In this module: We will be exploring a Celtic 6/8 feel and applying it to song and dance.

  • The new rhythm ‘ti-ti-ti’ will be introduced.
  • Students will create simple rhyming lyrics using an ABBC rhyming scheme.
  • Students will learn a Celtic dance form.
  • Students will learn a jig form (AABB).
  • Students will learn the Celtic vocal practice of ‘lilting’.
  • Students will create their own ‘lilt’.
  • Students will create their own dance.

Expanded background & useful links

The Celts
The Celts originally spread across Western Europe. Today, we generally refer to Ireland, Scotland, Wales (and, to a lesser extent, the Bretons – from France & Canada, the Manx – from the Isle of Man, and the Cornish – from England) as the members of the modern ‘Celtic nations’.

The songs
Celtic songs may be slow laments, narrative ballads or rowdy singalongs with choruses that contain nonsense words, some of which are actually derived from phonetic translations or mutations of celtic or gaelic words or phrases.

Song content – Workin’ on the Railway
Many Irish emigrants found work in England & America building the roads and the railways.. They wrote songs about their new lives, sometimes adapting dance rhythms such as jigs. They often used singalong nonsense words in the choruses – but in this song, the chorus fillimee-oori-oorie-ay is Gaelic (the Irish language) for I’ll go back – time to get up.

The dances
Communal folk dances were a ready source of entertainment and there are two common forms:

  • The circle dance – where everyone begins in a circle.
  • The set dance – where couples form a ‘set’ by standing in lines, facing each other (a line of men facing a line of women).

The dance steps followed various forms (AABB, AABBAB etc) and 2- or 3-part tunes were used for the music.

The tunes were commonly:

  • Jigs (6/8)
  • Reels (4/4)
  • Polkas (2/4)

However, variants include slip jigs (9/9) and slides (12/8) as well as waltzes, marches, strathspeys and hornpipes.

The influence The Irish people have travelled widely and influenced the songs and dances of several countries. Many Australian, American and Canadian folk songs & dances are adaptations of Irish songs and dances.
Irish artists and bands have long been internationally popular – such as Van Morrison, The Clancy Brothers, The Dubliners, The Pogues, The Chieftans, Mary Black, Christy Moore … even Mark Knopfler, Sting and The Rolling Stones have recorded with Irish musicians.

Saint Patrick’s Day
Generally held on the 17th of March, this is the annual feast day of St Patrick (circa AD 385-461), one of the patron saints of Ireland. It is a public holiday in the Republic of Ireland and Montserrat, and is widely celebrated in many countries around the world, including Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the USA, Canada and Argentina.
The day is celebrated in a wide variety of ways, such as:
Parades, wearing something green (Ireland’s national colour), making shamrocks (Ireland’s 3-leafed plant), dressing as leprechauns (mythical ‘little people’), drinking Guinness (or, in some places, green beer), dancing to Irish music, eating Irish stew. Chicago actually dyes its river green!

Hogmanay is the Scots word for the last day on the year and is celebrated on New Year’s Eve. It probably began as a celebration of the winter solstice.
A popular Scottish Hogmanay tradition is the practice of ‘first-footing’ – where people attempt to be the first to visit a friend or neighbour after midnight. They bring symbolic gifts of a lump of coal or some salt, or, more commonly these days, a black bun, shortbread or a bottle of whisky. The gifts bring luck. In some parts of Scotland, ‘fireball swinging’ is performed at midnight. Pipe bands and fireworks are common.
One of the most common Hogmanay traditions is the singing of Auld Lang Syne, a traditional poem made famous by Robert Burns. People around the world link crossed arms and sing this song on New Year’s Eve – whether they have heard of Hogmanay or not.

Some useful links

You can hear celtic music here:


And a little more Australian Celtic music written by our own Mark Leehy and sung by the Fureys

You can see Celtic music here: