May 2018 was full of celebration – 40th, 50th and 60th anniversary celebrations amongst the musical happenings in Louth and beyond, while it also witnessed the launch of new ventures.
May kicked off with the launch of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2018 at the Highlanes Art Gallery in Drogheda. It was an opportunity to begin to publicise some of the work that has been going on behind the scenes and there was a sense of excitement and anticipation amongst those gathered. There was young and old gathered to perform and give a flavour of what this years’ Fleadh would be like. We are delighted to be involved in organising some of the activities and events and look forward to welcoming so many friends to Louth.
This year was the fiftieth Conference of Irish Geographers and Daithí continued the Fleadh theme, presenting a paper on the evolving traditional music soundscape of Co. Louth with a particular focus on recordings. A key focus of this paper centres on the imagination of Louth as a musical/non-musical place because of differing constructs of ‘tradition’, ‘authenticity’ and ‘commodification’ in the context of Irish traditional music. The presence of external musical influences and their impact on music-making is evident but these external influences become internalised within the processes of place and soundscape. Key figures include the Sligo-born fiddle player John Joe Gardiner, the successful Siamsa Céilí Band that won the senior All-Ireland Céilí Band competition three years in a row (1967-1969), the innovative ensemble Lá Lugh and the commercially successful band The Corrs. It is their interrelationship at a local level within a community of practice and the shared musical influences that construct a network integral to how Louth is heard.
Susan Motherway and Siamsa Tíre hosted a colloquium entitled ‘Staged Folklore, The National Theatre of Ireland 1968-1998. This year marks the fiftieth season of summer performances by Siamsa Tíre and the event celebrated the work of its founder and artistic director, Pat Ahern. Panel presentations focused on the themes of staging performance, staging folklore and staged nationhood. Daithí focused on references to tourism in the 1972 plan for the development of the company and the 1976 tour. Although Daithí has not performed with the company since 2012, the influence of his training and experience with Siamsa Tíre is evident in many aspects of his work and is a central tenant of his research portfolio with a number of forthcoming publications adding to those already published in 2011, 2013, 2016 and 2017. There was time for a tune with some of the former cast members as Daithí joined Nicky and Anne McAulliffe and Mike O'Shea in the Grand Hotel for a session.
The Louth and Meath county fleadhanna took place on the same day this year. While Daithí had a number of students competing at the event organised by Craobh John Joe Gardiner CCÉ in Dundalk, he was busy adjudicating in Meath, hosted by Craobh Átha Troim. In Trim, the local branch have recently published a lovely history celebrating fifty years of the branch. The articles gave great insight and celebrated the characters who have dedicated themselves to the transmission of tradition. For the Louth Fleadh programme, Adèle contributed a short article on Rory Kennedy who, sixty years ago this year, was one of the key figures responsible for the founding of the first branch of Comhaltas Ceotlóirí Éireann in Louth. Adèle was one of a number of Rory’s students to achieve success at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann and his legacy lives on in the music of the region.
The Creative Arts Research Centre at DkIT, of which Daithí is co-director, hosted a twin conference entitled Éistigí – Picteilín on 17 May 2018 with the support of the DkIT Research Office. The event brought together a range of speakers on diverse but interrelated topics that demonstrated the strength of research in the centre.We both presented, Daithí focusing on tourism, returning to Siamsa Tíre as a case study, and Adèle focusing on Feis Ceoil, returning to the role of Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. The opening session focused on performance in Ireland. A number of postgraduate students under our supervision also presented and we were delighted to launch a book by our colleague Dr Kelly McErlean entitled Interactive Narratives and Transmedia Storytelling: Creating Immersive Stories Across New Media Platforms. Speaking at the launch, Daithí highlighted the attractiveness of the book to those beyond Kelly’s immediate field of film-making, referring in particular to chapter four, ‘Sound Design’, which engaged with the role of music in storytelling.
Amongst the musical heroes of Dundalk is Geraldine Magee and we were delighted to attend a concert in the Marist Church Dundalk. The choir were under the baton of DkIT music student Choon Mon Lee, who also accompanied many of the performers on the night. Adèle is a former singing student of Geraldine, who continues to influence the musical life of the county. Geraldine has been a member of the Marist choir for most of her singing life and the concert also included a number of her students in a very enjoyable programme. Geraldine exemplifies the rich musical culture of Dundalk. She trained with renowned Dundalk voice teacher Dr Vincent O’Brien and later his son Oliver. She performed sang many major soprano roles with Dundalk Musical Society under the direction of Michael Van Dessel and was also a member of the Redemptorist Choir Society under the direction of Rev Fr Jones. Geraldine continues to enrich Louth’s musical environment and her international legacy is also significant; outstanding students include Tara Erraught, now celebrated amongst international opera audiences.
With the sun shining, we look forward to more travels and adventures in June. Don’t forget to join us!
Commins, A. ‘Rory Kennedy’ in Fleadh Cheoil Lú programme (2018).
Kearney, D. ‘Ahern, Fr. Pat’ in Companion to Irish Traditional Music ed. Fintan Vallely (Cork University Press, 2011, p. 9).
Kearney, D. ‘Siamsa Tíre’ In: White, H. and Boydell, B. eds. Encyclopedia of Music in Ireland (UCD Press, 2013).
Kearney, D. ‘The evolution of Irish folk theatre’ In: R. Amoêda, S. Lira and C. Pinheiro (Eds) Sharing Cultures 2013: Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Intangible Heritage (Lisbon: Greenlines Institute, 2013, pp. 117-128).
Kearney, D. ‘Revisiting Samhain: Two Directions on a Theme’ in New Crops, Old Fields: (Re)imagining Irish Folklore ed. Conor Caldwell and Eamon Byers (Peter Lang, 2016, pp. 99-124).
Kearney, D. ‘Reliving Island Life: Staging Stories of the Blasket Islands’ Estudios Irlandeses (2017, 12(2), pp. 73-90).