COLUMBIA, SC — In the Irish music world, a musician playing with others can say “hup!” to signal many things.
The syllable is brief and almost sounds like a hiccup.
It can be a quick form of encouragement and positive response to a tune, said Andi Hearn, founder of the S.C. Irish Arts Weekend, taking place this weekend in Columbia.
Or it can get the attention of other players to cue a change, she said.
The usually shy little girl has no qualms performing the fiddle in front of a crowd, her mom said.
Eight-year-old Laurel Garris performed with her instructor in the Columbia Museum of Art’s reception hall.
Laurel wanted to play the fiddle after attending the Irish Arts Weekend a couple of years ago. But her parents wanted to wait a while to make sure her interest was not a passing phase. When they attended the weekend again, Laurel still wanted to play.
So she got fiddle lessons for her 8th birthday and has been playing for almost a year.
She practices on her own and is pretty decent, her parents said.
“It never sounds like a cat’s being murdered in our house,” said her dad, Gene Garris. “It always sounds pretty good.”
Laurel takes lessons from Hearn at Redbird School of Irish Music, where teaching by ear is part of the tradition of instructing Irish music, Hearn said.
Irish Arts Weekend is now in its 7th year. The festival brings world-class performers to teach local residents who are interested in Irish music.
Mai McEvilley taught traditional singing to a small class of only two students.
McEvilley moved from Ireland to Cincinnati just a few months ago, and she appreciates the effort non-native Irish music enthusiasts put into learning the art of her culture.
One of the students in the singing class, Judy Predmore, has attended the weekend almost every year since it started.
Predmore enjoyed being in the presence of someone like McEvilley, who she said has singing in her heart, soul and blood.
Hearn described the Irish music culture in Columbia as “steady and strong,” even though it is not big in numbers.
The Irish Arts Weekend allows that community to come together and “play tunes, drink lots of coffee and not sleep,” Hearn said.