Literary Workshops 2019

Songwriting with Ye Vagabonds

Brid O Donovan

Songwriting with Ye Vagabonds

Ye Vagabonds

Colaiste Pobail Bheanntraí

Mon 15 July to Fri 19 July 2019

09:30 AM


Age Range


We will work on approaches to writing original material as well as arranging traditional songs through a variety of exercises and methods. Arrangement of traditional material is a creative process akin to writing original songs, and we will explore the connections between the two throughout the workshop.

The week will be tailored to people with an understanding of basic musical principles – those who enjoy singing songs and reading or writing poetry. People who understand rhythm and play an instrument will be in a better position to learn but even very basic skills should suffice. We would ask those with doubts to trust in their own musicality. Open to mature youngsters and immature oldsters!

We will be looking at both song construction and deconstruction as methods of learning. Traditional and folk songs will be our approximate points of departure, but individual participants will have freedom to go as far beyond traditional form and structure as they wish. Participants will be asked to take part in individual as well as group work, to engage in some playful activities, to work on their songs in their own time if they wish, and to share as much as they are willing.

We will be providing ample source material for traditional songs including books and recordings, but feel free to bring your own. We will also be bringing an array of musical instruments, noise makers and some other useful tools. Bring along notepads and pens, headphones, smartphones or laptops (where available). Musical instruments and recording devices are helpful but not essential. We look forward to working, playing and writing with you.

“They remind me of my first days at ‘Les Cousins’ in Soho in 1965... Ye Vagabonds are a modern expression of a tradition that is truly robust and important to these islands.” Roy Harper

“Going backwards to go forwards, [Ye Vagabonds] look not to modern day influence to inspire their sound but prefer to absorb and reflect the most genuine leanings of deep tradition, playing folk music that resonates as pure and honest as it has since time immemorial. In an age where styles have a limited shelf life, and musicians so often live by definition of their sell-by date, Ye Vagabonds make music that honours timeless sincerity with acoustic fireside storytelling that will sound as current a hundred years from now as it has a hundred generations past.” Myles O’Reilly (Arbutus Yarns)


Ye Vagabonds are brothers Brían and Diarmuid Mac Gloinn and they grew up playing music together around their hometown of Carlow. After moving to Dublin in 2012, they quickly became a staple of the live music and session scene in Ireland, playing their own original songs as well as folk songs from Ireland, Scotland, England and America.

In 2014 they came to the attention of Arbutus Yarns’ music filmmaker Myles O’Reilly, whose videos gained international attention for the brothers for the first time.

After a chance meeting at Electric Picnic in September 2015, the brothers performed onstage with Glen Hansard, who immediately invited them to open for him on his European tour the following October. Their debut EP Rose & Briar was released on 7 October 2015.

Since then, they have been busy touring Ireland, the UK and Europe, opening for acts such as Villagers, Roy Harper and Lisa Hannigan (whose band they played in for her Irish tour, June 2016). They have also played sold out headline shows in Ireland, Paris, Geneva and Solothurn, Switzerland.

They have made numerous television and live radio appearances in Ireland, and were featured in Ep. II of Myles O’Reilly and Donal Dineen’s music programme This Ain’t No Disco in March 2017. They were also part of ‘Imagining Home’, a live broadcast concert in the National Concert Hall of Ireland, 2016, curated by Glen Hansard, Philip King and Gary Sheehan.

In 2018 they toured the islands off the coast of Ireland as well as touring extensively throughout the UK and mainland Europe. They also took part in Celtic Colours festival in Cape Breton, Canada.

Their track Lowlands of Holland was nominated for a BBC folk award and they were nominated in several categories in the first ever RTE folk awards.