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Teachers's Bios

Gerry O'Connor

One of the great fiddle players of his generation

Gerry O’Connor grew up in the town of Dundalk, County Louth in a family of musicians, dancers and singers. His mother Rose  (née O’Brien) taught Gerry and his siblings the fiddle 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 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), recording four CDs on the Claddagh label. Gerry has toured and recorded with members of all the legendary groups including Planxty, Bothy Band, De Dannan, Boys of the Lough and Chieftains.  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 (Ulaid, At First Light), was heralded as a significant milestone in recording the music of the “Oriel” region of South Ulster.

His 2006 live album “In Concert” recorded with Gilles le Bigot  (Barzaz, Skolvan) was a celebration of the cultural links between Ireland and Brittany. This duo has toured continually for the last 20 years.   During 2006-7 Gerry recorded and toured with The Irish Baroque Orchestra under the direction of Elizabeth Wallfish, recording Ardee Dances, a piece commissioned for Irish Fiddle and Baroque Orchestra and written by Rachel Holstead. Gerry continued to perform with Wallfisch in the Wandering Fiddlers project performing at the Wigmore Hall and the Brighton Early Music Festival.

With Nuala Kennedy, Martin Quinn and Gilles le Bigot, Gerry released the album Oirialla in Nov. 2012 at the Celtic Colours Festival in Cape Breton, Canada. This band is currently touring and in demand for festivals.

Recent re-releases of his music can be heard with Desi Wilkinson and Eithne Ní Uallacháin of the album Cosa Gan Bhróga (Gael Linn) and Senex Puer on IML. With the vocal accapella trio White Raven led by Kathleen Dineen, Gerry has recorded and performed throughout Europe at International Choral Festivals including RheinVocal and Merano. He is currently touring and has recorded 6 albums with much celebrated Irish-Canadian-based group The Irish Rovers.

In 2018 Gerry was awarded  “Ceannródaí”, the prestigious Bardic Award by Comhaltas for his valued contribution to the Traditional Arts. In the same year he launched his second solo album “Last Nights Joy” and published ” The Rose in the Gap” Dance Music for Oriel from the Donnellan Collection.

A four-time winner of The Fiddler of Oriel competition, Gerry has recently adjudicated the same competition and also the Gael Linn sponsored Siansa and RAAP /RTE sponsored Breakthrough competitions. He 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 teaches fiddle at the Willie Clancy Summer school and at master-classes throughout Europe. When at home Gerry works as a violin maker/restorer.


Gerry Bio

Oisín McCann

Hailing from Warrenpoint in County Down, Oisín has had a passion for traditional music from an early age. Having started the bodhrán at the age of 5, he progressed onto the whistle, flute, piano, guitar, and uilleann pipes learning most of his music through his local branch of Comhaltas in Warrenpoint and the famous Armagh Pipers Club.

Oisín has recently completed his degree in Traditional Music in the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow where he was able to explore his keen interest for the musical and cultural traditions of Scotland.

He started performing publicly from the age of 13 and since then has performed at many different festivals and concerts as well as making numerous radio and TV appearances. He can now be seen regularly performing with high profile artists such as Gerry O’Connor, Finbar Magee, Jack Warnock, Pearse Larkin, Peter Corry, Malachy Cush and Dan McCabe. He is a member of “The Grit Orchestra” under the direction of Greg Lawson and "The National Folk Orchestra of Ireland" under the direction of Tom Doorley.

Oisín is also a passionate set dancer and is an up and coming musician and teacher on the set dancing scene, teaching weekly classes and regularly playing for many céilíthe all over Ireland with his own band.

Oisín Bio

Ranóg Townsend

Ranóg Townsend is a Sean Nós dance educator and performer that hails from Lixnaw, Co. Kerry. She grew up in a home rich with the traditional arts, with tin whistles hidden in nooks and crannies and a kitchen permanently arranged for dancing. After stepping out in sessions from a young age she became an All Ireland Champion in 2015 at the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann. Ranóg holds a Bachelor of Arts in Irish Music and Dance and a Masters of Arts in Ethnochoreology from the Irish World Academy, University of Limerick, Ireland.

Her approach to dance focuses on how it sits within the music, between the notes, and places value on the relationship dancers have to traditional Irish musicians and the energy that is cultivated between performers. She has also expanded her research into the health sector, working on projects in fall prevention with over 60s and those with acquired brain injuries. Currently she lectures in percussive dance at the Irish World Academy, University of Limerick and her performances, showcases, and lectures have been featured across international stages and academic institutions. In 2023 Ranóg launched Fite Fuaite Dance, a project that shares her passion for dance with others of all ages and abilities.


Siobhan Bio

Breandán de Gallaí

Dr. Breandán de Gallaí


Dancer, choreographer and dance academic Breandán de Gallaí’s involvement with dance is multifaceted.

In his capacity as artist director and choreographer of dance company Ériu, Breandán explores the poetic potential of the Irish dance form and presents work that is explorative and innovative in a contemporary context. He has created several works, most notably The House of Bernardó Alba, The Village, Walls Talk, Salómae, AonLïnger, Rite of Spring and Noċtú.

Noċtú (2010/11) completed a 5-week residency at the Irish Repertory Theatre in New York.  On the back of this run the show was nominated for 2 Drama Desk awards, “Outstanding Choreography” and “Unique Theatrical Event” (New York 2012). 

Breandán second work, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring (2012) premiered at the opening of the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in August 2012 attracting 14,000 spectators.  The work received a nomination for the coveted Allianz Business to Arts Awards (Dublin 2013). Breandán has recently re-worked the Rite which the company performed at the Cork Midsummer and the Earagail Arts Festivals (June & July 2018). The company was honoured to be invited to perform the work at the International Festival of Arts "Diaghilev. P.S." in St. Petersburg in 2019.

Lïnger, which saw Breandán return to the stage after a 12-year hiatus, premiered in Project Arts, Dublin, January 2016, followed by performances in Firkin Crane Cork and Dance Limerick. In August 2016 Lïnger took part in the Edinburgh Fringe and was shortlisted for a Total Theatre and The Place Award for Dance. Since then Lïnger completed an 8-venue All-Ireland tour, with international performances in the Jack Crystal Theater New York, Théatro Sofia Bulgaria, and in Aix-en-Provence France.

Aon had its World Première in Amharclann Ghaoth Dobhair, Co. Donegal as part of the 2017 Earagail Arts Festival. These performances were followed by a 2-week run in Firkin Crane Cork. Aon toured Ireland, north and south, in November 2018.

In 2019 Breandán adapted Oscar Wilde’s Salome (Salómae), which opened at the Galway International Arts Festival at An Taibhdhearc – Ireland’s National Irish Language Theatre. This dance, music, and Gaeilge interpretation of the classic was a new departure for the company.

In more recent years the work has become more ambitious in terms of its scope and its interdisciplinarity. Walls Talk featuring blues/jazz singer Gina Boreham performing alongside Breandán opened at Projects Arts in 2020. It completed a 9-venue national tour of Ireland in 2022. The Village premiered at the Black Box Theatre in May 2022, with a performance at the Earagail Arts Festival in July of the same year. His interpretation of Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba which explored the play’s themes through a Queer lens and had male performers in key female roles, had its premiere at the Galway Theatre Festival in May 2023.

As a dance scholar Breandán's interest lies in the contemporisation of Irish dance. He completed a performance-based doctorate in 2013, the first of its kind in the world. His PhD in Arts Practice title is –  “Imeall-Siúl: A Choreographic Exploration of Expressive Possibilities in Irish dance”. He earned an MA in Ethnochoreology in 2009, and was external examiner for the MA in Traditional Irish Dance Performance at the University of Limerick from 2004–2008. Breandán has held the positions of Course Director of the Arts Practice PhD programme and the MA Irish Dance Performance at the University of Limerick. He is currently Course Director of the BA Irish Dance and the MA Irish Dance Performance at the university.

As a dancer, Breandán toured with Riverdance from 1994–2003, 7 of which in the position of principal dancer. In 2007 he returned to Riverdance as Dance Director. His training is predominately in Irish step dancing, but is passionate about many dance genres and in 1988 he graduated from the Gus Giordano Dance Academy, Chicago, having been awarded a scholarship to study Ballet, Modern, Jazz and Tap dance.

Breandán held the position of artist in residence at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in 2008/9, and in County Cavan 2011/12. He regularly presents TV programmes for RTÉ and TG4 and acts in TG4’s popular soap opera Ros na Rún. He also holds a B.Sc.(Hons) in Physics.

Breandán is currently developing several new works. Due to première at the Galway Arts Festival in May is an original dance-comedy, Countless Cathleens with original music by Beoga. In R&D is a piece about bereavement and finding meaning –  Decland.

Balor which is being created for the youth branch of the company – Na Mic Ua gCorra – will have its first performance at the Earagail Arts Festival in 2025.

Siobhan Bio

Aoife Ní Fhearraigh

Aoife Ní Fhearraigh was born and raised in the Donegal Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking region) of Gweedore and Northwest Donegal is home to some of the most famous names in Irish music: the members of Clannad, Enya and Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh of Altan.


Small wonder then that Aoife found herself surrounded by music from an early age. These early influences included the late Prionsias Ó Maonaigh, the father of Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh who taught her the fiddle. Later at school, she was taught music by Máire Uí Bhraonáin, mother to some of the Clannad-members. The strong local song tradition of Gweedore and neighbouring Ranafast also provided her with a wealth of beautiful songs.


In 1991 Aoife released her first recording ‘Loinneog Cheoil’ (accompanied by the well-known band Dervish), a cassette with 10 well-known and lesser-known songs from her native region which as re-recorded and re-released in 2005, produced by Manus Lunny of Capercaillie.


In 1996 her debut CD ‘Aoife’ was released by Gael Linn and produced by Moya Brennan and Dennis Woods which contained more traditional Irish language songs.


In 2003 released her second CD The Turning of the Tide on the Celtic Collections label, which showed a different side to Aoife’s repertoire with songs including Danny Boy, After the Goldrush, Neidin and also included a duet with the famous Seán Keane


In 2006 her fourth album ‘If I Told You’, was released on the Phaeton label and distributed by Claddagh Records.  Co-produced with Paul Gardiner and Brendan Monaghan, this recording has a selection of songs ranging from traditional English, Irish and newly written songs.  As a singer, she manages to capture the essence and emotions of these songs and long life into new ones, such as Long Hard Night, If I Told You, Crann Úll, The Parting Glass and Táimse i m’chodhladh.


Over the years Aoife has toured and performed in Europe, Japan and the United States.  She has recorded and performed with various artists, and you can also hear her haunting voice on the Playstation Game – Metal Gear Solid Original, The Best is Yet to Come (sung in Irish), written and produced by Rika Muranaka.  Aoife’s music is open to modern arrangements, made of voice and traditional instruments that beautifully reveals her light, melodic voice with a dreamy, nostalgic intonation, reflecting her talents as a vocalist and her affinity with her native song tradition.

Aoie Bio

Gerard Thompson

Gerard hails from Lurgan, Co Armagh and his passion for traditional music came at  an early age, getting his first guitar at the age of 11,  He joined his first band in 1992 (Stone the Crows, along with Barry Kerr). Gerard then progressed to the double bass with Lurgan’s local bluegrass band, The Dusty Millers and performs regularly with them.

In 1996 Gerard won the Ulster Fleadh for guitar accompaniment and subsequently won the All-Ireland title the same year, the first guitarist to do so.

Gerard has performed with some of the finest musicians; Arty McGlynn, Cathal Hayden, Brian McGrath, Alan Kelly, Finbar Furey, Ralph McTell, Stevie Dunne, Damian O’Kane, John Joe Kelly, Bernadette Morris, Special Consciences .

Influenced by Arty McGlynn, Tony Rice, Paul Brady, Dan Tyminski, David Grier, Dan Crary.

J Bio

Fergal O'Brien

Fergal O’Brien hails from a family steeped in traditional music in Portglenone, County Antrim. Fergal became interested in traditional music through his mother Ann, an All Ireland Slow Air Fiddle champion, in the late 70’s. His brother and sister were members of Deánta and his first group Clann Lughaidh were double All Ireland Slogadh winners in 1979 and 1980. Clann Lughaidh went on to appear on BBC’s ‘As I  Roved Out’ and performed for two years at the Interceltic Festival in Lorient. Fergal plays piano, concertina and bodhrán.

He has been teaching bodhrán at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels since 1986 in Belfast and from 2006 with the Traditional Arts Partnership. In 2016,  following the first graded bodhrán syllabus from the London College of Music & University of West London, Fergal introduced grades into his bodhrán teaching. He went on to publish the world’s first graded bodhran tutor book with his colleague René de Kat and the support of TAP.

J Bio

Åse Kristine Waglen

Åse Kristine Waglen teaches Irish dance at the dance school Sound-Irish dance Factory in Oslo and is a member of the Sound- Irish Dance Company.


She started Irish dancing at 16 and has since then been traveling to Ireland and Europe to compete and work with renowned Irish dance masters and teachers, such as Breandán de Gallaí and Ronan McCormack. Åse started teaching only a short time after taking up Irish dance. First her peers through various school activities and projects before starting as a teacher at the Sound Irish dance Factory in 2006. In addition to the dance school, she’s been teaching at numerous social events, and also organized dance events like Feiseanna.


Her main motivation is always to give people the opportunity to enjoy Irish music through dancing and community building.

Åse Bio

Brendan T. Monaghan

Brendan is from Banbridge in Northern Ireland and has worked as a professional folk musician since 1991. He is a multi-instrumentalist specialised in uilleann pipes (Irish bagpipes) and tin whistles.

Back in Ireland, he was teaching in primary and secondary level schools as well as in several Comhaltas branches, primarily Warrenpoint and Annaclone Comhaltas, both individuals and groups. He has several years of experience teaching music to children and adults alike.

Brendan has toured extensively in the USA, Canada, and most of Europe, notably with the famous show Celtic Thunder. Since 1992, he has performed regularly with Phil Coulter in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Boston Symphony Hall, Radio City NY, the Lincoln Centre NY, and at the White house for President Clinton in 1998. He has also performed with artists like Justin Hayward, John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello, Steve Harley and Nanci Griffith.

Since 2020, Brendan has established himself in Oslo, where he is currently performing and teaching Irish music. He is a founding member on the band Muintir and the duo Dúchas.

Bendan Bio

Cecilie Stensrud

Cecilie started out with modern Irish dance in 2008 and has since then developed her passion for Irish music and more traditional dance styles. She is currently the only one in Norway to teach Irish ‘sean nós’ or ‘old style’ dance. She is a member of “Sound Irish Dance Company” as well as a teacher at the dance school “Sound Irish Dance Factory”.


Together with the dance company, she has had the possibility to work with world renowned dancers and choreographers like Ronan McCormack, Breandán de Gallaí, Zara Curtis and Dearbhle Lennon, as well as performing with several bands and artist, among which is a guest performance with The Chieftains at their Oslo concert in 2018.

Cecilie has a Ph.D. in Norwegian opera history from NTNU and has studied theatre and song at the Conservatory of Dijon in France. When not performing, she is working as a producer for the contemporary music ensembles Cikada and Oslo Sinfonietta.

Cecile Bio

Marie Nivel

Starting out on the violin at age seven, Marie Nivel took up Celtic harp in 2008 and has since deepened her passion and skills for Irish music. In 2021 she released her first album The Road Less Travelled a personal selection of traditional Celtic and Scandinavian tunes, as well as her own compositions. Marie Nivel is known for her sensitive playing and beautiful song writing. She has been performing solo and with a wide variety of musicians since 2012 at concerts, festivals and for private events.

Marie believes that everyone can learn the harp and is very passionate about finding the right approach for each of her students. Apart from teaching traditional Irish music, she loves to empower her students to create their own music by teaching them the same simple but practical skills that kickstarted her own journey of song writing.


Marie Nivel is a therapeutic harpist, wilderness awareness mentor and holds a Bachelor in dance and pedagogy from the University in Leiden, NL. When she is not performing with or teaching the harp, she works as a dance teacher and wilderness mentor at Arendal Steiner School. She also works at Oslo Fjordskole where she brings together music and nature awareness in a approach to develop a new marine pedagogy.

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