The Airs Project

Bringing it all together - for everyone!

What is an air?
An air is a slow melody that is not played to a steady rhythm, beat or tempo. Airs begin life as a traditional song and the musician's job is to imitate the phrasing and ornaments a singer would use. Often using a simple melody, the air player's mission is to convey the emotion of the original song, so if the song was about a beautiful reverie, as in Carolan's Dream, the listener should feel that when hearing the air. If the air is about a wounded soldier dying in his lover's arms, as in The Wounded Hussar, the musician should play it so as to convey the despair, pain and emotion described in the lyrics. A lament is similar except that the melody was originally written as an instrumental, as in the case of The Lament for Staker Wallace.

According to TheSession.org, a leading music website, airs are the hardest part of traditional music playing for North American musicians to get right.

Executive Directors of The Airs Project are Kell Chole, world title medalist in airs, world champion in ensemble/grupa cheoil, and Cait Ryan, internationally acclaimed filmmaker. Lexi Kennedy, world champion fiddler and world title medalist in airs, has served as an airs performance expert.

Through interviewing recognized master musicians and music historians, recording and replicating the airs they play, focusing on three different regions of Ireland to understand the nuances of performances, as well as the characteristics that define those regional styles, The Airs Project has developed a collection of airs that is acknowledged as unequaled in scope. Our first deep dive was into the airs of the Sliabh Luchra region (southwest) of Ireland. Then, thanks to a grant from the Farny Wurlitzer Foundation, we added the study the airs of Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim (northwest region). More than a dozen master musicians thus far have been interviewed and recorded performing their specialty airs. Recognizing the need to capture the masters of this genre, the worlds' leading Irish musicians have pledged their support for this project by agreeing to share their most treasured airs with our development team. In addition to the Farny Wurlitzer Foundation, funding has been realized from the Ward Foundation, the Irish government through the Meitheal grant, the Irish American Alliance and a host of individual contributors.
Institute of Traditional Irish Music
11309 72nd St
Burr Ridge, IL 60527 USA

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