Cover art for podcast Irish Music Stories Podcast

Irish Music Stories Podcast

48 EpisodesProduced by Shannon HeatonWebsite

The show about traditional music, and the bigger stories behind it.

episodes iconAll Episodes

Episode 46-Ancient Tongues, Modern Times

October 13th, 2020


Learning just a few words in Gaelic is mannerly when visiting Ireland and Scotland. And it can be a way IN to cultural values and humor. Mairéad Ní …

Episode 45-Trad in the Classroom

September 8th, 2020


There’s no definitive Irish or Scottish music method book. A lot of seasoned practitioners learned their music in kitchens and pubs. So how do they bring that immersive, social learning approach into the classroom? In …

Episode 44-Not Easy Playing Green

August 11th, 2020


The topic of sustainable travel for touring musicians has been reframed, as Covid-19 has cancelled most music live music events for an unforeseeable amount of time. But as activity kicks up again, conversations about …

Episode 43-From the Fringe to the Fore

July 14th, 2020


The role of instruments in Celtic traditions can be fickle: newer voices (like the tenor banjo) are increasingly popular on festival stages; while …

Episode 42-The Long Arm of the Irish Tradition

June 9th, 2020


Persistent infections like Covid-19 … and social injustice.. and racism… loom large. And still, these little Irish jigs and reels are forming bridges across oceans. What happens when people fall in love with a foreign …

Episode 41- Transplanting Tradition in the Land of the Trees

May 12th, 2020


What do rampant evictions, military ship collisions, and Christmas trees have to do with jigs and reels? Learn how Gaelic culture resonated in …

Episode 40-Irish Tunes in the Key of C-19

April 14th, 2020


How are traditional musicians and dancers continuing creative careers and group music events during the Covid-19 pandemic? How is social distancing affecting the jigs and reels? In this unexpected open of Season Four of …

Episode 39-Tune Tale with Eileen Ivers

March 10th, 2020


What’s a soccer ball, a school uniform, and a wedding dress have in common? New York-based fiddle player Eileen Ivers helps jar memories and …

Episode 38-Tune Tale with Jimmy Keane

February 11th, 2020


Are all traditional tunes created equally? And if they aren’t, what happens to the, um, lesser tunes? Do they end up like lost dryer socks? Chicago-based accordion player Jimmy Keane reflects on the room of bad tunes, …

Episode 37-Tune Tale with Helen Kisiel

January 14th, 2020


What do you do when language just can’t capture how hilarious—and important—an encounter in Ennis, County Clare was? Write a tune about it. That’s what Brendan Tonra did. Pianist Helen Kisiel recounted one of those tune …

Episode 36-Tune Tale with Billy McComiskey

December 10th, 2019


Where do the tunes come from? When does inspiration hit? Shannon learns that it's all about timing, in this short story about a jig by accordion …

Episode 35- Last Night’s Food

November 12th, 2019


What’s up with the endless cups of Irish tea? Is there something genuinely nourishing about a pile of french fries and melted cheese? Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Matthew Olwell, Jamie McClennan, and Matt Heaton help me digest …

Episode 34-Fairy Forts and Changelings

October 8th, 2019


Are Irish fairies REAL? And if so, could there be Sí folk living in New England?? Fiddle player Martin Hayes, singer Emily Smith, and storyteller …

Episode 33-The Irish Woodshed

September 10th, 2019


What do the Irish music and dance worlds think about practicing? Fiddle players Fergal Scahill, Finn Magill, and Rose Flanagan; banjo player Martin …

Episode 32-Cuppa Tea with Len Graham

August 13th, 2019


Why learn old songs from your neighbors, when the airwaves are brimming with NEW music? And how can a rooster’s crow affect singing technique? Hear …

Episode 31-The Scottish Connection

July 9th, 2019


How do Scottish and Irish music intersect? How are they distinct? And why do so many trendy tunes come from Scotland?  Host Shannon Heaton talks with Aaron Jones, Ed Pearlman, Natalie Haas and Hanneke Cassel to learn

Episode 30-GMT Plus Nine

June 18th, 2019


Is there something strange about speaking Japanese, and removing your shoes BEFORE tucking into a set of Irish reels? Host Shannon Heaton travels …

Episode 29B-Travel Update from Tokyo

June 11th, 2019


Was Robert Burns cooking up exciting new stuff when he wrote, “best laid schemes o’ mice an' men gang aft a-gley?” Well, Irish Music Stories is! …

Episode 29-Trad on Canvas

May 14th, 2019


How do artists paint trad? And how do they capture the sounds and feelings—and the bigger stories behind Irish music and dance—in two dimensions? In conversations with Brian Vallely, James Gurney, Vincent Crotty, and …

Episode 28-Travel Update from Thornhill

April 15th, 2019


What happens when songs are written with the backdrop of moss covered trees, hillside cottages, and ravens on top of stone walls? And what happens when people play tunes together for hour after hour? (Hint, they need to …

Episode 27-Touching Down on Different Fields

April 9th, 2019


What happens when ‘trad’ musicians are ALSO fluent in non Celtic traditions? When you’re dealing with cultural traditions (with all the music and the …

Episode 26-Kitchen to Concert Stage

March 12th, 2019


What happens when old traditional music and dance move onto modern concert stages? Do Celtic traditions get a big boost? Do they lose anything on the …

Episode 25-Season Three Overture

February 12th, 2019


What’s on tap for IMS 2019? Host Shannon Heaton talks to trad world movers and shakers about instruments on the fringe of the session; Scottish, Cape Breton, and Irish music connections; the long (global) reach of …

Episode 24-Joe Cooley Meets Clark Kent

January 8th, 2019


What was the earliest Irish music live streaming event? Billy McComiskey revisits the night TWO accordion giants gave a concert in the Catskills while a landlord in NYC tuned in; and Rose Flanagan remembers how her dad …

Episode 23-IMS Playlist

December 11th, 2018


What’s a sure-fire way to make your season bright? Check out this PLAYLIST and collection of mini-stories from Laurel Martin, Kevin Crawford, Daithi …

Episode 22-Jigs in the Key of P

November 13th, 2018


What’s the secret formula for parent-performers? With Chicago-based box player John Williams and Boston guitarist Matt Heaton share two unique …

Episode 21-Fifty Shades of Gender Equality

October 9th, 2018


What do Benjamin Moore paints have to do with Irish bands, modern performance practice, and gender balance? Insights from Karan Casey, Brian Ó hAirt, Laura Cortese, Nic Gareiss, Ellery Klein, and Dr. Lisa Coyne uncover …

Episode 20-Trad Music Summer Camp

September 11th, 2018


What’s the story with traditional music and dance camps? And with Irish, Scottish and New England fiddling gatherings in every time zones, who heads …

Episode 19-Fiddle in the Windy City

August 14th, 2018


How did fiddle player and composer Liz Carroll get her groove? How does anybody living a creative life manage? Liz’s thoughts about weathering …

Episode 18-Wax Cylinders to the World Wide Web

July 10th, 2018


Is there magic in the medium? Do different recorded formats influence how we hear and absorb traditional music? Are we missing out on anything now that it’s much easier to record and FIND recordings online? Jeff …

Episode 17-Why Willie and Mary Matter

June 12th, 2018


Why do old ballads endure? Does it make sense to sing about Willie and Mary, when our playgrounds are filled with Ozzies and Loxleys? Do we really …

Episode 16-Pushing All the Right Buttons

May 8th, 2018


What exactly IS folklore… and tradition (in 2018)? Host Shannon Heaton talks with accordion players Billy, Sean and Mikey McComiskey and folklorist …

Episode 15-Heartbeat of Irish Music

April 10th, 2018


What’s at the core of Irish dance music? Host Shannon Heaton talks to Eileen Ivers, Nic Gareiss, Marla Fibish, and Jimmy Keane about trad ‘feel’ and …

Episode 14-Dance Hall Days

March 13th, 2018


What did Irish Boston look like in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s? What were the days of social dance halls all about? Host Shannon Heaton talks to Sue Lindsay, Joanie Madden, Kevin Doyle, Helen Kisiel, and Brian O’Donovan …

Episode 13-The C-Word

February 13th, 2018


What’s up with the word ‘Celtic,’ and what does it have to do with Irish music?  Why does the C-Word sometimes come off as non-specific, simplistic, or academic? Host Shannon Heaton unpacks the meaning and mysteries of …

Episode 12-Season Two Preview

January 9th, 2018


What’s on tap for Season Two of Irish Music Stories? In 2018, host Shannon Heaton will explore mid century Dance Halls; old ballads in a millennial …

Episode 11-Return to Sligo

December 12th, 2017


Why listen to Irish Music Stories The common thread of this month’s stories is, of course, Irish music. But it’s not the only thread. Digging into stories—whether they center around Irish music, chess, or …

Episode 10-Cuppa Tea with Daithi Sproule

November 14th, 2017


What does the Irish language have to do with the Beatles? If it hadn’t been for an unlikely stew of songs of pop music and songs learned in the …

Episode 09-Want of Wit

October 10th, 2017


Why do traditional musicians place a premium on humor and social rapport? Rory Makem, John Doyle, John Williams, Aidan Collins, Pauline Logue, Lisa …

Episode 08-Miss McLeods Reel at 113

September 12th, 2017


How does Irish dance connect with traditional music today? And what’s up with all the different types of social, performative, and competitive trad dance? Kieran Jordan, Liam Ó Scanláin, the Glencastle Irish Dancers, …

Episode 07-The Piper

August 8th, 2017


What’s the buzz behind the uilleann pipes? Here’s the story of Irish piping: how the chanter, drones, and regulators hum together…. and how the lure, …

Episode 06-The Backer

July 11th, 2017


What’s up with Irish ‘backing’? How does accompaniment fit in the melodic Irish tradition, and how does it feel to invent chords for Irish tunes and songs? Accompanists Matt Heaton, Neil Pearlman, Keith Murphy, and John …

Episode 05-Handed Down

June 13th, 2017


How does Irish music get handed down? Host Shannon Heaton travels to New York, County Galway, and Boston to talk with musicians about how they learned their music, and how this has led them to pass it on. Hear stories …

Episode 04-Cuppa Tea with McKinneys and McCarthy

May 9th, 2017


Can you really open a pub with a tune and a dream? Siobhan and Brendan McKinney and Tommy McCarthy, owners of two of North America’s most esteemed Irish pubs, talk about what happened to them when they put the music and …

Episode 03-Every Tuesday at Nine

April 11th, 2017


Why do people all around the world head out to Irish music sessions. Big-hearted session hosts Tina Lech, John Williams, Eoin O’Neill, and Brian Conway help host Shannon Heaton decode what their weekly gatherings in …

Episode 02-Cuppa Tea with Karan Casey

March 14th, 2017


 What’s it like to have a head full of songs? Waterford singer Karan Casey talks about Irish songs, and how learning a song from someone is really …

Episode 01-Trip to Sligo

February 14th, 2017


This inaugural episode investigates why 400,000 people–and a band of kids from Boston–ended up at the All Ireland music competition in Sligo. With visits to Boston, Dublin, Clare, and Chicago, host Shannon Heaton digs …

Episode 00-Introducing Irish Music Stories

January 10th, 2017


A preview of the Irish Music Stories podcast, the new show about traditional music... and the bigger stories behind it. Music credits and much more at

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