This posting is for those who are considering attending Catskill Irish Arts Week 2011 in East Durham for the first time.
The basics of the Catskill Irish Arts Week (CIAW) music, singing, and dance classes are all at this web site: Catskill Irish Arts Week.
If you come, you will be warmly accepted just for having an interest in Irish culture.
If you pay attention and practice, you will gain so much from the classes.
If you approach and speak with respect and interest to anyone during the week, from staff to other students to every teacher to famous "stars" of Irish performing or craft, you will be treated to caring and attention, as well as good craic!
Those that attend full time get a morning and an afternoon class (which you stay in all five weekdays) which are titled and laid out in schedule here. The staff will help you when you are signing up to get placed at the correct level and to optimize your days.
You yourself need not be musical or a dancer to go to the week, as the Arts and Crafts classes are top notch. Also, there is the wonderful Irish History and Language class taught by Bairbre McCarthy.
Speaking of Bairbre, she and the other teachers of young folks offer a Children's Workshop that is fun on so many levels (language, dance, music, and singing) while passing on an appreciation for Irish culture to the future performers.
After the afternoon class, you'll want to come to the lecture series which will have a schedule here. These are well done talks and conversations, and are seriously underated. They are not like the bad lectures you may remember from school. They are fascinating, fun, and often both.
When you call for lodging, some places offer meals included. If you do that, you'll have days to meet everyone who attends regularly and that has its own rewards. Another strategy is to pay a little more, but move to a new venue for every meal. That way you'll get a variety of food and atmospheres, and you'll be able to converse with the regulars and find out what they like about staying at that establishment. If you are going as part of a group, you might want to discuss this ahead of the week.
You may want to sit around your motel and listen to some folks in an impromptu session (seisiún) in a gazebo, on the patio, on the steps, or on a shady piece of lawn. They happen at motels mostly, but listen for arrangements elsewhere. The quality of these sessions varies, but often they are amazing in long streaks. The only charge is a few hoots and hollers, smiles, applause, and the well timed compliment or three.
Did you know there are concerts during the week? Not really promoted, are they? These concerts are held in the big pavillion on the official grounds Tuesday through Friday. With your official CIAW bracelet and pin, you'll get in for free. Those not in CIAW can attend for a reasonable admission. These concerts are tremendous and offer time between sets to socialize and peruse the merchants' booths. One piece of advice: if you want to get an artist's CD, don't wait. They may sell out, or they may leave and take their unsold CDs with them!
After the concert, you're not done. You still have to go to the pubs! There is a schedule in your packet when you arrive. Certain pubs concentrate on certain categories. Also, there are CD release parties during the week.
Some people go early to one pub and switch later to another. Get good directions for all the pubs you want to visit or invite someone who knows the way. As the saying goes, Giorraionn beirt bothar, or Two shorten the road.
Speaking of road, be careful walking along the road as you may have to park a bit away from the pub and share the country road at night with vehicles.
Breakfast lunch and dinner after pubbing? These are when you find out, you missed something great at another pub. Get used to it. No matter how hard you try, you'll wish you were at a pub you weren't because so and so played so and so better than in concert! The only antidote is to talk up what you saw. I'm not saying you have to lie, but you can tell the truth to great advantage, can't yah?
Besides the scheduled and unscheduled events, you can hike, shop at the Guaranteed Irish Shop, ride a bike, play horseshoes, ...
Here's my final hint: get some rest. The lure of all the attractions at Catskill Irish Arts Week can be so strong, you don't realize you need some rest. You might need a nap, except you'll miss...?