We all know how difficult it is for touring artists during the pandemic, with ALL touring shut down and venues closed 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.

Previous master sessions have featured such greats as Kevin Crawford and Haley Richardson, Patrick Mangan and Cillian Vallely, and Joanie Madden and Mirella Murray; scroll down to see the artists who will headline the tunes — and the fun — in upcoming sessions.

A donation of $20 is requested to save your seat; the Zoom link and a list of tunes the artists are planning to draw from will be emailed out the evening before the session (depending on your time zone, this might be quite late in the night or even 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.

Sign-ups are generally accepted until 12:30pm Pacific time on the day of the session. Any last-minute sign-ups will receive the Zoom link and tune list about an hour before the session begins.

How and When to Donate

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.

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

Upcoming Master Sessions

Please check back frequently, as more master sessions are in the works and we’ll update the page as artists confirm.

Master Session #4: Brian Conway
Saturday, December 5th, 2pm Pacific/5pm Eastern/10pm GMT

Join John and his lifelong friend, Brian Conway, as they play tunes and talk about the music that brought them together from separate continents.

A premier Irish-American fiddler, Brian performs with a skill, grace and force that are steeped in tradition but distinctively his own. Conway has won numerous All-Ireland fiddling competitions, including the prestigious All-Ireland senior championship, and has been called one of the best fiddlers of his generation.

Born in New York, Brian is a leading exponent of the highly ornamented Sligo fiddling style made famous by the late Michael Coleman and passed on to him by legendary Martin Wynne and fiddle great Andy McGann. Learn more about Brian at brianconway.com.

Master Session #5: Michael McGoldrick and Angela Usher
Saturday, December 12th, 2pm Pacific/5pm Eastern/10pm GMT

Join these fantastic Irish musicians as they share tunes and tales of the music live from Manchester, England.

Mike McGoldrick, from Manchester, England, is a versatile multi-instrumentalist and composer, able to make wooden flute, low whistle and uilleann pipes sound just right in a wide variety of settings. That makes him a go-to contributor for many artists including Vicente Amigo, Lunasa, Xosé Manuel Budiño, Zac Brown, Ushers Island, Julie Fowlis, Darrell Scott, Flook, Tim O’Brien, Dirk Powell and Capercaillie.

Mike has played with Mark Knopfler since 2009 and with the Transatlantic Sessions since 2007. Steeped in Irish traditional music, Mike has, from his ground-breaking 2000 album Fused onward, assimilated a wide range of other musical styles into his work, including jazz, funk, African, and Indian rhythms. In 2018 Mike released ARC, his fifth solo album; The Wishing Tree, with John Doyle and John McCusker; and Dog in the Fog with Dezi Donnelly.

Angela Usher, born in Manchester, is a well-known tin whistle and tenor banjo player, as well as an experienced teacher and composer of Irish music. She was a founding member of the popular Manchester Celtic rock group, Toss the Feathers, and regularly teaches tin whistle and a range of other instruments to children in schools across Manchester. She is also an experienced workshop leader and last year travelled to New Zealand, Australia and Europe to perform and deliver music workshops at various Celtic festivals.

In July 2018, Angela released her debut solo banjo album, The Gort Mile. The album’s title is a reference to her origins; Angela’s Grandfather, John-Joe Lally, came from Peterswell and won the Gort Mile race in the early 1920’s. Angela spent her summers in Peterswell, frequently visiting the family home of celebrated box player Joe Cooley and playing tunes with Joe’s brother, Jack. You can learn more about Angela at angelaushermusic.com.

Master Session #6: Kevin Burke
Saturday, December 19th, 2pm Pacific/5pm Eastern/10pm GMT

Kevin Burke’s fiddle playing has been at the forefront of traditional music since the 1970s. His far-reaching, influential solo album, “If the Cap Fits” and his work with such distinguished performers as Arlo Guthrie, Kate Bush, Christy Moore and the Bothy Band established him as a first-class musician.

Kevin’s contributions have received formal acknowledgement on both sides of the Atlantic where he has received several awards including the Montreux Festival’s “Grand Prix du Disque” (for his recording “Promenade” with Micheal O Domhnaill), Ireland’s “Gradam Ceoil” (Traditional Musician of the Year, 2016), and a National Heritage Fellowship, the USA’s highest honor for excellence in the folk and traditional arts. (Previous National Heritage Fellows include B.B. King, Doc Watson, and Bill Monroe.) Kevin has also been honoured by his adopted home state with his induction to the Oregon Music Hall of Fame.

Never one to be restricted by geography or genre, Kevin’s decades-long career has seen a number of innovative collaborations with notable musicians of differing styles – including Grammy winner, singer and instrumentalist Tim O’Brien; Liam O Maonlai, lead singer of the Hothouse Flowers; classical violinists Gilles Apap and Greg Ewer; Old Time favourites, The Foghorn String Band; renowned Irish bands Dervish, Solas and Lunasa, veteran Rock guitarist John Brennan (Poco, Chris Hillman Band) and iconic Irish folk singers, Andy Irvine and Paul Brady.

Master Session #7: Boxes on Boxing Day!
Saturday, December 26, 2pm Pacific/5pm Eastern/10pm GMT

What better way to celebrate Boxing Day than with a line-up of legendary box players? Bios coming soon!

Master Session #8: Oisín Mac Diarmada and Samantha Harvey
Saturday, January 2, 2pm Pacific/5pm Eastern/10pm GMT

Come celebrate the new year with with the talents of Oisín Mac Diarmada and Samantha Harvey. Bios coming soon!

Master Session #9: Liam Kelly and Tom Morrow
Saturday, January 9, 2pm Pacific/5pm Eastern/10pm GMT

Bios coming soon!

Master Session 10: John and James Carty
Saturday, January 16, 2pm Pacific/5pm Eastern/10pm GMT

Bios coming soon!

Master Session 11: Dermot Byrne and Yvonne Casey
Saturday, January 23, 2pm Pacific/5pm Eastern/10pm GMT

Bios coming soon!

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.

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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.