A Spring in Our Step
Lá Fhéile Bhríde marks the traditional start of Spring, a season of growth and development, when flowers blossom and things look brighter. Brigid has a strong presence in our area – St Brigid’s shrine in Faughart just outside Dundalk attracts large numbers of devotees who believe this to be her birthplace (Fochard Muirtheimne). The church in Dunleer where Daithí directs the choir is also dedicated to St Brigid. Her generosity of spirit and leadership are characteristics upon which we can lean. She is followed quickly in the calendar by St Patrick but locally, the legends of other saints remind us of the great many leaders in Irish society. St Mochta, associated with Louth village where Adèle directs the parish choir, is reputed to have been the last living disciple of Patrick and a fine scholar.
We continued on our own journey of scholarship in February through April, developing new work, disseminating our research and benefitting from research. With the assistance of Alphie and Tom Mulligan, the Estonian group Johanson visited Dundalk on 28 February. The Johanson’s are an Estonian family of musicians who take influence from sources as diverse as the folk revival of the 1960s and 1970s, barbershop harmony singing, jazz and Russian romantic serenades. The traditional music students under Daithí’s direction performed support as part of a lunchtime concert and we enjoyed learning and listening to the songs and music of our visitors. Check out their CD here on Spotify. An Irish group had visited Estonia thirty years ago and the Johanson’s had visited in return, both countries sharing a sense of battling to sustain a cultural identity during a period of overrule.
Daithí was delighted when the Royal Meath Accordion Orchestra invited the DkIT Traditional Music Ensemble to join them for their concert in St Peter’s Church, Drogheda on 2 March. While this was the final public performance of the Ensemble under his direction, it was a great night of music (https://www.dkit.ie/news/dkit-traditional-musicians-to-participate-in-drogheda-variety-concert.html). The traditional music groups also contributed to the Seachtain na Gaeilge events at DkIT on 13 March with a concert in the Carroll Building (https://www.dkit.ie/news/dkit-celebrates-seachtain-na-gaeilge.html).
While song-writing has been a part of our activities and outputs for a while, it is usually the instrumental music that gets the focus but on 23 March Daithí’s song ‘Bí Sásta’ was amongst those shortlisted for the Pan-Celtic National Song Contest. Daithí travelled with Conor Walsh and Calvin McManus to perform in the Visual Arts Centre in Carlow. It was a great night of music and while not successful on the night, there were a number of admirers and we can add the song to our repertoire.
Of course the highlight of our Spring was the continuation of the SPACE: Strategic Partnership Agents of Change in Education which was located in Porto. You can read about our activities in our recent blog here. The Erasmus+ funded project can inspire us to be creative in our classrooms. Conversations with colleagues open up fresh ideas that we can explore and carry with us.
Back in Ireland, Daithí performed for the Céilií House recording at DkIT on 2 April. Broadcast the following weekend (Céilí House) , it also featured a performance by the DkIT Traditional Music Ensemble of two of Daithí’s compositions, ‘The Shy Octopus’ and ‘Farewell to Fochabers’. Both tunes were written during visits to Fochabers – one during Speyfest and the other during Fochabers Fiddle Week (read about these here). The name for the first came about from games played in the workshops at Speyfest where a talented but shy young fiddle player found her path into playing in the concert at the festival by learning about rhythms. Fochabers is a wonderful place and we are looking forward to returning to facilitate workshops again this summer. Check it out at www.speyfest.com
Easter was particularly busy this year. We were engaged in providing music for services in three churches – the aforementioned St Brigid’s in Dunleer and Church of the Immaculate Conception in Louth Village, and as well as St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Tallanstown. We travelled to the beautiful east Cork town of Youghal to facilitate and lead workshops and rehearsals for Oidhreacht Eochaille. This pageant, scripted by us, is inspired by the people and places of the area and includes a number of new compositions including Daithí’s songs ‘Moll Goggins’ and ‘McGrath’s Clock Gate’, and Adèle’s piece ‘Lighting Capel Island’, which has already become part of the local repertoire. The pageant, supported through the Municipal Districts Creative Communities Scheme of Cork County Council, will premiere as part of the Ironman event in Youghal this June (http://youghal.ie/ironman/). As well as creating the pageant in collaboration with the local teachers and branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (http://brunasi.ie/), Daithí also contributed a revised article for the East Cork Visitor Guide based on research into the music of the area.
We arrived back from Youghal to welcome a visiting group from Curso de Música Silva Monteiro. Daithí facilitated some workshops in Irish in Irish traditional music, song and dance and brought the group on a tour of the facilities at DkIT. On Saturday 27 April they joined the Oriel Traditional Orchestra for a concert in Tí Chulainn, Mullaghbawn, which included the premiere of Daithí’s new work ‘The Oriel March’, written especially for the OTO with the support of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht as part of a cross-border project (https://orieltrad.org/news/the-oriel-march/). We were very grateful to the students from CMSM for their contributions and their teachers Monika Streitová (Flute); Sara Vaz (piano); Ana Patrícia Lopes (Violin); and Hugo Simões (guitar).
There’s plenty of work continuing behind the scenes. We look forward to presenting at conferences in the coming months including at the Society of Musicology in Ireland Annual Plenary and the EUGEO 2019 Conference. We have received final proofs of forthcoming publications including a contribution to the Journal of Music Technology Education. Fleadh fever is building once more and we were delighted to feature on RTÉ One television for the Fleadh Cheoil series on 26 April (Fleadh Cheoil), while we continue volunteering to help with preparations for this year’s event in Drogheda.