Designed for K-5 grade levels Irish Wonders primarily introduces students to traditional Irish music and stories with additional information on dance and mid 1800s Irish history. It’s mentioned in the show that a great deal of what is popular in the traditional Irish performing arts of today originated during the 1800s. So with the aid of an hourglass students board their own personal time machines, their imaginations, and travel back to that time in history to learn more! Elements of the show’s set and the clothing attire worn during the performance are consistent with this time. With the help of a children’s book on the subject the program includes information on the mid 1800s Irish Potato Famine. The book contains a large pop out model of the type of wooden ship the Irish boarded in sailing to America. A sing-along with concertina accompaniment addresses sailing on one of these vessels. Other musical instruments in the program include the Irish uilleann bagpipes, a tin whistle and a small-size harp all of which are featured within the stories themselves. Providing merriment for all, an Irish jig teach-in involves members of the audience coming up on stage to actively learn a few basic dance steps to musical accompaniment. An example of Celtic art is painted on the face of the traditional bodhran drum. This art form is briefly discussed prior to a demonstration of playing techniques on the drum. Tailored in its approach to the various grade levels, the show has an emphasis on humor and interesting visuals. It’s fast moving and conversational in nature keeping all grade levels quite involved throughout the presentation. Using unusual props, rare musical instruments, and comical puppets within the stories Irish Wonders provides an intriguing glimpse into the fascinating world of Irish folk culture.
While attending the NC State School of Design John became interested in circus related design, performance and history. He eventually used prop sketches and some juggling skills to secure what was to become a lengthy clowning career with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Following this experience, for over twenty years he performed quite a large number of elementary school programs on a wide variety of beneficial subjects for children such as safety and reading. An interest in Ireland led John to attend the Heritage Festival Irish Summer Studies at Elkins College in West Virginia. He received instruction on the uilleann pipes, tin whistle, dance, songs, storytelling and Irish culture. This provided the basis for his program Irish Wonders. Travel in Ireland and membership in the traditional Irish band Celtic Jam added to John’s information and experience. He has performed his Irish Wonders school show for over ten years with the Artists in Schools program. Numerous school representatives and administrators as well as personnel from the Wake and Johnston County Arts Councils have been in attendance for his school show presentations. John will respond quickly to phone and email requests for further information, feedback resources, and additional photographs.