June Jigs and Reels
June was another month of sharing with conferences, launches and broadcasts.
In June, Daithí jetted off to Lincoln for the Irish Society for Theatre Research Conference themed on regions and ruins. He presented a paper on Siamsa Tíre, the National Folk Theatre of Ireland. Celebrating its fiftieth summer season of performances, and attended by Prince Charles and Camilla this month, Siamsa has been a core subject of Daithí’s research in recent years and this paper focused on the evocation of the local and the regional in the work of the company. The old part of Lincoln is dominated by the majestic cathedral, while history adorns the aptly named ‘Steep Hill’. The ISTR conference was wonderfully friendly and enlightening with papers grappling with current issues and engaging with a sense of place in theatre activities, practice and history. Friends were made quickly and the discussions ranged across a variety of aspects of theatre practice in Ireland, some of which may inform the development of our research, teaching and community engagement in Co. Louth.
It’s full steam ahead for Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2018, which will be held in Drogheda this August. We were delighted to be involved in recording a programme for Céilí House as part of the house band in the Highlanes Gallery in Drogheda, which was broadcast on 23 June. That was followed the following week by the launch of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, held in the Westcourt, where we provided music along with Ciara Brannigan for the Lolo Robinson School of Dance. There was a fantastic air of positivity at the event, which was attended by a wide range of people. It was a good opportunity to chat about plans, discuss ideas and consider what the legacy of the event will be for the region. To complete our triduum, we had the wonderful experience of recording in the Lavabo at Mellifont Abbey for Fleadh TV – Adèle used to be a tour guide here and was able to inform people of the layers of history all around us. The programme is being produced by Co. Louth fiddle player Donal O’Connor, with whom Adèle used to compete in duet competitions. Reminders of life’s many circles.
The Fleadh is a highlight of every year but we are particularly looking forward to this year’s event in our home county. Adèle is working on the Seachtain na Gaeilge committee while Daithí is working on the Gig Rig committee. We are also excited about the symposium themed on legacy and transmission in Irish traditional music that we are facilitating. We’ll also be playing tunes from A Louth Lilt early in the week. Music at the Gate has been continuing under the excellent direction of Darragh Ó hÉilligh and Daithí dropped down for a few tunes and a few steps in wonderful sunshine. There is a great line-up of events now listed on the Fleadh website.
Another annual event that we look forward to is the Society for Musicology in Ireland Annual Plenary, held this year in the CIT Cork School of Music. Daithí presented on changes in Scottish traditional music as experienced at various events and fieldtrips over the past three years and related to recent literature. Adèle turned her focus to The Four Irish Dances by Charles Villiers Stanford and a further arrangement by Percy Grainger. We were delighted to have students with us at the conference, some of whom also presented their research. The SMI conference provides an opportunity to catch up with colleagues, share ideas, gain insights into new trends and discuss possible collaboration and future funding.
Amongst the ongoing research projects was a STEAM education project involving four undergraduate researchers from the disciplines of music and science, which we collaborated with our colleagues Dr Bridget Kelly and Richie Price. The team chose the theme of pollinators and worked on an exciting project focusing on bees, butterflies, beetles and bats. We look forward to sharing this research with colleagues on our Erasmus+ Project in due course, as well as exploring opportunities to share it locally.
Our local communities remain to the forefront of our activities. Parish churches are important spaces for music. We enjoy participating in our choirs and, over the last few weeks, shared this with the listeners of LMFM. Adèle directed the music for the mass broadcast from Louth Village on 26 May, while Daithí followed two weeks later from Dunleer on 9 June. We are always looking for opportunities to develop our knowledge of music and share this with others. On our travels, we have listened to many wonderful choirs and include attendance at Evensong when we have visited some of the great Cathedrals in England including Lincoln, Cambridge and Canterbury. In June we attended the Irish Church Music Association Summer School in Maynooth. Next month we will join in preparations for Pope’s visit as part of the choir and we look forward to the rehearsals in our Diocese.
We had an opportunity to pause briefly at the grave of the great north Kerry dancing master Jeremiah Molyneaux (1883-1965) on our travels in June. Known as Jerry Munnix he was the youngest of a family of seven. The script from the end of year show in Teach Siamsa in Finuge is still in Daithí's head reminding him that Molyneaux's mother was Ellen Scanlon, a dressmaker and his father William Molyneaux was a blacksmith who had a forge at Gunsboro Cross in North Kerry. It is the Munnix style that is central to the development of dance in Siamsa Tíre and, in particular, the production Ding Dong Dederó (1991), which Daithí discussed in his paper presented at the ISTR in Lincoln. A ceremony was held in Gale Cemetery, Ballydonoghue on Sunday 17 June 1973, to mark the unveiling of a headstone at the grave. Until then Molyneaux’s grave had remained unmarked since his death in 1965, and it was one of his pupils, the late Liam Tarrant, who organised and funded the headstone.We unfortunately missed an event on Sunday 17 June 2018, which will mark the refurbishment of the Molyneaux headstone, organised by one of the surviving pupils of Jerry Molyneaux, Fr. Pat Ahern, forty-five years on from the first event, but we passed by a few days later. A new piece of sculpture was unveiled at the grave depicting a pair of dancing shoes, in dancing pose, on a circular limestone plinth with the inscription “Bímís ag Rince”, (Let us be dancing.) The piece was executed by the well known Tralee artistic sculptor, Billy Leen.
From the global back to the local, Daithí continued his adjudicating of county fleadhanna with a beautiful day at the Down Fleadh in Portaferry and we finished the month with a rehearsal of the Oriel Traditional Orchestra. It is the connections between people and places, between past and present, between genres and notes that add interest to our ongoing musical adventures.