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Chris McGrory, Tir Conaill Irish Dance Academy

~ Saturday, June 16, 2007

A musician, composer, dancer, choreographer, and teacher, Christopher McGrory, TTCT, TCRG has recently relocated from Ireland and joined our Tucson Irish community with a twinkle in his eye and a ready smile.

He is a world-renowned Irish dance accordionist who has played for dance competitions all over the world from New Zealand and Australia to most countries in Europe, as well as Canada and the United States. Because of his expertise, he has been invited to play annually at every major Irish dance championship in the world, most notably the Oireachtas Rince na Cruinne, the World Irish Dancing Championships. He has also enjoyed considerable success as an Irish dance teacher and has recently opened a new school in Tucson, Tir Conaill Irish Dance Academy.

Christopher was born to Donegal parents and grew up living between Dublin and Inch Island in County Donegal. He was educated in Dublin, where he started Irish dancing at the age of 4. Over the years he won many competitions and All-Ireland titles, winning his first All-Ireland dancing title at the Mansion House in Dublin at age 10. He started playing the accordion at age 7, and by the time he was 14, he had won the Dublin, Leinster, and All-Ireland Championships in accordion. Much of his youth was spent going from dance classes (favored by his mother) to music classes (favored by his father). Apart from his formal lessons, he spent every single night from the age of 10 playing the accordion at his father´┐Żs knee, learning new tunes in the time-honored Irish tradition.

Starting at age 10, he participated as the only minor among a group of 25 musicians and dancers from the Raymond Smith Music School who toured the U.S., both dancing and playing the accordion. When he was 16, his esteemed teacher, Seamus Meehan, turned over the class at the Clontarf branch of Comhltas Ceoltoiri Eireann to Christopher, and so began his teaching career. He earned his TTCT music teacher’s diploma with honors at age 17 and went on to teach for other Comhltas branches as well as privately. During this time, he also interned as a recording engineer for Mary Black Enterprises in Dublin, learning everything he could about music production.

When he was 23, Christopher obtained his TCRG certification to teach Irish dancing from An Coimisiun le Rinci Gaelacha, the international Irish dance organization. He then helped establish the Derrada Academy of Music and Dance, of which he was co-director for over ten years. During that time, his dancing students met with considerable success, winning World medals in both solo and ceili dancing. As part of the Irish national cultural program, he was also invited to teach Irish dancing in the public school system. His music school was successful as well, growing rapidly to over 200 students in a very short time. He continues to supervise those music students.

Christopher first came to Tucson in 2003 as a musician playing the accordion for the local Irish dancing competition, Feile Rince Tucson. He returned the following summer, and at that time he decided to make Tucson his home. In January 2005 he opened Tir Conaill Irish Dance Academy, with the philosophy of promoting Irish culture through excellence in Irish dance, having great fun all the while! The school already has over 50 adult and child students, including three girls who qualified to compete at the Western Region Oireachtas in November 2005. He is currently studying for his ADCRG Irish dancing adjudicators degree.

Along with the dance school, Christopher currently teaches music in Tucson privately and at St. Michael’s Day School, St. Ambrose School, and the Prime School of Music. He also teaches accordion weekly at the Irish Cultural Center in Phoenix.

Because he understands dancers and dancing so well, he is a much sought after musician for dance competitions. He has recorded four Irish dance CDs of his own since 1994, as well as playing on the Olive Hurley ceili CDs and videos. His music is also used for the international dancing teachers/adjudicators exam offered by An Coimisiun. In 1999 he played in the movie The Wren Boys with Donal Lunny. He has composed a number of tunes for dancers, many of which are included on his CDs. The May/June 2005 issue of Hornpipe magazine called his 2004 CD, Dance for the World, a :brilliant album of original tunes by the master accordionist.”

Locally, Christopher has collaborated several times with Michael Pat Gallagher, the former lead dancer of Riverdance who has moved permanently to the Scottsdale area, as well as with several local Irish musicians. In July 2005 his Tir Conaill dancers joined forces with Michael Pat to put on an exciting two hour Celtic Show.

So what does Christopher think of his new home? He misses cutting the grass but doesn’t miss the rain. As a big cowboy movie fan, it is fitting for him to be living in the desert west, and he cut quite a dashing figure dressed as Wyatt Earp for the Emerald Isle Society’s 2004 Tir na nOg celebration. He was surprised by the number of Irish people living in Tucson and by the degree of interest in Irish culture here. He is pleased with the enthusiasm and support of his Tir Conaill dancers.

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