We all know how difficult it is for touring artists during the pandemic, with touring and performance venues shut down for an indefinite period of time. Although there is an enormous amount of fantastic content being produced online, much of it is pre-recorded.

John created the Whelan Master Sessions as a series of online opportunities to play, listen or chat LIVE on Zoom with some of the best musicians in the business, bringing joy into your living room while also supporting the artists.

Listeners and players of all levels, from anywhere in the world, are welcome to join in these two-hour sessions and enjoy not just the music and chat but also a vital sense of shared connection.

Who’s Playing?

Previous master sessions have featured such greats as Kevin Crawford and Cillian Vallely of Lúnasa, Joanie Madden and Mirella Murray of Cherish the Ladies, Liam Kelly and Tom Morrow of Dervish, Haley Richardson and Patrick Mangan of Riverdance, the renowned, New York-born fiddler Brian Conway, and Michael McGoldrick and Angela Usher playing live from Manchester.

We’ve also been blessed by the company of Oisín Mac Diarmada and Samantha Harvey, Catherine and John McEvoy with their respective families, Dermot Byrne and Yvonne Casey, John and James Carty, the mighty box-playing talents of Phil Cunningham, Damien Mullane, David Munnelly and Daithí Gormley, and the one and only Kevin Burke — with many more to come.

How Do I Sign Up?

A donation of $20 is requested to save your seat. Please send your donation to John via PayPal, at paypal.me/buttonboxman (please use “friends & family” option), or Venmo to John-Whelan-37, along with a note about which upcoming master session(s) you would like to join, and the email address you’d like to be contacted at.

Your donation IS your sign-up for the event, so it’s very important that you let John know which master session(s) you’re donating for and which email you want the Zoom link and tune list sent to.

Each session requires a minimum of 30 attendees to ensure that the artists are adequately compensated. If a session is cancelled due to inadequate bookings, your donation will be refunded.

When Do I Get the Zoom Link and Tune List?

For everyone who signs up before Friday afternoon (Pacific time) on the day before a given session, the Zoom link and tune list will be sent out that evening. Depending on your time zone, that might actually mean it arrives overnight or very early Saturday morning! Please check your spam folder in case the email lands there, and keep in mind that the email might come directly from John or from his helper Lisa.

If you miss that Friday afternoon deadline, no problem! You can still sign up until about 12:30pm Pacific time on the day of the session, and you’ll be emailed the Zoom link and tune list about an hour before the session begins.

Please understand that once a given master session has begun, we cannot process additional donations for that session; John will be fully engaged in setting up the session and hosting it.

Upcoming Master Sessions

Here’s who’ll be headlining the upcoming master sessions. Please check back frequently — we’ll keep adding more sessions as the artists confirm!

Whelan Master Session 22: A World of Song with Cathy Jordan, Niamh Parsons, Clare Horgan, and Geneviève Galarneau

Saturday, April 17, 2pm Pacific/5pm Eastern/10pm Ireland/England

A native of Scramogue in Co. Roscommon, Cathy Jordan’s love for traditional singing was instilled at an early age, and she began singing publicly at all kind of Feiseanna and concerts as a child. In later years she took to performing a wide range of material as a solo performer throughout the midlands. In the summer of 1990, Cathy was asked to join the band Dervish. For more than 30 years now she has toured the world as the band’s charismatic and unforgettable front woman, lead singer, and bodhran player.

From a bilingual childhood steeped in the Irish language, song and dance of her native Uíbh Ráthach in Ciarraí, the first music that Clare Horgan heard was traditional and the first songs were sean-nós. As a small child Clare performed alongside much older masters, the local songs naturally seeping into her bones. She reached National level at Fleadh Cheoil at the age of 11. Her adulthood saw her explore more modern musical genres when she took a post-graduate diploma in Jazz in Leeds, West Yorkshire, leading her to live and perform in Belfast, London, Paris and Beirut. But it was always the songs and stories of her childhood to which she returned.

Often described as one of the most distinctive voices in Irish music, Niamh Parsons has collected her repertoire of songs from a wide variety of sources, both traditional and modern. As a member of the traditional Irish band Arcady (led by De Dannan’s Johnny “Ringo” McDonagh), Niamh sang on their Shanachie/Dara recording Many Happy Returns. She has appeared at nearly every prestigious folk festival on either side of the Atlantic, and regularly performs as a duet with guitarist Graham Dunne, collaborating to bring out the purest essence of the songs.

A resident of the Pacific Northwest, Genevieve Galarneau holds a master’s degree in folklore and ethnomusicology, with a particular focus on Ulster songs and Donegal regional singing. She has visited the Gaeltacht of Gleann Cholm Cille as part of an Ulster-Irish intensive course, works as volunteer staff at the well-regarded Sean-Nós Northwest festival in Washington state, and has learned from stalwarts of the sean-nós tradition including Dr. Lillis Ó Laoire, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Gearoidín Breathnach, Celia Ní Fhártharta, Brian Ó Domhnaill, Máirín Uí Chéide, Thomas McCarthy, and Saileog Ní Cheannabháin.

Whelan Master Session 23: Siobhan Peoples and Murty Ryan

Saturday, April 24, 2pm Pacific/5pm Eastern/10pm Ireland/England

Whelan Master Session 24: Martin Hayes

Saturday, May 1, 2pm Pacific/5pm Eastern/10pm Ireland/England

Bios coming soon!

More Sessions Are On the Way!

There are more master sessions in the works, so please check back here for updates on upcoming featured artists, or join John’s email newsletter for the latest news. You can sign up for the newsletter on the right side of this page, but you’ll probably have to scroll back up to see it!

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    Wild Atlantic Music Tour

    John will be bringing a group of people to Ireland in 2021 in conjunction with Wild Atlantic Music Tours. John is proud to be part of these exceptional tours with such luminaries as Kevin Crawford, Séan Tyrrell and Blackie O'Connell.

    Click here
    to download the details of the exciting events, sessions and special guests in John's tour itinerary, or visit the Wild Atlantic Music Tours website to book your seat on the tour.