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  • Adèle and Daithí

An EPIC October

October brings great colour and the harvest reflects the rewards of a period of intense hard work. We were delighted to reflect this month on our involvement with the Oriel Traditional Orchestra, Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann and the students at Dundalk Institute of Technology.

Accepting the EPIC Awards for the OTO

In early October, we travelled to Edinburgh for the Voluntary Arts EPIC Awards Ceremony at which the Oriel Traditional Orchestra won two awards. The wonderful event was hosted by BBC Scotland presenter Janice Forsyth and celebrated the achievements of voluntary creative groups across the UK and Republic of Ireland. As well as the prestigious People’s Choice Award, the OTO were also the runners up in the Ireland category of the awards. Adèle joined co-director Noreen McManus to receive the Ireland award while Daithí was joined by treasurer Seán Scott for the People’s Choice Award, for which all of the members in attendance were invited to the stage. In presenting the speech on behalf of the Orchestra, Daithí acknowledged the hard work and dedication of all of the members, as well as the support the OTO have received from Louth and Monaghan County Councils, Creative Ireland, Monaghan Arts Network, and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltachts. They also thanked Dundalk Institute of Technology, the Carrickmacross Workhouse and Tí Chulainn in Mullaghbawn who facilitate their rehearsals.

We are delighted to contribute to the OTO in a voluntary capacity as it not only is a contribution to our community but enriches our own lives. While we are fortunate to engage in the arts across a number of levels, including as performers, composers and academics, the capacity for development through volunteerism is often undervalued. In her message to the attendees, Josepha Madigan TD, Minister for Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht stated: "The Epic awards recognise the volunteerism which thrives across so much of the arts and cultural sector. Winning the People’s Choice Award is also an incredible accolade for the Oriel Traditional Orchestra and reflects its huge achievements in founding a cross border intergenerational ensemble whose aim is to explore the musical heritage of the region. These awards capture the wealth of creativity in all of our communities and the many benefits of living in a more creative Ireland. Enabling and enhancing culture and creativity in communities nationwide is central to the Government's Creative Ireland programme, which aims to put creativity at the heart of public policy at local and national level, for the very first time."

The People's Choice Award was presented by Lisa Marie Joyce, Vice Consul General of Ireland in Scotland, Susan Fazakerley, President of Amateo and Sandra Brown, Eden Project Communities. After a wonderful night in the Central Hall in Edinburgh, on Friday morning, the Oriel Traditional Orchestra performed at the Irish consulate in Edinburgh at the invitation of Consul General Jane McCulloch, originally from Slane, who congratulated the OTO on their success. Also in attendance at the performance were Consul Generals from Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary and Poland. We enjoyed meeting the audience afterwards, including many musicians based in Edinburgh.

One of the popular pieces in the repertoire of the Oriel Traditional Orchestra is an arrangement by Daithí of Roslin Castle, a piece attributed to Scottish composer James Oswald but found in the McGahon Collection of Co. Louth. The group had the honour of performing the piece in the famous Rosslyn Chapel and Ian Gardner, Director of the Rosslyn Chapel Trust, escorted the group to the Castle, complimented them on their performance and invited them back in the future to perform again. It was an incredible experience to visit the chapel and nearby castle, not least because of the fame generated through the Da Vinci Code but because of the beautiful masterwork carried out and eloquently presented to us by our guide.

Unfortunately the weather became increasingly inclement but that did not impinge on our ability to enjoy the beauty and culture of Edinburgh. We had the opportunity to visit the Scottish National Gallery and view iconic images such as The Skating Minister and The Monarch of the Glen. The gallery was thronged with visitors escaping the rain and enjoying the wonderful collections that serve to delight and inspire minds and reflect the world around us. Our visit to the Royal Mile coincided with a march in support of Scottish independence and expressions of Scottish identity were explicit and yet Edinburgh simultaneously remained a welcoming city that embraced the diversity of people living and visiting in this historic place.

It is our own sense of place at home that is part of the motivation and inspiration for the Oriel Traditional Orchestra. The EPIC awards not only recognise the success of the Oriel Traditional Orchestra to date but also helped them expand their network and open up opportunities for further collaborations into the future. We are thrilled that we have achieved recognition so quickly. We have developed a great sense of community and grown in confidence as opportunities have opened up for us to share our music and develop new friendships. The 2019 Ireland Award resonates with our ethos and this recognition will further encourage and inspire us to continue to develop and contribute to our community.

We were also delighted to attend a dinner closer to home at the invitation of The Chief Executive of Louth County Council and Executive Director of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann together with Cathaoirleach of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2018 & 2019. The evening was a lovely celebration of the commitment of so many people to the successful running of the Fleadh in Drogheda. Speeches were kept short enough to ensure that conversation took precedence and while it was acknowledged that the Fleadh is unlikely to return to the banks of the Boyne in the near future, the memory of the event here will have a long-lasting legacy.

October culminated in graduations at DkIT. It is always a very special occasion for students and we enjoy meeting our graduates and their families and hearing about their progression in life. This year we were particularly delighted to be present for the graduation of two postgraduate students who had completed work under our supervision and whose research, we believe, will contribute greatly to scholarship in Irish traditional music. Dr Conor Ward completed his doctoral studies on the evolution of fiddle music in the Conmhaicne region of Connacht and Leinster in the period between c1825 and c1975. The seminal figure in the development and transmission of fiddle music in this region is Thomas Kernan (c1807-1887). Kernan’s music and his methods of teaching were passed down through successive generations of fiddle players, thereby creating a localised sub-culture of fiddle music. The dissertation consists of two volumes, providing historical and musicological context and a new critical edition of the source repertoire, increasing the accessibility and dissemination of the music sources.

We were awarded an IOTI Postgraduate Scholarship in 2015 providing us the opportunity to provide an applicant with a bursary to engage with an aspect of a larger research project on the cultural tourism of the Oriel region. Sylvia Crawford explored some under-explored aspects of the musical heritage of the Oriel region, focusing on the harp tradition, with the purpose of investigating the potential of Irish traditional music in cultural tourism in the region. An important focus of this research is the life and legacy of eighteenth-century harper, Patrick Quin and the dissertation sets out a number of recommendations to draw attention to the musical heritage of the region and provide a foundation for future cultural tourism initiatives in the Oriel region.

With the harvest comes an end but also a chance to regroup and consider what is next. November will bring the Ardee Baroque Festival, the completion of the Oidhreacht Eochaille CD and the publication of How Popular Culture Travels to which we have each contributed a chapter on our research. We look forward to these and much more. Do join us on our continuing adventures.

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