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!

Master Session 16: Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and her daughter Nia

Saturday, February 27, 2pm Pacific/5pm Eastern/10pm Ireland/England

Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh was born and raised in the heartland of the Gaoth Dobhair Gaeltacht in Northwest Donegal. She is a native Gaelic speaker and learned her songs and tunes from her family and neighbours. Mairéad is internationally known as one of the most important fiddle players that play in the unique Donegal style.

This takes her to the world stage with her band Altan, who play the music of Donegal throughout the world. Mairéad is also a founding member of “Cairdeas na bhFidiléirí” (The Fiddler’s Fellowship) which was set up in the late 80’s ’s to preserve, promote, develop the wealth and richness of the fiddling tradition of the county.

Mairéad has received a number of prestigious awards. She was awarded Donegal Person of the Year in 2009 by the Donegal Association of Dublin in recognition of her contribution to the culture of Donegal on the world stage; and in February of 2017 she was awarded TG4’s “Gradam Ceoil, Ceoltóir na Bliana,” the Irish language television station’s most prestigious traditional music award. In May of 2018, she received a lifetime achievement award at the annual ‘Cup of Tae’ Festival in Ardara, Co. Donegal, in recognition of her work in promoting the song and fiddle music of Donegal.

Mairéad will be joined by her daughter Nia, herself an accomplished fiddler.

Master Session 17: The Young Fiddlers: Tara Breen, Finn Magill, Brónagh Barnes (John’s cousin!), and Shannon Muenchow

Saturday, March 6, 2pm Pacific/5pm Eastern/10pm Ireland/England

Tara Breen, a highly talented multi-instrumentalist from Co. Clare, has achieved All-Ireland titles on fiddle in every age category over the years, culminating with the All-Ireland Senior Fiddle Title in 2012. Tara is also an All-Ireland winner on the flute and saxophone. Tara has won 11 solo All-Ireland Fleadh titles and 10 group All-Ireland Fleadh titles. In 2011, Tara was chosen to play at Dublin Castle for the Queen of England during her State visit to Ireland. In 2014, she joined six-time Grammy award winning band, The Chieftains for their North American tour, and currently plays with them at various venues both at home and abroad.

For twenty years North Carolina-native violinist/fiddler Andrew Finn Magill has been pursuing parallel careers in traditional Irish music, Brazilian choro, jazz and American fiddle. Magill learned from the best fiddlers in the world at The Swannanoa Gathering and has gone on to perform with many of them including Liz Carroll and Martin Hayes. He is a Fulbright fellow, North Carolina Arts Council Fellow, and Ropeadope Recording artist and has been featured on MTV, TEDx, Avianca in-flight entertainment and multiple times on NPR’s The Thistle & Shamrock.

Whelan Master Session 18: Accordion Night with Derek Hickey, Jimmy Keane, Josephine Marsh and John Whelan

Saturday, March 13, 2pm Pacific/5pm Eastern/10pm Ireland/England

Bios coming soon!

Whelan Master Session 19: Artists to be announced!

Saturday, March 20, 2pm Pacific/5pm Eastern/10pm Ireland/England

Bios coming soon!

Whelan Master Session 20: Nuala Kennedy and Gerry O’Connor

Saturday, March 27, 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!

    Upcoming Gigs

    Sorry, there aren’t any upcoming gigs right now. Check back soon!

    Newsletter Sign Up

    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.