Irish Wonders, designed for grade levels K-5, is primarily an introduction to traditional Irish music, dance and storytelling. It is mentioned to the students that a great deal of what is popular today in the traditional performing arts of Ireland originated during the 1800s. To find out more, students board their own personal time machines, ‘their imaginations’, to travel back to that time. There is mention of the mid-1800s Irish Potato Famine and the wooden ships the Irish sailed on to find a new home in America. A song with concertina accompaniment addresses sailing on one of these large vessels. The uilleann bagpipes and tin whistle are featured within the stories themselves. Tailored in terms of its approach to the various grade levels, the show has an emphasis on humor and audience interaction. A jig teach in, which involves members of the audience coming up on stage to participate, provides a bit of fun for all. Celtic art is mentioned with the introduction of the painted bodhran drum. Using unusual props and sophisticated puppets, Irish Wonders provides an intriguing introduction to various elements of Irish folk culture and history.
For several years, John attended the Irish Heritage summer studies at Elkins College in West Virginia. He received instruction on the Irish uilleann bagpipes, step dance, songs and Irish culture. Additional storytelling techniques were developed through a course at the Carrboro, NC Arts Center. Prior to these studies he attended the NCSU School of Design enrolled in the Visual Design curriculum with a focus on theatrical related designs. Through the years he has performed numerous elementary school programs on a variety of beneficial themes featuring puppetry and audience participation. Personal experiences have included traveling in Ireland, and playing the uilleann pipes, tin whistles and concertina as a member of the Irish band Celtic Jam. The group produced two CDs, Toast of the Town and Men of Worth. For additional information and personnel feedback on this program, please contact John directly through his email.