About the Festival

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.

As usual, the festival will be held (mostly) at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Just take I-5 to Exit 104 in Olympia and follow Highway 101 until you see signs to the college. Free parking on the weekend!


We've added a new offering this year -- a half-day children's program! On Saturday afternoon, we'll offer a program just for kids. They'll see photos and learn a little about Ireland, hear a traditional story, learn an Irish song, try some sean-nós dancing, and do a craft project! The program is appropriate for any child old enough to pay attention for four hours but is intended for ages 6 and up. Parents are welcome to stay and observe. Admission is $10 per child or $25 for a family and includes all supplies and a snack.

All participants must have a signed permission slip!


Saturday, April 14, 2018

1:00-1:30 pm Check-in Communications Building Main Lobby
1:30-3:00 pm Workshop 1: intro, singing, story, craft Third Floor
3:00-3:30 pm Tea and treats for kids Third Floor
3:30-5:00 pm Workshop 2: Irish music and dance Third Floor

To register, select one of the "Kids' Workshop" choices from the drop-down menu and click "Register." You can use one registration form for all attendees. Click the "Kids' Workshop" box, put the parent/guardian name in the name box, and list names of all kids (and grownups who plan to observe) in the nametags box.


Sean-nós NW Festival Piping Workshop with Joey Abarta

1:30-5:00 pm, Sunday April 15th

The Evergreen State College Communications Building

Pay for a one-day ($75) or full-weekend ($125) pass to the Sean-nós NW Festival and attend all festival workshops, including Joey's Sunday afternoon piping workshop. There are also tunes workshops with John Whelan and Dale Russ as well as workshops in dance, song, and Irish language. There are also sessions on Friday and Sunday evenings.

To register, select either the full weekend or Sunday only choice from the drop-down menu below and click Register.



Friday, April 13, 2018

7:30-10:00 pm No Host Session led by Randal Bays Cooper Point Public House

Saturday, April 14, 2018

All workshops and the concert are held in the Communications Building.

Classes listed in the following order: Language, Singing, Dancing, Music, Culture

8:30-9:00 am Check-in Main Lobby
9:00-9:15 am Welcome and building orientation Room 110
9:15-10:30 am Workshop 1
  • Intro to Gaeilge: Basic Introductions and Pronunciations with Orla
  • Intro to Sean-nós singing with Máirín
  • Sean-nós dancing basics (all levels) with Alicia and John
  • Tunes with Dale
  • Beginning/Intermediate Knotwork with Jill
  • Various
    10:30-Noon Workshop 2
  • Continuing Language: Weather Forecasting with Orla
  • Traditional Singing with David
  • Reels (all levels) with Jackie and John
  • Tunes with Joey
  • Appreciating Irish Music with Dale
  • Various
    Noon-1:30 pm Lunch Greenery or on your own
    1:30-3:00 pm Workshop 3
  • Beginning/Intermediate Language: Visit to a restaurant/how to order a meal with Orla
  • Sean-nós love songs with Máirín
  • Dance: Garden of Daisies (intermediate) with Jackie and Joey
  • Tunes with Dale
  • Traveling in Ireland with Sean
  • Various
    3:00-3:30 pm Tea and Treats Main Lobby
    3:30-5:00 pm Workshop 4
  • Language: Pub Quiz as Gaeilge with Bob
  • Macaronic songs with Máirín
  • Care and Maintenance for Dancers (all levels) with Meredith
  • Tunes with John
  • Cooking with Sean
  • Various
    5:00-7:00 pm Dinner On your own
    7:00-10:00 pm Festival Concert Recital Hall

    Sunday, April 15, 2018

    All workshops held in the Communications Building. Session is offsite at Cooper Point Public House in Olympia.

    9:30-10:00 am Check-in for Sunday-only attendees Main Lobby
    10:00-11:00 am Workshop 5
  • Continued Language: Professions/describing your job as Gaeilge with Orla
  • Easy sean-nós songs with Máirín
  • Two-hand dances (all levels) with Jackie and Joey
  • Tunes with Dale
  • Making an Illuminated Journal with Jill
  • Film: Song of Granite
  • Various
    11:00-Noon Workshop 6
  • Continuing Language: Writing a letter as Gaeilge with Bob
  • Song Circle with David
  • Sean-nós Dance Combinations and Variations (intermediate) with Alicia and Dale
  • Tunes with John
  • Making a story your own with Kimberly
  • Film continued
  • Various
    Noon-1:30 pm Lunch Greenery or on your own
    1:30-3:00 pm Workshop 7
  • Continued Intermediate Language: Birthday celebrations as Gaeilge with Orla
  • More macaronic songs with Máirín
  • Dancing Jigs (all levels) with Jackie and John
  • Tunes with Dale
  • Zoomorphic Art with Jill

  • Special session: Piping Workshop 1st half
    3:00-3:30 pm Tea and Treats Main Lobby
    3:30-5:00 pm Workshop 8
  • Continuing Language: Vacation/booking a sun holiday as Gaeilge with Orla
  • More sean-nós love songs with Máirín
  • Teaching and Learning Sean-nós Dance with Jackie and Alicia
  • Tunes with John
  • Hurling demonstration

  • Special session: Piping Workshop 2nd half
    5:30ish-10:00 pm No Host Closing Session Cooper Point Pub

    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 pending -- we'll keep you posted when it's decided!

    Guest Instructors

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

    Gaeilge: Orla Nic Thaidhg

    Orla completed a BA in Irish and Music at Maynooth University and went on to complete a Masters in Education through Irish at the NUIG. Orla has a keen interest in music of all styles and has been a professional tutor of Irish traditional music for the past six years. She is currently the head of the music department in Colaiste Oiriall. As a Fulbright Scholar she is teaching Irish at the University of Montana.

    Singing: Máirín Uí Chéide

    Máirín is originally from Leitirmoir in the Gaeltacht of County Galway and is a native Irish speaker. She is a Corn Uí Riada winner and one of our most popular guest instructors. You can listen to Máirín singing and discussing sean-nós singing at http://archive.ttbook.org/listen/23416.

    Dance: Jackie O'Riley

    Jackie is not a typical Irish dancer. Having come to the tradition from Irish set, or social dancing, her formative years were far from the competitive step dancing entry point of many dancers.  Over the past decade and a half, she has ardently sought out traditional Irish music and dance, specifically old-style or traditional step dancing, sean-nós dance, and set dancing.  Jackie is now a highly regarded performer and teacher, with a unique repertoire that includes older steps she’s collected from masters and field footage, and original material she’s composed.  She performs and teaches across the US, and has performed in Canada and Ireland.  Jackie founded, directs, and teaches O’Riley Irish Dance, a unique non-competitive dance program for kids and teens now in its 7th year.  Above all, she believes deeply in prioritizing musicality in dancing, being a part of the wider musical and traditional community, and maintaining the joy that drew her to the tradition in the first place.

    Fiddle: Dale Russ

    Dale started playing the fiddle in 1973 when first moving to Washington State from his native Connecticut. In 1990 he was invited to perform at the first Boston College Irish Music Festival “My Love is in America” featuring 16 of the finest Irish fiddle players living in the States. The concert was recorded and released by Green Linnet Records and won an award from the Smithsonian Institute as “Traditional Recording of the Year.” His playing is known for its balance of power and elegance.  He was a founding member in 1977 of the Seattle Irish band “No Comhaile” and is also a former member of the Seattle Irish band “The Suffering Gaels.”

    Pipes: Joey Abarta

    Joey Abarta has spent the last sixteen years touring North America, Europe, and Asia, teaching and performing music on the uilleann pipes, the Irish bagpipe. A Los Angeles native, he first received instruction on the pipes from Dubliner Pat D’Arcy, a founding member of the Southern California Uilleann Pipers Club. His musical skills have been further honed by several visits to Ireland, a year-long stint working in Japan, and continuing relationships with master pipers. In August of 2009, Joey’s accomplished playing won him an All-Ireland championship, placing second worldwide at the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann. In the fall of 2014 Joey became the first American uilleann piper to win first prize at the An tOireachtas, one of the biggest competitions for traditional music in the world. In 2015 Joey was honored to be a recipient of a traditional arts apprenticeship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council meaning he was awarded a grant to teach his art to the next generation. Currently based in Boston, Joey divides his attention between performance, teaching, and recording. In addition to performing solo, he performs with Nathan Gourley of “Life is all Checkered” fame and had toured with Mick Moloney and the group The Green Fields of America; while at home, he organizes the meetings of the Boston Pipers Club, teaches for Comhaltas’ Boston Music School, and organizes various traditional music concerts and events.

    Accordion: John Whelan

    Although John grew up near London in Dunstable, England, he was raised on the fiddle and pipe music of Ireland. Dunstable has a large Irish community, and his father, Denis, was from Ireland’s County Wexford. “Ours was a very traditional household,” John says. “My father didn’t have any major vices – his only addiction was to Irish music.” Denis Whelan carried a reel-to-reel tape recorder to many shows, collecting hours of live music. Songs of home elicited sentimental tears, even when the words were not in English. “It was not the words but the emotion of the music that moved me.” He has recorded multiple albums, including Celtic Fire and Come to Dance, and is currently touring with the John Whelan Band.

    Workshops Available

    • Beginning & Advanced Irish Language

    • Traditional Irish Sean-nós Dance

    • Traditional Singing in Irish & English

    • Traditional Irish music, including fiddle

    • Irish Storytelling

    • 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?

    Like last year, we have arranged for attendees to get a lunch ticket to the Greenery Café on campus. There will be multiple vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and other healthy meal offerings each day. Everyone loved the lunch choices last year, and we 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. If you want to attend the concert also, select the "Saturday-only Attendees Concert Add-on" to get half-off the price of the concert.

    Prices are all inclusive -- no additional ticket fees charged!

    Adult/Child 12 and under Single day/Weekend Includes concert? Price (all ticket fees included)
    Adult Full weekend Yes $125
    Child Full weekend Yes $75
    Adult Saturday Only Single day No -- must purchase separately $75
    Adult Sunday Only Single day No -- must purchase separately $75
    Child Saturday Only Single day No -- must purchase separately $38
    Child Sunday Only Single day No -- must purchase separately $38
    Adult/Child Lunch Add-on Full weekend N/A $22
    Adult/Child Lunch Add-on Single day N/A $11
    Adult Concert Only Saturday evening Yes $20
    Child/Student/Senior Concert Only Saturday evening Yes $15
    Single Day Attendees Concert Add-on Saturday evening Yes $10 (only for those attending a single day of classes)
    Kids Workshop -- per child Saturday afternoon No $10
    Kids Workshop -- Family Saturday afternoon No $25

    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. 

    REMEMBER TO SELECT A LUNCH OPTION IF YOU WANT A LUNCH TICKET! You can also purchase a lunch at the Greenery if you don't want to prepay with your registration. A prepaid ticket just saves you time waiting in line -- everything else is identical!

    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.