Irish Singer, Songwriter, and Teacher

ONLINE CLASSES
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• All class dates will be advertised on home page.
• Sign up for classes (or if you wish to be on a waiting list for a particular class), via the contact page (use dropdown menu on home page)
• Make sure you put the class, or classes, that interest you in the message box!

THE IRISH KEEN

The Irish funeral lament holds a lot of fascination for many. How did such an essentially pagan practice manage to weather the trials and challenges of millennia? In actual fact the greatest challenger to the Keen was also its greatest ally – i.e the Christian Church! The ‘Keen’ is living testament to the synthesis of paganism and Christianity that is often referred to as ‘Celtic Christianity’ and which honours the natural world, including the sanctity of the cycle of life. The Keen was a sacred chant, improvised and performed over a dead body, but it had a clear structure and form. Precisely because of its sacred nature there are few incidents of the Keen being ‘performed’ outside the ritual to which it belonged – the Wake. Both sacred and secret, the Keen intrigues, and an exploration of it reaffirms the crucial part that the Keen played in traditional Irish mourning ritual, and indeed song.

In Part One we examine its history, context, music and performance. The class is not a ‘singing’ class but rather, focuses on how and why this Irish chant has survived and is still alive today. There is no requirement to be a singer and students in this class come from a range of backgrounds – with a common interest in this ancient Irish ritual.

In Part Two, we learn to sing some of the Keens we have studied in Part One. This class will be capped so that I can interact with everyone to coach them in the songs. You don’t have to speak Irish (I will provide phonetics) but you do need to be able to hear and sing in tune as the Keens can be challenging! In order to do Part Two you must have done Part One or a previous class in the Keen.
Mary McLaughlin's keen class is an absolute treasure and deep awakening. Her devoted study of the Irish traditional wake and accompanying rituals is a profound memory work which brings us face to face with nearly lost traditions that are an essential part of healthy human culture. Mary is a mother well of wisdom who deeply cares for the ancient indigenous ways of her ancestors and shares them with beautiful generosity and necessary discernment.
(Madi Sato mother, song carrier & co-founder of Praising Earth)
Discovering Mary and her vast gifts of song, the keen, Gaelic, and Irish history, has enhanced my connection to my Irish ancestors and expanded my knowledge in an area that I am so intrigued by. Mary has a glorious sense of humour and is a very easy person to be in the company of. I recommend her work as one of my most respected teachers and am so grateful to know and work with her. 
(Anne-Marie Keppel, Vermont USA, author of Death Nesting: Ancient & Modern Death Doula Techniques, Mindfulness Practices and Herbal Care)
This class has been absolutely wonderful! A class seemingly about a single subject, Keening, actually appeals to such a wide variety of interests as it lies at the intersection of Singing, Death and Grieving, Ritual, Irish history, and Spirituality. Quite the Crossroads! Mary is very engaging, informative, and knowledgeable, and takes time to get to know everyone. You get a ton of information, and the class is casually participatory so it feels like a nice mix between a scholarly lecture and a warm-hearted discussion. It's an intense subject, but the class is conducted with room for laughter and lightness as well- a great way to learn. I've taken so much away from this class already, and would highly recommend it to people of all paths.
(Jenna Wetmore, Artist & Designer)
I heard Mary on a podcast by Sharon Blackie talking about Keening and I was so intrigued .  I then became aware that she would be teaching a class on it and I couldn’t wait. Mary has  a beautiful way of speaking and presenting that draws you in. I’v come away witha better of understating of my own ancestory and a longing for the old ways. A  bonus … hearing her sing !

(Brenda Stewart, retired)
This class was a perfect mix of focused academic study and intuitive & energetic expression. Mary lead us through the historical, cultural, and practical aspects of this mysterious and beautiful tradition with sharp academic focus while at the same time creating a sacred and tender space within the class group. Mary is a fantastic teacher; who can deliver dense lessons in a down to earth way and who makes everyone feel welcome and included. Whether you're wanting to explore your Irish heritage, have interest in grief or other human rituals, or are a singer interested in folk traditions I recommend this (and any!) class with Mary!
(Sierra-maria, acupuncturist/herbalist)

“THE SONGS OF IRISH FAERIE”

The Irish Fairies are not the Tinkerbell images that have been so popular during the 19th and 20th centuries. They are rather, a complex group, mixing beings from mythology and pre-Christian belief with nature beings, the dead and spirit beings. Humans interact with the fairies in Ireland in a certain way and there is tremendous respect (albeit it is fear-based), for them. There is no doubt though that the fairies have been the artistic inspiration for poets, musicians and writers for centuries.
In this class you will learn some of the songs that reflect the long-held belief in fairies and their impact on the Irish; they are mostly in the Irish language although during the 1800 and 1900s some songs, based on the great Scottish ‘Child’ ballads, were also being sung in English.

As in all my classes, you will also learn the background and context of the songs – that is how they are transmitted! You do not need to be able to speak Irish as I offer a phonetic-based approach and you do not need to be able to read music as I teach in the oral tradition. You do, though, need a love of singing and a willingness to try a new style of singing! You won’t be sorry as these songs are magical and worth the effort!

There will be a cap on numbers, so if you are interested please sign up immediately to ensure a space.
I very much enjoyed the Irish Faerie Song class. Despite being a complete beginner before the course, I can now sing several songs in Irish! Along with learning the songs - the lyrics both in Gaelic and in  understandable phonetics - we were treated to background information and stories, so it felt like a real immersion in the Irish Faerie tradition.  Mary is an ideal teacher. Not only is she very knowledgeable about Irish song, but she clearly loves sharing her passion with others. Her enthusiasm, light hearted manner and gentle encouragement put me at ease and made the learning experience lots of fun.
Paula, London, UK
I have taken two of Mary’s classes: Irish Faerie Songs and Gaelic Christmas Songs. I recommend them highly! Mary is a creative and excellent teacher. I have learned to sing these beautiful songs in Gaelic and the tunes are haunting. I find myself singing them constantly!
Lynn, New York State, USA
I found attending Mary's Irish Gaelic Fairy Song Class immensely rewarding. I loved her experienced and patient method of teaching these magical songs.  I learned a great deal from Mary's class: four beautiful songs and their accompanying stories, alongside beginning my journey towards becoming more familiar with the beautiful Irish language of my ancestors. I would highly recommend her online classes.
Allis, Victoria, SE. Australia
A few words from Down Under about how good learning and singing with Mary is: This is how it works. For the Southern Hemisphere course Mary starts her day early for us and in New Zealand we stay up late.  (Australia is not quite as late). Every week, despite the late night, I come away keen to practice and to show up again the following week. The shared class is great because you get to hear and learn from other peoples trouble and triumph and it's not as intense as being put on the spot the whole time yourself. I am enjoying the sense of journeying with other people. Mary leads the class well, pitching a good balance between background to the songs and learning the songs themselves. Learning another language is fun when it comes wrapped up in a song. Hearing the language, learning the stories and singing the tunes cements the learning in a way that I find far more accessible than only doing all the grammar. I also feel like I'm learning something about my family who left Ireland 3 generations ago and that feeling of connection is very good.
Nicky, New Zealand.
THE SONG AND THE STORY
I have had a love-affair with Gaelic a Song for half century (yikes!) and that led me a few years ago to take a Doctorate in the area. I love to share what ever knowledge and insights I have gained about traditional Irish song, so my classes are as much about the story of the song as the texts and melodies - this is very much in the tradition of Gaelic Song - as one famous Sean-nós singer once said to me "every song has its story..."
This class is geared towards getting you started in Irish singing. We will be using Irish (Gaelic) language texts, phonetics and an aural approach through which I have launched many non- Irish speakers over the years! All you need is a working computer, a good internet connection and a willingness to dive in. An essential element to Irish Gaelic song is story so in this class we dive into that aspect as well as actually learning the songs. These songs have grown in the rich soil of Irish culture; folklore, traditions, belief systems and landscape, and reflect the lives of our ancestors while resonating with the archetypes which are beyond time and space. If you subsequently wish to do the Keen class you will find this class very helpful as a form of preparation as you get your mind (and tongue) around the Irish language and adapt to the modal scales of ancient Irish song!

(Dr. Mary Mc Laughlin did her MA thesis on the Keen and continued her study of it in her doctoral studies of Irish Traditional Otherworld Song. She is currently writing a book on the Keen - tentatively titled ‘The Ritual of Lament’).
It is such a pleasure to be a part of Mary’s Song & Story class series! I’ve noticed that I tend to leave Mary’s classes feeling brighter, lighter, and in a reflective, spirited mood. I hum the melodies we are learning on my daily hikes and walks, slowly integrating the history lesson that comes with each class. Learning Irish music from Mary has been a wonderful source of joy for me during the pandemic, especially given that communal, group singing carries its own risks, and my singing group is postponed until a time when it is safe to meet in person again. I am so grateful for what she offers. Thank you, Mary!

(Lucy French, home birth midwife)
I am not: a) a singer b) familiar in any way with Irish Gaelic c) quite familiar with traditional Irish culture. Dr. McLaughlin is masterful at leading a class that even I could feel comfortable in. I am very impressed with how much she has been able to teach in such a short period of time. I truly did not think I would be able to sing a full Irish song at the end of the course, much less several! She is incredibly generous without coddling- no one gets away without singing, but she creates such a warm environment I didn't feel self-conscious. The course is really fun, super interesting, and it's been one of my most positive online learning experiences through quarantine. Thank you!
(Annie, professional choreographer/performer)
I have been enjoying the Song and the Story class immensely!  The songs have been thoughtfully chosen by Mary, and discussions about their significance and origins have been so critical to really getting a "feel" for the song.  Mary is such a kind, gentle teacher that really wants to make sure you walk away with having a connection to these songs for the rest of your life.  I highly recommend taking classes with Mary, and I'll certainly be signing up for more offerings in the future!
(Libby, educator)
I have absolutely loved Mary’s Story and Song sessions finding everything I hoped for as in introduction to singing in Irish Gaelic.  Mary is steeped in this tradition with a deep understanding and love of traditional Irish songs and their roots.  She is a great teacher, meticulous in honouring the lineage of the material we worked through during the 6 week course as well as getting each of us to bring our voices forward and inhabit the songs she shared with us.  I would highly recommend this course to anyone with an interest in Irish folk songs, the complex and long history that they carry in them.

I am really loving this course! Right up my street, thorough, well-delivered, encouraging and lots of laughs.  Give it a go!
(Lulu, yoga teacher/community choir director)