Logo: Susquehanna Folk Music Society
Central Pennsylvania's grass-roots voice for folk music and dance!

The Susquehanna Folk Arts Center presents
Artist to Artist: A Residency
Lamentations and Laughter
The Songs of Ulster in Ireland

Sunday, October 17, 2021 — all day!

About This Event:

Join us for a day of FREE workshops, conversations, and performances by three remarkable singers: Altan's Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Dáithí Sproule (two members of that phenomenal Irish band) and our own Seamus Carmichael (raised in County Derry and now living in Lebanon, PA). They'll explore the vibrant traditional songs from the region of Ulster in the North of Ireland.

Altan members include Dáithí Sproule (left) and Mairéad Ni Mhaonaigh (second from right)

Our artists include two members of the phenomenal Irish band ALTAN:

Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh

...Mairéad Ni Mhaonaigh (above)
and Dáithí Sproule (below)...

Daithi Sproule

...as well as our own Seamus Carmichael

Seamus Carmichael
In August 2021, videographer Kevin Neidig captured Seamus Carmichael singing at the regular third-Saturday Irish music session at the Union House Taproom and Livery in Richland, PA.

Join us for a day of FREE workshops, conversations, and performances by three remarkable singers: Altan's Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Dáithí Sproule (two members of that phenomenal Irish band) and our own Seamus Carmichael (raised in County Derry and now living in Lebanon, PA). They'll explore the vibrant traditional songs from the region of Ulster in the North of Ireland.

Lamentations and Laughter: The Tragic and Comic songs of Ulster

In this full-day residency, we'll explore everything from Gaelic lamentations in the sean-nós ballad tradition to hilarious pub songs. We’ll learn a little about the history of these songs in diaspora and the how they have migrated from a capella to ensemble songs. Participants will have the opportunity to learn a couple of songs and to hear beautiful performances by world renown singers.


1 The Songs of Ulster

10 am - 10:45 am ET

a historic map of the Ulster region

Come meet our artists for the day, with moderator Amy Skillman. We will begin with a brief discussion of the kinds of songs found in the North of Ireland; what distinguishes them in content and style from other songs in the British tradition. Each artist will offer one song as an example of the focus of their workshop.

2 Tragic Little Stories

11 am - 11:45 am ET

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh will give a brief background to the Gaelic song tradition of her area in County Donegal and will talk about the songs she learned growing up in the Gaeltacht where Gaelic was her main language. She will sing a few of her favourite songs from her repertoire and then teach one of the songs to the participants phonetically while explaining the meaning and background of the song and lyrics.


11:45 am - 1 pm ET

3 Comic Songs and Singing Techniques

1 pm - 1:45 pm ET

Seamus Carmichael

Seamus Carmichael subtitles this workshop "How to Make your Audience Laugh." This workshop will feature the song "An Buinneán Buí" (The Yellow Bittern), Thomas MacDonagh's (1878 – 1916) English language rendition of an earlier poem by Cathal Bui Mac Giolla Ghunna (1680 – 1756). Seamus will use the song to illustrate his approach to singing a subtly comic song. In doing so, he will cover issues of phrasing, volume, ornamentation, vocal tone and projection of meaning and emotion – techniques to draw your audience in.

4Guitar Accompaniment for the Songs of Ulster

2 pm - 2:45 pm ET

Dáithí Sproule

Dáithí Sproule will give an introduction to the nature, style and origin of the classic Ulster song as performed in the English language. He will give some examples of songs that made their way from the North of Ireland to North America and into the American folk song repertoire. Dáithí will discuss and demonstrate the beauties and the common pitfalls in presenting the old songs in this way, using both standard and alternate guitar tunings.

5 Traditional Song Session

3 pm - 3:45 pm ET

a historic map of the Ulster region

Our final session of the day will reunite all three artists for a traditional singing session; trading songs and the stories about them. Each artist will perform three or four songs and then we’ll open it up for participants to share a song from their homes.


Seamus Carmichael

Seamus Carmichael is a visual artist, and traditional singer from County Derry, Northern Ireland, now a resident of Lebanon, Pennsylvania. He plays tin whistle and harmonica and has a vast store of songs both traditional and modern, comic and serious. In his projects he combines his visual arts skills with his interest in song, and in this vein he has created albums of Celtic Christmas Music and songs relating to James Joyce’s Ulysses. His latest recording, “Art Songs”, is a collection of traditional and original songs with accompanying paintings, due for release in late 2021. His involvement in Irish Music has led to the establishment of the long-running Lebanon traditional music session currently taking place on 3rd Saturdays at the Union House Taproom in Richland. He is a regular performer at Irish Music sessions in Lancaster and occasionally in Philadelphia and New York City.

Learn more

  • See Seamus's profile in the Susquehanna Folk Arts Center's Folk Artist Gallery, compiled by folklorist Amy Skillman.

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh is a fiddle player and sean-nós singer from the Gaeltacht of Gaoth Dobhair in County Donegal. She is passionate about preserving the traditional music from her area. She is also a composer and has been commissioned to compose music for various projects over the years. She is a founding member of the renowned traditional music group, Altan. For over thirty years she has toured the World with Altan, travelling all over Ireland, the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the USA. She has played in venues as diverse as The Albert Hall in London, The Sydney Opera House and The Hollywood Bowl. Mairéad made one solo album in 2009 called ‘Imeall’, and is also a member of other ensembles like String Sisters , comprising of female fiddle players from all over the world; SíFiddlers, a Donegal based group of female fiddlers focusing on the rich Donegal tradition; her family band, Na Mooneys and T with the Maggies along with Moya Brennan, Maighread and Triona Ní Dhomhnaill. Mairéad was awarded Donegal Person of the Year in 2009 by the Donegal Association in Dublin for her work in promoting the County and its rich culture worldwide and in 2017 was awarded TG4 Musician of the Year.

Dáithí Sproule

Dáithí Sproule, a native of County Derry who has lived for many years in Minnesota, is one of Irish music's most respected guitar accompanists, and one of the first guitarists to develop DADGAD tuning for Irish music. He is also a fine singer in English and Irish.

Dáithí started out his career in the influential group, Skara Brae, with Mícheál Ó Domhnaill and his sisters, Tríona and Maighread. A member of the internationally renowned Irish band Altan, Dáithí has performed and recorded with many great traditional Irish musicians, including James Kelly, Paddy O’Brien, Liz Carroll, Billy McComiskey, Tommy Peoples, Seamus and Manus McGuire, Randal Bays, James Keane, the Kane Sisters, and Dermy and Tara Diamond. He also performs and records with Minnesota-based musicians Laura MacKenzie, Peter Ostroushko, Jode and Kate Dowling, Dean Magraw, Norah Rendell and Brian Miller.

Dáithí released his first solo album in 1995, "A Heart Made of Glass", with songs in English and Irish. In 2008 he released an instrumental guitar album, "The Crow In the Sun", featuring thirteen original compositions. "Lost River, Vol. 1." followed in 2011, with songs in English and Irish, arranged and accompanied on guitar, with a stellar line-up of guests.

Dáithí’s original compositions have been recorded by Skara Brae, the Bothy Band, Altan, Trian, Liz Carroll, Aoife Clancy, Loreena McKennitt, the RTE Concert Orchestra, 10,000 Maniacs, and others. His song, “The Death of Queen Jane”, was featured in the 2013 Coen brothers film, “Inside Llewyn Davis”. In addition to performing and recording, Dáithí is a sought-after teacher and lecturer on subjects ranging from guitar styles, song accompaniment, and Irish traditional music to Irish language, literature and mythology. He has taught at University College Dublin, the University of Minnesota and the University of St. Thomas, and is an instructor at the Center for Irish Music in St. Paul. He is a 2009 recipient of a Bush Artist Fellowship from the Minnesota-based Archibald Bush Foundation.

Tickets are FREE!

Registration is required.

  • The confirmation email has links to individual sessions

General ticket info

Donations Welcome!

If you have the means, we would welcome your help to cover production costs for this and other Susquehanna Folk Arts Center programs. Registration includes a donation option. We appreciate your support!

About this Residency

This is the third in a series of four opportunities for local artists to collaborate with nationally-recognized artists for a day of workshops, conversations and performances.

This residency is sponsored by our Susquehanna Folk Arts Center, created in partnership with the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Seamus Carmichael is showcased in our Folk Artists Gallery, in the company of many other amazing artists.