Celtic music classes more than harping on history

EVEN at lunchtime Koroit is its usual quiet self with no sign of anything out of the ordinary happening. 

But step into community halls around town and you will find chairs arranged into semi-circles occupied by harps, fiddles and banjos. 

After 15 years, what started as classes for children has fine-tuned itself into a school of music that draws people from all corners of the state. 

Lake School of Celtic Music and Dance founder and organiser Felix Meagher didn’t grow up in a strong Irish household, despite his family heritage. “I wasn’t brought up that way,” he explained. 

‘‘My father wasn’t really keen on anything Irish.’’

Somehow Mr Meagher developed a strong Celtic interest — an example of how he says cultural identity can skip a generation, often being lost for the first generation of migrants. 

“What tends to happen is that the ethnic organisations spring up for the generation that came out who want to hang onto it. But their kids aren’t so keen.” 

The Lake School isn’t an Irish organisation but tries to preserve some of the artistic culture that the south-west’s first migrants brought with them. In Mr Meagher’s own words, it’s not about obsessing over the past. 

“We’re keen to promote ourselves as Australian Celtic — this is an Australian event. It’s not necessarily trying to hang onto the past. It’s making the future as much as anything, using the wisdom of the old art forms.” 

Hundreds of classes are billed for the next week. 

With up to 25 students in his fiddle tutorial yesterday afternoon, teacher Ewen Baker puts down the long lasting survival of Celtic music to its flexibility. 

“This particular music immediately gets a positive response from anyone in the audience around the world,” Mr Baker said. 

‘‘If you play a jig people will start tapping their feet. 

‘‘People can quite quickly catch a beat. 

‘‘There’s a context for all the music. There’s a pub context, someone else wants to dance, someone else wants to have that tune played at their funeral. It covers all aspects of life.” 

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