September started off in celebratory style when Daithí attended the National Forum for Teaching and Learning’s Celebration Day in the Mansion House where he received his Digital Badge. Over the previous six months or so Daithí participated in a Pilot Study with colleagues from DkIT, UCD and TCD on Professional Development in Higher Education. They reviewed and discussed the new National Forum’s Professional Development Framework and developed portfolios of their practice. Daithí’s group focused on the connection between research and teaching, an ongoing balance but one that we aspire to achieve, as can be read about this month.
The following day, Daithí travelled down to Drogheda to support a new initiative by uilleann piper Darragh Ó hÉilligh. ‘Music at the Gate’ was a morning of music on the 2 September that drew a great crowd to the recently closed St Laurence’s Gate in the town. It was an opportunity for musicians to meet, play music and demonstrate some of the potential of what will happen when Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann comes to Drogheda in 2018. Fleadh Chairperson, Lolo Robinson, and Drogheda CCÉ vice-Chair John Watts, were amongst the gathering that included local businesses and eager members of the public, excited about the potential of this new cultural space in the town. We were delighted to attend meetings in Drogheda to plan for Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann and hope that our experiences organising conferences, performances and music education will be of value to the committee in the weeks and months ahead.
The following week it was Newry’s turn and we enjoyed travelling up to the Iúr Cinn Fleadh. We enjoyed the debut performance of the Newry Trad Youth Orchestra under the direction of Ursula Byrne at the historic Riverside Church. After the concert we joined the session at Nan Rice’s Pub where a large group of musicians were already rattling out the tunes. They were joined later by some of the older members of the Trad Orchestra who kept the music going.
That same weekend, the Railway Bar in Ardee was celebrating twenty years of traditional music sessions. On Thursday night they honoured the long-serving musicians Raymond McNiece and Jimmy Cunningham. We had a great night on the Sunday night when, along with Raymond, there was a special visit from accordion player Mal Brennan, originally from the area but now living in the USA. Between the tunes were stories of the great Ardee piano accordion player Dermot O’Brien, who played in the bar on occasion, and Raymond treated us to some of the tunes he played. We returned to the Railway Bar for one of the weekly Thursday sessions and look forward to dropping in again on a regular basis.
Our research is ongoing and while Adèle focused on Charles Villiers Stanford for upcoming presentations in Croatia and England, Daithí continued with research related to the life and music of Josephine. As well as visiting Josephine, he visited some of her friends including fiddle player John Daly, now in Tipperary Town, and Michael Lynch in Oldcastle who used to run the Céilí House bar where Josephine and Seán Maguire were resident musicians for nearly a decade. The stories reflected on Josephine’s great talents and her long and varied musical career and will provide inspiration for forthcoming publications.
All around the country, it was back to classes. As well as welcoming our students back to Dundalk Institute of Technology, classes were back in full swing at Craobh Dhún Dealgan CCÉ after a successful summer of Fleadhanna Cheoil. There was great enthusiasm also for the session in Callan’s with Noreen McManus and, after a few months of planning, it was decided to launch the Oriel Traditional Orchestra (OTO), a new community and voluntary initiative by musicians of all ages in Counties Armagh, Louth, Meath and Monaghan. Not aligned to but supportive of existing organisations and Irish traditional music education initiatives, with the new constitution, insurance and child protection policy drawn up, it was time to get stuck into some music-making.
With all the music going on locally, there was a pleasant surprise when we won tickets for Gig’n’the Bann in Portglenone. It was a beautiful morning on the Sunday so we decided to head further north to enjoy the beauty of the Giant’s Causeway. The landscape has its own musical features - check out our picture of 'the organ'. Back in Portglenone, we stopped into a session – where else would you find Damien McKee and Liam Bradley of Beoga playing in a corner – didn’t Éamonn Murray tell us they are rock stars now! Leaving behind the music for a while, we watched the end of the thrilling All-Ireland Football Final before the weekend’s final gig. The support act was two wonderful young women from the area who treated us to beautifully arranged songs. They were followed by the Sands Family from County Down. In our concerts with the DkIT Ceol Oirghialla Traditional Ensemble, we have often included songs written by members of the Sands family and they put on a very entertaining concert in Antrim. Some of their songs were again included in class that week and will be part of the Ceol Oirghialla Traditional Music Concert on the 29 November. Watch this space!
Choral singing is something that we both enjoy and engage in and September marked a new beginning for Daithí. While Adèle has been involved in providing music for the church in Tallanstown since she was a child and has been choir director and organist in Louth Village for over a decade, Daithí began as choir master in Dunleer in September. Choral singing is a greatly enriching activity and we were delighted when the Choir of the Immaculate Conception in Louth Village sang a mass that we composed for them, The Mass of Unity, as part of our wedding ceremony. They continue to sing this mass on a regular basis. Choral singing is also a wonderful social activity and in September, Adèle brought the choir from Louth to participate in the Pastoral Area Resource Team (PART) mass in Kilkerly with other choirs from the area. The weeks of rehearsals in the lead up were followed with a lovely dinner and evening of dancing after the mass.
Just like the autumn colours creeping into the hedgerows, September proved to be another colourful month filled with music, song and stories. With a full schedule of activities, albeit with more of a routine, we look forward to October. Maybe we might meet you on our musical journey.