Born into an Irish family, Bev started to play as a child in her hometown of Blackpool in Lancashire, and spent several years living in Ireland where she learned to play flute in the Sligo style from local musicians. She currently lives in Lancaster, where she plays in sessions and performs solo and with various bands, including as a musician with the internationally known Irish Dance troupe Absolutely Legless (with whom she has toured France, Switzerland, Spain and appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe). She also performs in a duo with All-Ireland Champion harpist Celia Briar, with whom she has appeared on BBC Radio.
Bev has been a teacher of Irish traditional music for most of her adult life. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s she taught tin whistle and flute classes for Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann (CCE) in branches in North West England, the Midlands and Scotland. For three years she ran Irish music and set dance classes at the Irish Studies Workshop in Leicester, where she was part of a team which put together the first ever Open College Network (OCN) accredited modules in Irish traditional music and set dance. She has taught workshops for Folkworks, Folkus and a variety of other organisations, and (apart from during a break of a few years to bring up her family) has offered private tuition since the early 1980s. Many of her former students have gone on to become well known and highly accomplished musicians in their own right. Bev currently teaches music classes and workshops, and as well as private tuition in person and using Skype.
Here’s what people have said about Bev Whelan’s teaching:
“Beverley… became active in Leicester’s Irish Studies Workshop, based at Soar Valley Community College. [She] taught traditional music to adults most successfully for three years… a gifted flautist and concertina player… inspired a whole section of Leicester’s Irish musicians.”
~ Nessan Danaher in Round the House and Mind the Dresser, 2002, Irish Studies Workshop Publications
“Bev got me off to a great start with Irish music when I was a teenage flute player, living in Dundee. She herself learned so much from older players from Sligo, and made me aware of the rich tradition of not only the tunes, but the country and the people. I travelled to Sligo from Scotland when I was 18 and met Bev’s biggest inspiration, Harry McGowan, and recognised so many of the tunes that I had picked up from Bev.
“It was really great learning from Bev as she incorporated the breath into the fabric of the tunes. Living in Scotland, surrounded by fiddlers in the sessions, I had previously been breathing in all the wrong places – fiddlers don’t need to make the spaces to breathe in the tunes, particularly Scottish Fiddlers! Bev encouraged me to learn tunes by ear, and made me tapes of tunes. When I joined her in the weekly session she was so happy to play with me.
“Bev is a great teacher and amazing flute player. She has lots of patience and advice, but most importantly, her love of Irish traditional music and flute playing is so strong. This is contagious and inspired me to keep going with Irish music. It’s been 23 years, and I’m still playing!”
~ Kirsten Allstaff, Founder and Director of The Online Academy of Irish Music