November was a month of returning. Graduands returned to DkIT for their special day, Daithí returned to UCC, Youghal and Antwerp, and we returned to our various research projects, many of which began a new chapter.
We began the month with graduations, always a very proud day for academics when we get to meet our former students again and wish them well on their life path. The following week, Daithí headed for his own Alma Mater, University College Cork, where he gave a guest lecture as part of the FUAIM series. Daithí’s presentation brought him back to the themes of his doctoral dissertation and the changing geographies of Irish traditional music. Updating some of the quantitative data from his 2009 thesis highlighted some of the changes over the past ten years that suggest changing factors and actors in the geography of the tradition and the potential for further research in this area.
Daithí also presented a guest lecture at University College Dublin as part of the Béaloideas Graduate Seminar Series. For this, the focus was on Siamsa Tíre, another alma mater, and coincided with the fiftieth year of summer performances by the company. Speaking, singing and dancing amidst the wonderful Folklore Collection, Daithí focused on some of the notable productions by the company, recurring themes and the presentation of folklore on stage, drawing from some of his recent publications and informed by his own experience of performing with the company.
DkIT and Sounding the Feminists held a one-day symposium on 23 November. In her welcome, Adèle noted the development of research about women and music at DkIT. Daithí reflected on his production To Stay or Leave, critically engaging with the themes through a feminist lens and highlighting the potential of creative arts practice to engage with issues. In To Stay or Leave, the father character is encouraged to hand on his tradition to his daughter, while the character of his wife makes reference to the perception of a woman’s role in the early to mid-twentieth century in Ireland. While it is important to celebrate female artists and engage with their work, feminist expression can also be produced by male artists and it is critical that men are part of the discussion being prompted by Sounding the Feminists, Fair Plé, Waking the Feminists and other groups.
In November, we co-produced a concert at An Táin Arts Centre in Dundalk entitled Oirghialla Oscailte, featuring groups from Dundalk Institute of Technology and the Oriel Traditional Orchestra. The concert programme continued the exploration of Oriel music by staff and students from DkIT in recent years and further pursued by the OTO. The students also looked to other traditions, notably Scottish music and Breton music, the latter reflecting some of the musical exploration of Lá Lugh. It also included compositions by Daithí, alongside tunes selected from Gerry O’Connor’s recent publication The Rose in the Gap (2018), which draws significantly from his MA research at DkIT.
It was another significant night for the Oriel Traditional Orchestra, who used some of their new instruments for the first time. It marked the start of the next phase of their existence, which brings enhanced collaboration with the Creative Arts Research Centre underpinned by funding from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. With some of the newer members of the orchestra performing for the first time, the stage was very full and the audience receptive. Before the end of the month, the Oriel Traditional Orchestra began working on Daithí’s new composition, ‘The Oriel March’, a suite of tunes commissioned with funding from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
The theatre students at DkIT also presented a production of Caryl Churchill's Love and Information in the MacAnna Theatre, for which Daithí was co-director alongside Mark Fearon and Laura Bowler. Churchill's work resonates well with the themes of the Sounding the Feminists symposium and challenges creativity and understanding in the production process. The script provides opportunities to explore interpretation, develop characterisations and resist first instincts in reading the dialogue.
Local engagement is critical to us and our efforts in Pubic Musicology and Applied Ethnomusicology resonate with the Public Participation Network. Louth PPN offers a forum through which to meet with representatives of other groups in the county, gain from the experiences of others, learn of available funding and avail of training that will be of benefit to our community. Our involvement is as members of the OTO and with a focus on music but the November meeting in Dundalk made us aware of the breadth of community activity in the county and inspired ideas for future projects. Many people have a passion for their groups activities but there is also potential for groups to work together for the benefit of all in society.
Ardee Baroque Festival celebrated its fifteenth birthday in November and we were delighted to enjoy wonderful music once again in the beautiful St Mary’s Church in Ardee. Adèle remains a board member and works alongside the tireless Pauline Ashwood, well-known for her role in developing the Drogheda Classical Music Series. This year the festival was officially opened in Hatch’s Castle by Presidential candidate Gavin Duffy, before a beautiful performance by Eamon Sweeney and Róisín O’Grady of Christmas music from the 16th to 18th centuries. Following the concert, Eamon patiently welcomed audience members to view his beautiful collection of guitars, lutes and other stringed instruments. The following night, the Irish Baroque Orchestra and soloists Aisling Kenny and Fracesco Giusti performed a concert of duets by Handel, while Kids Classics visited Moorehall Lodge in the afternoon to perform for residents there. A highlight this year was probably Musici Ireland and Melisma Choral Group who performed an afternoon of Baroque favourites on the Sunday.
Daithí also led a session for Drogheda Trad Weekend on Saturday 24 November with Joanne Cusack, Conor Walsh, Conor Bogue and Chris Lawlor in Foley's Bar. It was a lovely relaxed night and part of a great weekend of music across the town. Over the weekend local artists like Gerry O'Connor, who launched his album Last Night's Joy, and Kern featured alongside the many musicians who bring life to the local traditional music scene. There was of course great singing as always in Drogheda. Visitors like Michele and Louise Mulcahy, Mick O'Brien, Tom Morrow and more drew delight from their audiences. Thanks to Stephen McArdle for looking after our session.
It is not possible to get to everything but special mention this month goes to Craobh na Dúglaise CCÉ. Daithí was very sorry to miss their 21st Birthday Party, having very fond memories of the tenth birthday celebrations. Being asked out to teach in Craobh na Dúglaise when he was an undergraduate student at UCC was a very significant turning point in his journey into music education. Here is an extract from his intended talk, which was read out on the night:
“I learned so much from the experience, made great friends and had great fun. It gave me the opportunity to lead groups and I'm delighted that some of the early u12 members are now themselves teaching. They taught me a lot about how to teach! We had a lot of fun. It was commented upon more than once that people used to enjoy seeing the ''red team' arriving at a Fleadh and while it took a few years to become successful, from the get go nobody could doubt our passion for traditional music, song, dance and the language. We were so lucky to have the use of the Gaelscoil and the environment allowed things to happen in Douglas, a type of magic not find elsewhere. I have always been particularly proud of the ever young senior group and their commitment to each other. Music is for life, not just for childhood. My favourite memory has to be competing with the Senior Céilí Band at Fleadh Cheoil na Mumhan. I think we ranged in age from 7 to 70 and when we launched into Seán South from Garryown we raised the roof and reminded everybody in Comhaltas of the importance of community. 21 years is a great milestone and took a lot of effort and hard work. Comhghairdeas go léir agus bain sult as an oíche agus an ceol.”
Both of us have enjoyed involvement with various branches of Comhaltas, shaping our experience of Irish traditional music and developing our network of friends. We are looking forward once again to Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Louth in 2019 but there is a lot to happen before then.
Daithí returned to Antwerp for International STEAM week along with colleagues Bridget Kelly and Richie Price. The central theme during this year’s STEAM week was ‘climate’ and Daithí and Bridget placed a special focus on pollinators, developed as part of research projects at DkIT over the past twelve months. It was fantastic to meet and work again with colleagues from across Europe including our collaborators on the Erasmus+ funded SPACE project, which had previously brought us to Norway, Belgium and the European Space Agency in Holland. The International STEAM week allows for a sharing of ideas, practices and approaches to education and allowed us to work with a very enthusiastic and international group of student teachers who brought our ideas into the schools of Antwerp.
Daithí finished the month in Youghal where he worked alongside Ellie Nic Fhionghaille and Joanne Cusack and the local teachers towards the artistic vision for the Brú na Sí centre. As well as working on repertoire from previous workshops, developing arrangements and exploring the orchestration potential of the ensemble, the group also began working on a new work-in-progress being composed by Daithí, inspired by the people and places of Youghal and funded under the Creative Ireland initiative. It was an intensive weekend that included opportunities to meet with people in Youghal, notably John McGrath who had lived in the Clock Tower and for whom Daithí has composed ‘McGrath’s Clock Tower Jig’, that will be performed by the musicians of Youghal in the near future.
With so much activity, it is clear that we are in the middle of a process with many of this month’s research outputs raising questions, opportunities and challenges. We look forward to continuing on our journey and invite you to continue with us.