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Pat McCullough chats (phone & email) with BitesizeIrishGaelic.com founders Eoin and Saša Ó Conchúir and Denver student Mary Price

Eoin Ó Conchúir grew up in Ennis, Co. Clare (Inis, Co. an Chláir) in the west of Ireland. While there were Irish-speaking communities in the west of Clare up until only 50 years ago, it’s an English-speaking area now. However, it still has a strong sense of all things Irish, and is renowned for its traditional Irish music. It’s there were he family raised himwith Irish as first language at home. “Interestingly, neither of my parents were themselves native Irish speakers, in that their primary home language had been English. But for different reasons, they ended up bringing up the family through Irish. When I was younger, I remember being pretty embarrassed speaking to my parents in public in Irish. These days, though, I have nothing against being heard speaking it in public!”With passion as the underlying force for many of life’s “twists of fate” their enthusiasm for the Irish language motivated Eoin and wife Saša to develop BitesizeIrishGaelic.com (BIG (an ironic acronym for something Bitesize!)) in their spare time. According to Eoin, BIG just grew out of a hobby. “The idea for teaching Irish online was brewing in 2008. I had already been running Irish language sites since 1996. Actually, it just started with a personal web page that included a paragraph in the Irish language. As the page grew, I was getting some emails already from people asking for translations. The Web was still in its infancy, and I think we were all excited to be suddenly able to talk to others in different countries. The translations got a bit much, and I set up irishgaelictranslator.com in 2002.

Questions about the Irish language from people around the world continued to find Eoin and Saša. Many are for one-off translations, but others want to actually learn to speak the language. “In summer 2008, on vacation, I had my notepad out trying to think of new web site ideas. It was a lovely sunny day, we were having some beers, and the idea of online Irish Gaelic lessons started to form.” Two years later, they launched the beginnings of Bitesize Irish Gaelic.
Eoin talked about his wife and her non-Irish heritage as being a major factor in the development of BIG. “We met in Slovenia a decade ago where we were both at a kids’ summercamp. Slovenia is nestled in Central Europe, and has Alpine regions along with a Mediterranean/Adriatic coast and inner rolling hills. In some ways, I found Slovenia and Ireland to have similarities, not least of which both have small populations. We’ve been married now for several years, and living in Limerick in Ireland. Learning Irish has been a different experience for Saša than I learning Slovene. In Slovenia, I’m immersed in hours of family conversation and the wider environment. For Saša, she hears our family speaking Irish at times, but not that often. In other words, it’s not an immersion experience. I still think that actually spending a considerable amount of time immersed in your target language is just about the most valuable way to get your brain to switch. Otherwise, you must make use of as many types of resources as possible available to you. Sasa told her story in an email describing her Irish language learning process. “Coming from a small country like Slovenia, with a population of only 2 million, for me language is an important aspect of social and cultural identification. Visiting Ireland I realized that very few people spoke Irish, but those who did felt strongly about it. Despite the fact that I never actually had to use Irish in Ireland I still wanted to learn it to grasp the special cultural connotations of the Irish language. Eoin always has ideas about promoting Irish Gaelic and a couple of years ago he came up with a collaborative online Irish dictionary (which is now Irishionary.com or Focloirgaeilge.ie) and developing lessons in Irish Gaelic (and probably several more that were forgotten and will never see the light of day). I was attempting to learn Irish at the time and a lot of books and computer lessons were either too general or too detailed, but mainly too extensive and broad. What made us think about developing short, straight-to-the-point, so-called bitesize lessons was, first, the natural fact that I as an adult learner found it draining when I tried to grasp dozens of pages of language concepts. As we found out through our research, to learn a language effectively one should only learn in 30 minutes sessions and from personal experience I could definitely confirm that. Secondly, there are the economic demands of the modern society which means we work longer hours and have less free time for interests and hobbies. In order to fit learning a language into a busy lifestyle the lessons had to be short for people to stay focused and engaged for long enough to learn enough basics to be motivated to learn more complicated concepts later on.”

Eoin admitted that despite growing up with two languages, and both he and Sasa studying and working in France previously, that he still doesn’t feel like a “languages person”. But, he does feel strongly about what method of learning works for him and others. “ I find it hard to grapple with specific grammar rules as many other people also do. I do better with listening, repeating, and by making mistakes. From this, the whole idea of Bitesize Irish Gaelic is to make learning as easy as possible by breaking the lessons into just the right ‘bite size’. He adds a word of warning, “Do not underestimate the amount of work and the number of hours you’ll need to advance in being able to interact in a language. From this, we know we can’t make the learner frustrated or angry, but rather teach small chunks at any one time.” Eoin also sights Studies that have shown that regular revision is key to learning. “We recommend learners to take a lesson or two on any learning day, but to mix between learning a new lesson and revising a previous lesson.”

When asked what kind of feedback have they been getting from BIG users Eoin nearly jumped through the screen, “Wow, the feedback has been what keeps us going!” Adding, “People have been very open about how these online lessons have been helping them out, in combination with other learning sources such as listening to Internet radio. Only last week I was in contact with Patrick, a university student in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was always interested with his Irish connection, and he said learning some of the language was the next step in building that connection. He told me that he found the lessons so addictive that he was spending more time on the lessons than on his university studies!”

Denver, Colorado resident Mary Price, turned the Celtic Connection on to BIG, and is an ardent fan of the program, says, “The Bitesize method allows a person to take their time, go at their own pace and is easily accessed for review. There are also forums set up where other students can communicate with each other and share tips on learning. The feature I appreciate the most is that Eoin actually takes the time to contact students by phone and chat with them on how they are doing and answers any questions they may have. The personal touch means a lot. He is also very accessible thru e-mail contact as well. I love this program and would highly recommend it for anyone interested in learning a language.” Mary added enthusiastically, “At only $12.00 a month you can’t beat that!”

Eoin and Saša said that they have enjoyed a holiday in California, but look forward to visit Colorado or the Rocky Mountain Region someday soon. Take a visit to Bite Size Irish http://www.bitesizeirishgaelic.com/celticconnection/ where you can learn a bit of Irish to give them a warm welcome. They’ll have a 50%-off the first month coupon code for Celtic Connection readers.

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Luke Henderson chats with DKM’s lead vocalist Al Barr:

The season of the Irish in Denver, also known as March, is about to get a great big green infusion of music. The Dropkick Murphy’s will be returning in concert on March 1st at The Fillmore Auditorium on the same day that their newest album, ‘Going out in Style’, debuts from their own Born & Bred Records label. . The band’s seventh album is both unique in scope and familiar in content. It tells the story of an Irish character named Cornelius Larkin. The concept is that the songs tell his story through the reflections of a traditional Irish wake, and while the focus may be the fictitious Cornelius, there isn’t a track that listeners won’t be able to relate to. Immediately the album starts with the thumping anthem ‘Hang ‘em High’ that harkens back to earlier DKM albums and their punk rock sensibilities, it is aggressive in nature, yet the subtle message seems to be more focused on the companionship of battle.

“You’ve got it, we’re always about that,” Al Barr, lead vocals in the band took a moment from the start of a very hectic 2011 to talk about the album, “that’s a common theme with us. The world is tough, it’s a tough time, and who are you with?” Similarly, the seemingly judgmental ‘Deeds not Words’ explodes with anger at the betrayal of one of those same people. To some listeners, it may seem bleak in its anger. “I can see where people might see it as pessimistic, but I don’t. The thing there is, there is accountability for our actions, and the guy in the song has done wrong and is caught, and is getting judged. He is guilty of what he did, in some ways, we all are,” Barr said. But like all DKM albums, there are ballads that speak to historical ponderings that are relatable still today, such as the Civil War inspired epic, ‘Broken Hymns’. “I’m a big history buff, and I was watching that Ken Burns special The Civil War -the box set, and I heard them mention that both sides had favorite songs, but one that they both agreed on. So I searched for it, it was about a woman, of course, and I came across all this great stuff, and one record about songs from then that I just really loved.”

It may be startling for some fans to realize that many of the songs that speak to historical moments are not covers, but inspired musings of Barr and his band mates. One song on the new album though is a remake of a classic Irish standard, ‘The Irish Rover’. When asked if he feels more responsibility when handling beloved music of the past, as opposed to his own work, Barr was quick to point out his quality control standards. “Like you said, some of these songs were important to our parents and grandparents and are part of the narrative of our lives. They got handed down, and like everything we got from our families, they are important to us and our story. But no, I treat every song with the same reverence; I want everything to be good and to be memorable and relatable for the listeners,” Barr said.

None is more personal to the band though than ‘Peg O’ My Heart’, a toe tapping love song that any Irish man can relate to, and any Irish woman can long for, however Barr says the song started out on the cutting room floor. “The funny thing about that song is that it wasn’t supposed to be on the album at all. Ken [Casey] came in and said ‘Listen, both my grandmothers are named Peg and they’ve been asking me when we’re going to learn to play this old song Peg O’ My Heart. It isn’t going on the album or anything, but let’s learn it as a gift for them so we can play it for them live’. We all agreed, of course, because family is so vital to us, and once we did it, it sounded good.

Then you know, Bruce Springsteen ends up singing on it and there you go.” The throw away comment could easily be missed, but the idea that a song was nearly left off an album and then ended up with the vocal styling’s of one of the most popular singers in history, is shocking. “Yeah it’s funny; he was amazing to work with. At the concerts, I’ll be singing his parts, but who knows, he might show up sometime. He said, ‘I’ll see you out there’, which I’m not totally sure what that meant, but you don’t argue with Springsteen,” Barr said. The sentimental song favorite has to be ‘Cruel’ though, which reflects on the diverse nature of family and just how contradictory the feelings related to those we know best can be. “We do work hard, we tour a lot and we record a lot, but we have very distinct times and areas for that.

Once we are out, we’re out. The switch is off, and our families are all that matters.” And what about the seemingly exact nature of the apologies and ruminations found in the upbeat and hilarious title track, ‘Going Out in Style’? “Yeah, those do seem to be a bit focused don’t they? I can’t speak for any of that, but there may be some true stories behind some of the things mentioned in that song. That’s one of the steps to recovery right? I think some of our friends, or some of my band mates friends and family, might hear that song and finally get closure on some events. They’ll hear it and be like, ‘I knew it you bastard! I finally get my apology’,” Barr said with a laugh. It’s impossible to talk to anyone from DKM without asking about their incredibly popular ‘Shipping up to Boston’ song whose prominence in the film, The Departed, rocketed their already devoted fan base to rarified air status. “The first time we sang that song, afterward, it was like a fart in church, quiet as anything.

We walked off stage and said, well, let’s never f**king sing that again. Then Mr. Scorsese put it in The Departed and it went from there,” Barr said. But, like with any big hit for a band that prides itself on evolution and improvement, there is the danger of trying to follow it up, for Barr, he thinks they have avoided that trap. “It’s funny, at concerts I can see the person yawning and looking bored and you know they are there just for the one song. You don’t want to ever get pigeon holed, and I think we haven’t. There is enough meat on the bones of the band that if you come in, we’ll give you more and you’ll want to stick with us,” Barr said. That meat will be on display in the form of new favorites and classics that DKM is known for in March when the band returns to what Barr refers to as one of his favorite places. “I love Denver, we all do. We’ve had some great concerts there, and I’m a lifetime NRA member and I love Colorado’s gun laws.” And what about the album that debuts the same day they are in concert? “Yeah the album comes out that day, not sure what we’ll do to celebrate it.

How about we set ourselves on fire onstage? Too much?,” Barr said laughing. No matter what antics the band is up to, their latest album is a worthy addition to the canon of DKM. It appeals to the punk in us all, while giving songs of historical importance, ballads of intimate portrayals and an overall feeling that even in our bleakest moments, including a fictional wake that is just as easily a metaphor for our changing world landscape, there is hope and there is friendship and there is family. The album is a sure hit and one that everyone, Irish by birth or by decision, should add to their play list.
Luke Henderson chats with DKM’s lead vocalist Al Barr:The season of the Irish in Denver, also known as March, is about to get a great big green infusion of music. The Dropkick Murphy’s will be returning in concert on March 1st at The Fillmore Auditorium on the same day that their newest album, ‘Going out in Style’, debuts from their own Born & Bred Records label. . The band’s seventh album is both unique in scope and familiar in content. It tells the story of an Irish character named Cornelius Larkin. The concept is that the songs tell his story through the reflections of a traditional Irish wake, and while the focus may be the fictitious Cornelius, there isn’t a track that listeners won’t be able to relate to. Immediately the album starts with the thumping anthem ‘Hang ‘em High’ that harkens back to earlier DKM albums and their punk rock sensibilities, it is aggressive in nature, yet the subtle message seems to be more focused on the companionship of battle. “You’ve got it, we’re always about that,” Al Barr, lead vocals in the band took a moment from the start of a very hectic 2011 to talk about the album, “that’s a common theme with us. The world is tough, it’s a tough time, and who are you with?”

Similarly, the seemingly judgmental ‘Deeds not Words’ explodes with anger at the betrayal of one of those same people. To some listeners, it may seem bleak in its anger. “I can see where people might see it as pessimistic, but I don’t. The thing there is, there is accountability for our actions, and the guy in the song has done wrong and is caught, and is getting judged. He is guilty of what he did, in some ways, we all are,” Barr said. But like all DKM albums, there are ballads that speak to historical ponderings that are relatable still today, such as the Civil War inspired epic, ‘Broken Hymns’. “I’m a big history buff, and I was watching that Ken Burns special The Civil War -the box set, and I heard them mention that both sides had favorite songs, but one that they both agreed on. So I searched for it, it was about a woman, of course, and I came across all this great stuff, and one record about songs from then that I just really loved.” It may be startling for some fans to realize that many of the songs that speak to historical moments are not covers, but inspired musings of Barr and his band mates. One song on the new album though is a remake of a classic Irish standard, ‘The Irish Rover’. When asked if he feels more responsibility when handling beloved music of the past, as opposed to his own work, Barr was quick to point out his quality control standards. “Like you said, some of these songs were important to our parents and grandparents and are part of the narrative of our lives. They got handed down, and like everything we got from our families, they are important to us and our story. But no, I treat every song with the same reverence; I want everything to be good and to be memorable and relatable for the listeners,” Barr said.

None is more personal to the band though than ‘Peg O’ My Heart’, a toe tapping love song that any Irish man can relate to, and any Irish woman can long for, however Barr says the song started out on the cutting room floor. “The funny thing about that song is that it wasn’t supposed to be on the album at all. Ken [Casey] came in and said ‘Listen, both my grandmothers are named Peg and they’ve been asking me when we’re going to learn to play this old song Peg O’ My Heart. It isn’t going on the album or anything, but let’s learn it as a gift for them so we can play it for them live’. We all agreed, of course, because family is so vital to us, and once we did it, it sounded good. Then you know, Bruce Springsteen ends up singing on it and there you go.” The throw away comment could easily be missed, but the idea that a song was nearly left off an album and then ended up with the vocal styling’s of one of the most popular singers in history, is shocking. “Yeah it’s funny; he was amazing to work with. At the concerts, I’ll be singing his parts, but who knows, he might show up sometime. He said, ‘I’ll see you out there’, which I’m not totally sure what that meant, but you don’t argue with Springsteen,” Barr said. The sentimental song favorite has to be ‘Cruel’ though, which reflects on the diverse nature of family and just how contradictory the feelings related to those we know best can be. “We do work hard, we tour a lot and we record a lot, but we have very distinct times and areas for that.

Once we are out, we’re out. The switch is off, and our families are all that matters.” And what about the seemingly exact nature of the apologies and ruminations found in the upbeat and hilarious title track, ‘Going Out in Style’? “Yeah, those do seem to be a bit focused don’t they? I can’t speak for any of that, but there may be some true stories behind some of the things mentioned in that song. That’s one of the steps to recovery right? I think some of our friends, or some of my band mates friends and family, might hear that song and finally get closure on some events. They’ll hear it and be like, ‘I knew it you bastard! I finally get my apology’,” Barr said with a laugh. It’s impossible to talk to anyone from DKM without asking about their incredibly popular ‘Shipping up to Boston’ song whose prominence in the film, The Departed, rocketed their already devoted fan base to rarified air status. “The first time we sang that song, afterward, it was like a fart in church, quiet as anything. We walked off stage and said, well, let’s never f**king sing that again. Then Mr. Scorsese put it in The Departed and it went from there,” Barr said.

But, like with any big hit for a band that prides itself on evolution and improvement, there is the danger of trying to follow it up, for Barr, he thinks they have avoided that trap. “It’s funny, at concerts I can see the person yawning and looking bored and you know they are there just for the one song. You don’t want to ever get pigeon holed, and I think we haven’t. There is enough meat on the bones of the band that if you come in, we’ll give you more and you’ll want to stick with us,” Barr said. That meat will be on display in the form of new favorites and classics that DKM is known for in March when the band returns to what Barr refers to as one of his favorite places. “I love Denver, we all do. We’ve had some great concerts there, and I’m a lifetime NRA member and I love Colorado’s gun laws.” And what about the album that debuts the same day they are in concert? “Yeah the album comes out that day, not sure what we’ll do to celebrate it. How about we set ourselves on fire onstage? Too much?,” Barr said laughing. No matter what antics the band is up to, their latest album is a worthy addition to the canon of DKM. It appeals to the punk in us all, while giving songs of historical importance, ballads of intimate portrayals and an overall feeling that even in our bleakest moments, including a fictional wake that is just as easily a metaphor for our changing world landscape, there is hope and there is friendship and there is family. The album is a sure hit and one that everyone, Irish by birth or by decision, should add to their play list.

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The Celtic Connection continues our semi-monthly salute to the men and women up and down the Rockies who donate their time as Celtic Music DJs, perpetuating traditions of excellence through their love of music; they bring to you a variety of sounds rooted in traditional to contemporary.This month we Spotlight Shay Dunne who is a DJ on Seolta Gael Celtic music show that airs live every Wednesday 7-8pm. Shay anchors on the 2nd Wednesday of the month, while Maeve Conran, Stevyn Prothero, and show founder Karl Kumli are behind the booth the rest of the month.Tune in to KGNU at: 88.5 FM & 1390 AM (Denver / Boulder) // 93.7 FM (Nederland)Or stream online at www.KGNU.com (If you miss a show, they are archived on line for 2 or 3 weeks). For requests and compliments call Studio line 303-442-4242. For complaints call 303-goaway
The Celtic Connection recently sent Shay a few questions:
CC– So how did you get turned-on to Celtic music? SD– I grew up with it in Ireland but did not realize how cool it was till I left.
CC– Do you play an instrument? SD– I wish I had the patience to learn. CC– Sing or Dance? SD– I can carry the odd tune (especially after a few pints). I like “Dublin in the Rare Auld Times” as a bit of a party piece. Probably because I grew up in Dublin in the “Rare Auld Times” CC–How and when did you get behind the Celtic DJ booth? SD–I have a little side business DJ’ing weddings and parties etc. and Pat McCullough is a good friend so he asked if I wanted to join him on his monthly stint on Seolta Gael. He refers to it as the Mac and Shay’s show. Bit of a play on Mac and Cheese. CC– Musically speaking, how do you design your show? SD– It’s definitely a tandem effort with Pat and I. We do fly by the seat of our pants a lot but we will on occasion try to have a theme or 2 in our show. As an example we recently did a kind of Celtic Christmas theme which was fun, we have tried things like Irish Music in Film and TV (I would like to dig into that a bit more) Pat put together a couple of themes recently such as his New York Set which had musicians and songs that were Celtic but connected to New York. Mostly we have to have fun. We feed off each other a lot and off our mistakes. Occasionally the mike will be mistakenly left on and you might hear laughter or banter in the background but that’s just who we are. We will never take it too serious but we love the music and Celtic culture. We do like to get special guests to call in too. We have had people like Orla Fallon from Celtic Women and our own local Damien McCarron from the Indulgers call in and talk with us on air. We would definitely like to do more of that. CC– Tell us a bit about the time you commit to prepare a show and your motivation. SD– My commitment and motivation comes from my love of my Celtic culture, be it Music, Language or Sport (I am a founding member of the Denver Gaels Football and Hurling Club). Also from how amazed I am at the interest in the U.S. for all things Celtic. It makes me very proud to be Irish and very appreciative of the fact that people here are very interested in who I am and where I come from. Very few cultures have that kind of relationship with another culture. CC– What has been on playing on your CD player of late? SD– Regarding Celtic or Irish, Christy Moore, The Pogues or Luke Kelly. It would take months to listen to the catalogue of music from those three artists. Their music is so deeply rooted in social and life issues and they are all poets. I do also have a very eclectic taste, comes from DJing, everything from Rock to Hip Hop. So my Ipod would freak anyone out with its schizophrenic mix. CC– Is there anything else that you would like to tell our readers? SD– Listen to Community and Public Radio, especially Seolta Gael on KGNU. Not just when Pat and I are on but when our fellow Jockeys present too on Wednesdays from 7pm to 8pm.
(Editors note: If you need a DJ for you special event call Shay at 303-882-5698 or email dubshay@yahoo.com)

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