Blas Lecture Series

Lectures are delivered by Irish World Academy faculty and will cover the history and contemporary developments in the music, song and dance traditions. Some lectures may also take the form of practical workshops and will feature all of the Blas music and song students working together on such subjects as ensemble performance, composition and so on.


Meet the Irish World Academy Faculty



Aileen Dillane is an ethnomusicologist, music professor, and musician at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick, Ireland. Dr. Dillane received her doctorate in ethnomusicology from the University of Chicago, where she was a Century Fellow and Fulbright Scholar. She is Course Director of the MA in Irish Music Studies at the University of Limerick, where she teaches Irish music studies, ethnomusicology, and popular music studies. Dr. Dillane co-founded/co-directs two research clusters at the University of Limerick, both of which have associated book series with Rowman & Littlefield International: Power, Discourse and Society and Popular Music, Popular Culture.

She has published extensively on the vernacular and popular musics of Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia. Her most recent publication is The Sacred and Profane Songs of Cecilia Curtin in Mannix’s Melbourne, 1909-36 and she is wrapping up a co-edited book project, Songs of Social Protest, due out in Spring 2018, which features a chapter on Dublin singer/songwriter Damien Dempsey, along with thirty other chapters on protest songs from across the globe and from different historical eras.

Dr. Dillane is a musician and performer as well as a scholar. Her instruments are the traditional flute, tin whistle, piano, and keyboards. She has made numerous radio and TV appearances in Ireland, including on ‘Come West Along the Road’, ‘Geantraí’, ‘Guth’, and ‘Ceili House.’ (RTE, TG4, Ireland). She is a member of the All-Ireland winning Templeglantine Ceilí Band and a former member of the Chicago-based band Anish.




Course Director of the MA in Ethnochoreology and the MA in Irish Traditional Dance Performance. Dr. Catherine Foley designed and is course director of both the MA in Ethnochoreology and the MA in Irish Traditional Dance Performance at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick. The MA in Ethnochoreology was the first programme of its type in Europe; the MA in Irish Traditional Dance Performance was the first programme of its type in the world. In 1997 Catherine established Tráth na gCos, an annual traditional dance festival of workshops, lectures/seminars and concerts to develop an awareness of, and to record, the diversity and richness within Irish and world dance traditions. Catherine remained the director and co-ordinator of Tráth na gCos until 2005. In 2003, she was the local Chair for The Society of Dance History Scholars 26th Annual International Conference, hosted at the University of Limerick. Catherine was the founder of Dance Research Forum Ireland in 2003 and was its first Chair; she was the local Chair for Dance Research Forum Ireland’s 1st International Conference, hosted by the University of Limerick in 2006. Catherine is a founding member of Enarta (European Network for Research and Teaching of Ethnochoreology).

Catherine has spent many years working as a collector of Irish traditional music, song and dance. She was a member of the board of the Irish Traditional Music Archive for many years, and is a member of many professional organisations, including the Congress of Research on Dance, the International Council for Traditional Music, An Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha, the Association of Professional Dancers of Ireland, and the Society of Dance History Scholars. Catherine has taught music and dance studies at all levels within the education system, from primary level to doctorate level, within both an academic and performance capacity. She has presented and published articles internationally within her areas of expertise and has performed, lectured and given dance workshops in different countries in Europe, Scandinavia, and the United States.





Dr. Sandra Joyce is Director of the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick, which has 16 programmes of study from BA to PhD level.  Together with Niall Keegan and Mícheál O Súilleabháin, she founded the BA Irish Music and Dance and MA Irish Traditional Music Performance at the University, and has been Course Director of both these programmes.  She is a traditional singer and bodhran player who has  recently performed at the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow and Farmleigh House, Dublin.  She is Artistic Director of the a capella female vocal ensemble, Hazelwell, which explores repertoire from the Irish and related traditions.  Her research interests include the Irish song tradition, the Irish harp tradition and historical sources of Irish traditional music.





niall-keeganDR. NIALL KEEGAN

In 1990 Niall began studying under Dr Mícheál Ó Súileabháin for a Masters degree which he completed in 1992 with the submission of a thesis entitled The Words of Traditional Flute Style. He is course director of the new Traditional Irish Music performance masters at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick and also teaches on the ethnomusicology program there. He has given occasional lectures and taught instrumental classes at the Music Dept. of University College, Cork and University College, Galway, Sibelius Academy, Dublin Institute of Technology, Newcastle University, Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama among others.

Since moving to Ireland Niall has performed extensively throughout the country and abroad in a variety of contexts and venues, including the Royal Albert Hall, Barbican, Project Arts Centre in Dublin, the University of Limerick Concert Hall, The National Concert Hall in Dublin, The Waterfront Hall in Belfast and the Galway Arts Centre. In 1992 he was invited to record at the Traditional Music Archive in Dublin with the bodhran player / percussionist Mel Mercier. Niall has performed Mícheál Ó Súileabháin’s concerto for flute and chamber orchestra, Oilean on several occasions in Ireland and Britain and as part of the jazz/trad fusion group Hiberno Jazz. He is featured on both the recording of the 1994 Eigse na Laoi, Across the Water and the television series A River of Sound made by Hummingbird Productions. Niall also features on the Realworld CD The Gathering. Niall’s solo recording, Don’t Touch the Elk, was released in June 1999 on his own independent label.

Niall performed as part of the Eurovision interval piece Lumen and features on the commercial recording of that piece. Niall usually performs with Sandra Joyce, an innovative bodhran player and vocalist, and guitar players such as Chris Kelly and Clive Carroll. Other performances have included a six week tour in Britain and northern Ireland with a South Indian Katakali dance drama group, a two week tour of India, appearances at several European festivals and the North Texas Flute festival in Dallas, the second largest flute festival of its kind in the world. In December 1999 Niall performed with Sandra Joyce (vocals / bodhran) and Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin (piano) for De Tiende Nacht van Radio 3. This performance was recorded and broadcast in January 2000. Current projects include collaborative performances with saxophonist Ken Edge and the contemporary Dahdga Dance Company.

Niall is currently director of the MA Irish Traditional Music Performance at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick. He keeps telling everyone that he’s nearly finished his PhD entitled The Art of Juncture: The Creative Transformations of Traditional Irish Music which examines cognitive structures that traditional musicians use to organise their oral music in a literate world. He has been on the committee of the Folk Music Society of Ireland and director of the University of Limerick based projects Nomad (aimed at honouring the music cultures of the traveling peoples at the University), Niall was formerly co-director of the Sionna Festival of European Traditional Music, and the Blas International Summer School of Traditional Irish Music and Dance, a university accredited programme. He has been guest director of the Adult Folkworks sumerschool in Durham, England. He is the author of articles concerning issues of style and literacy in traditional Irish music and editor of the online journal for Irish music and dance, Inbhear

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Swedish born Traditional Dancer and Researcher Mats Melin was based in Angus, Scotland until early 2008.  He has worked and performed extensively in Angus, Sutherland, the Scottish Highlands, the Hebrides, Orkney, and Shetland, in their schools and communities promoting Scottish traditional dance.  He has also taught and performed in Sweden, Canada, USA, Russia, and New Zealand. Mats has a vast knowledge of all aspects of the Scottish Traditional Dance scene, but specialises in Cape Breton Step dancing and the old social dances such as the Scotch reels and Quadrilles.  He has worked both with traditional and contemporary artists in Scotland.

Mats have been Traditional Dance Artist in Residence in Scotland for both Shetland (1995) and Sutherland (1996-97).  Between 1998 and 2001 he was working as the Traditional Dance Development Officer for the Angus District and the same for Perth and Kinross between 2002 and 2003 on behalf of The Scottish Traditions of Dance Trust (STDT). He managed the Step 2000 Project in Inverness during 2001.

Mats started, and was part of the dynamic performance group DANNSA, and he was also the choreographer of Vesterled (1998) – a show making a journey in music and dance from Scandinavia to Scotland.  Choreographed ‘Generating Heat’ in 2003 – a comissioned piece by the STDT, and later ‘Elements’ together with Frank McConnell for the St Magnus Festival in Orkney. 

He also performed and taught as part of CeilidhMakers together with traditional Scots singer Christine Kydd.

Mats was a member of the Scottish Arts Council’s Dance Committee until March 2003. He served as a member of the Scottish Governments Traditional Arts Working Group 2009-10 (Report 2010)

Mats has lectured and taught dance at the BA in Scots Music at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (formerly RSAMD), Glasgow since 2001.

During 2004-5 Mats studied for an MA degree in Ethnochoreology at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick, Ireland.

Mats was appointed Lecturer in Dance in 2007 on the BA Irish Music and Dance at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance.

Mats completed his PhD: “Exploring the Percussive Routes and Shared Commonalities in Cape Breton Step Dancing” in May 2012. He subsequently published the book “One with the Music: Cape Breton Step Dancing Tradition and Transmission” in 2015 (

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Orfhlaith Ni Bhriain lectures on the BA in Irish Music and Dance at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick. In 1998 she completed a Masters in Ethnochoreology at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick. In 2010 Orfhlaith completed her doctoral thesis at the University of Limerick. Her research interests include, Irish Dance among the Diaspora and examining creative processes in the context of Competitive Irish Solo Step Dance. She is a registered Irish Dance teacher T.C.R.G. and adjudicator A.D.C.R.G. with An Coimisiún le Rinci Gaelacha. She has traveled extensively to workshops and Step Dance Competitions throughout Europe and North America as a tutor from the renowned Scoil Rince Ui Ruairc and dance accompanist. Recently she completed a residency at Williams College MA where she was employed as guest artist in dance. Orfhlaith is a former Co-Director of Blas International Summer School of Traditional Irish Music and Dance held at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance and is Dance Co-ordinator on the BA programme. She is currently vice- chair person of Dance Research Forum Ireland and Treasurer of I.C.T.M. Ireland. She has authored a book entitled The Terminology of Irish Dance.

Cuireann sí spéis freisin in imeachtaí a bhaineann leis an nGaeilge agus i ngach gné de chultúr na hÉireann.