Queenscliff Irish music and dance weekend 2024


Thurs April 11th- Monday April 15th 2024

  • Music and Dance program events from Friday April 12th- Sunday 14th (last weekend of the school holidays)
  • Whitehall guesthouse accommodation is available for attendees to book from Thurs 11th to Mon 15th, with informal sessions and sing-songs also taking place from Thursday right through to Monday morning!

Don’t miss out! Book here today!

Comhaltas Melbourne is delighted to present our annual Queenscliff Weekend. Building on the great success of recent years, we are excited to bring some new tutors on board and offer more opportunites for musicians of all ages (see tutor list below). This event has become a firm favourite on the Irish music calendar, welcoming new students, allowing improvers and advanced musicians to hone their skills, and providing an all round wonderful social experience for all attendees.

Lessons and workshops will be available throughout the weekend in set-dancing, tin whistle, flute, bodhran, fiddle, guitar, traditional singing, button accordion, uilleann pipes, harp, concertina, banjo, mandolin, tin whistle making and more. Beginners to advanced students will be catered for. The opening concert is at 730PM on Friday 12th at the Uniting Church, and the Ceilí Mór is on at the Town Hall at 730PM on Saturday 13th (both of these events are also open to the public for $30 and $20 respectively).

Booking form- please click the following link to see further details about lessons and accommodation options, and to secure your spot!


Event Poster (click on image for high res version!)

Tutors and Session Hosts 2024 

We are fortunate to have some of the finest tutors that Australia has to offer, for this year’s workshops. As well as lessons, there will be some special themed workshops and sessions held throughout the weekend. More details and bios to follow, so check back here soon!

  • Bodhrán- Bec Simpson
  • Traditional Irish Singing- Aoife Dermody
  • Fiddle- Declan Simpson, plus Aifric and Kate Boylan
  • Banjo, Mandolin- Jody Moran
  • Uilleann Pipes- Jack Brennan
  • Flute, tin whistle- Máirtín Staunton
  • Harp, whistle-making workshop – Andy Rigby
  • Guitar accompaniment in Irish music- Declan Simpson
  • Button Accordion- Dara O’Coisdealbha
  • Concertina- Ciarán O’ Grady
  • Set-dancing- Marie Brouder and Matt Harriage
  • Ukelele and whistles- Eamonn Spillane
  • Session leader- Joan Mundy on piano accordion
  • Fiddle and session leader- Ewen Baker

Further questions about music instrument lessons and workshops? Contact Aifric at 0437678883

Further questions about booking process or accommodation? Contact Johanna at 0428564266

Tutor Bios

Bec Simpson- Bodhrán

Interested in learning the Bodhrán, or building upon your current skill level? Look no further than Bec Simpson, one of Australia’s leading exponents and experts on the instrument. Bec hails from a renowned folk music family, and has performed extensively in Australia and overseas, as part of trio “The Simpson Three”. She is also the drummer in the Melbourne Céilí Band, who performed to great acclaim at the prestigious Senior Céilí Band competition at Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann 2023, in Mullingar, Ireland. Bec’s playing is dynamic, nuanced and can lift a session in moments! She can share a wealth of knowledge with aspiring Bodhrán players, regarding technique, tone, and how to approach different types of tune rhythms, helping to bring the very best out in the music.

Aoife Dermody- Traditional Irish Singing

Aoife Dermody is a traditional singer and fiddle player from Dublin, now based in Melbourne. Aoife has been a featured performer at many of Ireland’s most established singing festivals and singers circles, as well leading sessions in some of Dublin’s most iconic traditional music pubs, including Devitts and the Cobblestone. She is a founding member of the wonderful Naarm Traditional Singers Circle, and teaches traditional singing at Melbourne Comhaltas. Aoife brings intensity and emotional depth to every note, with that rare ability to truly connect her listeners, via song, to other times, people and places. Her workshops are engaging, inclusive, and full of rich insights into traditional song, covering the intricacies of vocal technique, ornamentation, and how to connect with an audience. If you’ve ever thought you’d like to have a go at singing but lacked a little confidence, this is a really great place to start. And if you already sing a little (or a lot!), but want to learn more about authentic traditional singing, do not miss this opportunity to learn from one of Ireland’s finest!

Declan Simpson- fiddle and guitar

Declan Simpson is a professional musician, composer and performer from Melbourne, Australia. A highly accomplished fiddle player, he is well known for his dynamic and energetic style, that draws deeply on his love of Sligo fiddle playing in particular. Declan has made numerous trips to Ireland, and has played alongside some of the top musicians in the country. He has performed in numerous bands and ensembles throughout his career, including multi award-winning act “The Simpson Three”. In his fiddle workshops you can expect to learn some great tunes, with insights into technique, ornamentation, bowing and variations. Declan is also a highly sought after guitarist, his deep knowledge and understanding of the tunes enabling him to really enhance and elevate a session. He can help other guitarists to learn and master the techniques and skills necessary to accompany Irish music with confidence!

Jody Moran- Banjo

Jody is accomplished on a variety of instruments, and is a self taught tenor banjo player. Based predominantly in northern England in his youth, he performed at international level with the Leeds Ceili Band. He is a regular and much sought-after tutor at irish music festivals, in Australia and overseas- including the world renowned Willie Clancy Summer School in County Clare, Ireland. Jody is a previous All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil winner, and adjudicator, with a musical heritage in the Sligo style and a vast repertoire of tunes. Being a keen session musician, he is always happy to help out others needing guidance. During Covid lockdowns, his online sessions became a lifeline for kids and adults who wanted to connect and continue learning Irish music. His influences include Joe Cooley, Paddy Canny and Paddy Fahy. He lives in Wodonga, Victoria, with his talented young family, to whom he has passed on his Irish music, on a wide variety of instruments!
Uilleann Pipes- Jack Brennan
Master uilleann piper and maker, Jack Brennan was born and raised in Adelaide, South Australia, to parents with Irish and English heritage. Music was an integral part of his life growing up, and years of study and honing his craft have propelled him to perform and teach all over Australia at events, workshops and festivals, his lively and dynamic playing delighting audiences! The personal dedication Jack shows to music is embodied in the craftsmanship of his work- his beautiful instruments are played by many of the finest musicians across the country, and beyond. The uilleann pipes are one of the most iconic and nuanced of Irish instruments, and masters are relatively few and far between in the southern hemisphere- so it is a great privilege to have Jack join us here at Queenscliff, offering the next generation of keen and aspiring pipers the opportunity to learn and nurture the tradition of this great instrument here in Australia. As with all pipers, he is an accomplished tin whistle player too, and will be on hand to share his wealth of tunes and skills with attendees throughout the weekend!
Flute, tin whistle- Máirtín Staunton
Máirtín Staunton is a flute player from Tourmakeady, Co. Mayo. Born into a musical family spanning generations, Máirtín began playing music at a young age, and his playing embodies the rich tradition of the northwest of Ireland. His punchy, rhythmic style reflects his west Mayo musical heritage, whilst encompassing a modern and fresh approach. He regularly performs at folk festivals throughout Australia, as part of the  Maggie Carty Band, as well as the Melbourne Céilí Band, who performed to great acclaim at the prestigious Senior Céilí Band competition at Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann 2023, Mullingar, Ireland. Máirtín is a teacher at Melbourne Comhaltas, where he hosts lessons and sessions each Wednesday for our many young beginners and improvers on the tin whistle. We are delighted he’ll be teaching at Queenscliff on both whistle and flute, sharing his wonderful repertoire, skills and musical heritage!


Harp, whistle-making workshop – Andy Rigby

As a regular on the Australian folk music scene, Andy needs no introduction! Andy Rigby has a wealth of experience in making, playing and teaching the folk harp. He started with Irish, Scottish and Welsh music, and then also delved into the rich culture of Latin American harp music. He has performed at all the major folk festivals in Australia, as a soloist and with Moving Harps, Blackwood, Polly Christie and others. He teaches regularly at the Lake School (Koroit) and helps organise Rosewood Music Camp.
Andy is a great believer in sharing the music and is as happy busking with local kids as being on a big stage. At Queenscliff, he will share a wealth of knowledge and expertise on the harp, catering to those starting out on their harp journey, as well as to more advanced players who wish to extend their skills and repertoire. His harp workshops are always highly engaging and a lot of fun (not to mention the much loved annual whistle making class!)- not to be missed!

Button Accordion- Dara O’Coisdealbha

Dara O’Coisdealbha is an award-winning accordion player from a hugely talented and renowned musical family from Roscrea, steeped in the traditional Irish music of North Tipperary! He was immersed in music from a very young age, both at home among his siblings, and strongly influenced by the music of Paddy O’Brien. Currently based in Sydney, Dara is in huge demand due to his fine musicianship and lively performances, and is set to teach Button Accordion masterclasses at the great Ceol Aneas festival in Nelson, New Zealand, in May 2024. We are delighted to welcome him to Queenscliff for the first time, where he’ll give workshops, lead sessions and hopefully share some of his extensive Paddy O’Brien repertoire!

Concertina- Ciarán O’ Grady

Ciarán grew up in Luton, England, in a large Irish community, and from a young age he was steeped in the rich traditional Irish music scene in the wider London area, regularly playing alongside such legends as Paddy Hayes and Brian Rooney. He and his siblings travelled back to Ireland with their parents every summer, to attend music festivals and the Fleadh Cheoil- all three frequently bringing home All Ireland titles. Self taught, he was influenced by musicians such as the Droneys, and later the Cork music scene where he attended university, being a regular performer at iconic local sessions such as the Lobby Bar, and teaching concertina at University College Cork. He was selected multiple times to join Comhaltas Tours of the U.S, Canada and the U.K. He has performed extensively in Ireland, Australia and beyond, his unique, virtuoso playing captivating listeners. He has recorded an album, The Hunting Room, with Aifric Boylan which showcases many of his own beautiful compositions. Since 2014, he and his family have been based in Melbourne, where he teaches the upcoming generation of young musicians at Melbourne Comhaltas each week.

Eamon Spillane- low whistle, multi-instrumentalist, session host

Eamon is a stalwart of the Melbourne Comhaltas scene, and has been leading regular sessions for adults in an inclusive and welcoming environment, for many years. A seasoned low whistle player and multi-instrumentalist, Eamon also hosts sessions each year at the Queenscliff weekend, which are particularly aimed at recent beginners and improvers- always proving popular with those wishing to build their repertoire and confidence on their chosen instrument, in a social, group setting. He also leads a fun ukelele session at the Queenscliff weekend!

Joan Mundy- Piano Accordion, session host

Joan is another linchpin of the Melbourne Comhaltas scene for many years, where she hosts regular group sessions in a social and welcoming atmosphere. Joan’s sessions also encourage players to build their repertoire, with a particular focus on being able to play tune sets for set-dancing and Céilís- a crucial element of any thriving Comhaltas branch! Joan is often to be seen leading the Céilí Band for events and set-dancing weekends, with her inimitable enthusiasm and energy! At the Queenscliff weekend, she’ll host sessions, open to all attendees- sharing her extensive repertoire in an informal and social environment.

Fiddle, Multi-instrumentalist- Ewen Baker 

A highly talented multi-instrumentalist (and maker of very fine fiddles), Ewen has performed, taught, recorded and composed music over many years, and has worked throughout Australia, and overseas. He has collaborated extensively with award-winning singer songwriter Shane Howard O.A.M (Goanna Band) and has recorded and arranged strings for a number of his albums. He has been a regular teacher and session leader at Comhaltas events and weekends over the years, bringing a lively, bright and dynamic style of playing. He has recorded a wonderful solo fiddle album of his own, The Inch Before the Saw. Ewen is also a maker of exceptionally beautiful fiddles, and will share some of his knowledge of instrument-making and repairing, in a Q&A type session, during the Queenscliff weekend. He will also run a couple of informal, lively group sessions throughout the weekend, sharing a wide repertoire of tunes and energetic approach to the music.

Set-dancing- Marie Brouder and Matt Harriage

Marie and Matthew are experienced Irish set dance teachers from Melbourne. Their energy and friendly approach to teaching is well loved throughout the Australian Irish dancing scene. They regularly appear at festivals and events running ceilis, workshops and Irish set dance displays. Marie has been teaching Irish set dancing for over 30 years. Originally from Dublin she now regularly teaches at the Quiet Man Irish Pub in Flemington as well as at Comhaltas Melbourne in Abbotsford. Matthew has been dancing for more than 25 years with the last 10 years running the classes at Comhaltas Melbourne. Marie and Matthew particularly enjoy running beginner and family friendly events with live music, which you will see at the Saturday night Céilí. We’d love to see you there!
Aifric Boylan – fiddle
Aifric Boylan comes from a very musical family in County Kildare. The eldest of six children, all of whom play traditional music, she was just five years old when she started playing the fiddle, and spent her childhood summer holidays learning from legendary fiddle players at music festivals and fleadhanna across the country. A much respected fiddle teacher and sought-after performer in Ireland, she moved to Australia with her family in 2014, where she has continued her passion for passing the music on. Aifric is a driving force at Comhaltas Melbourne, where she is involved teaching our talented upcoming young musicians, Ceoltoiri Naarm. She has played and tutored at many of Australia’s biggest folk festivals in recent years, including the National Folk Festival, National Celtic Festival, Rosewood Music Camp, Boxwood Festival and many more- both solo and in groups. She has also recorded a duet album, The Hunting Room, with Ciarán O’ Grady. She is set to teach fiddle workshops at Ceol Aneas in Nelson New Zealand this coming May. She takes great pleasure in sharing her deep repertoire, drawing particular influence from the rich fiddle playing traditions of Clare and Kerry.
Kate Boylan – fiddle, concertina, singing
Kate moved to Australia, from Ireland, in early 2023. She was born and raised in Celbridge, Co. Kildare, growing up in a very musical household. The youngest of six, she inevitably was steeped in music from an early age, learning concertina and fiddle from the renowned Micheal O Raghallaigh and MacDara O Raghallaigh in County Meath. Also an accomplished singer, with a compelling, emotive presence, she is the front woman with The Boylans, performing alongside her sisters, Aifric and Ruth (who are also based in Australia), and their partners, Ciarán and Allan! She is often to be seen at the Naarm Singing Circle, and other folk music events such as the National Celtic Festival. At the Queenscliff weekend 2024 she will be hosting and co-hosting a variety of workshops and sessions, across her various instruments, including voice!