/students are $15 plus a $1 ticket fee.

(Yes, we simplified the ticket fees this year and just rounded them off -- e.g., $4 instead of $4.03.  We thought that was easier.)

To register, click on the drop-down menu below and choose your registration type, then click the "Register" button. A registration form will open so you can tell us about yourself.  When you're done, click the "Register" button at the bottom of the form to add your registration to your shopping cart. 

If you want to register more than one person, just click the "Register" button again and repeat the process.

When you're done adding registrations, just click on the shopping cart in the upper right corner to finish and checkout.

Registration for 2017 no longer available