Our calendar year is punctuated by our Easter, summer and Christmas holidays. Each offer an opportunity to draw breath and reflect, take stock of what we have achieved and set targets for the next stage. This blog has always been a document of reflection and, for this entry, we are challenged by the unbroken marathon from August to December. As artists, our outlets have remained in a state of reopening, although we continue to create in ourselves. As academics, our outputs (and day jobs) have challenged us to maintain a steady pace. As people (and parents), our objectives are often basic and focused on happiness and survival. There are overlaps, as always, between our tripartite endeavours and we learn from the different perspectives our different roles offer. We divide our reflections this time between festivals (Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann and Ardee Baroque); academic undertakings (Reworking Folklore Symposium and recent publications); and community and creative activities (choir direction and poetry writing). Daithí’s academic engagements involved a trip to Newcastle, which has provided inspiration for a particular subsection that engages with the recurring theme of place and music in our blogs and research.
Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2022
Mullingar was an excellent location for Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann and it was wonderful to get back to it after the two years of virtual experiences. Having been so heavily involved in Drogheda, it was nice to have little or no responsibility and go and enjoy the event. We were a little nervous going down with two small boys in tow and so ventured first on the Tuesday. The journey and access was manageable, parking was good, and the atmosphere fantastic. We bumped into a few familiar faces but more than anything simply soaked up the atmosphere and the on-street music before heading home again. It was fantastic to see the interest of our older boy, who was a baby in our arms at the last Fleadh in Drogheda. The sense of engagement, wonder and enculturation will hopefully stand to him and was a reminder of the value of experiencing culture.
Daithí returned on Friday to adjudicate competitions in banjo and mandolin, revelling in the conversations and experiencing the increase in crowds as the atmosphere ramped up. Despite the huge numbers, the town could accommodate everybody and maintain a safe and pleasant atmosphere. So we packed the car again over the weekend and returned. One of the unusual highlights for us was the chance to see the room where it all kicked off in 1951 and a few tunes at the plaque outside the venue for the founding meeting of CCÉ. It is difficult to imagine the transformation of the event in the interim. We joined in the craic at the Seachtain na Gaeilge children’s event and stopped for chats with friendly faces, many of whom had not met our youngest child previously.
Our Sunday night journey home included streaming the Senior Céilí Band competition over the car stereo, allowing us to experience the wonderful music. Like many parents with young families, and others for whom a trip to Mullingar (or Ireland) is not achievable, the streaming of competitions, as well as by now established television programming, allowed us to feel part of the Fleadh to a greater extent. In this way, the virtual augments rather than replaces the lived experience and the virtual becomes part of the lived experience. However, nothing can replace the random and unplanned meeting with old friends. One encounter was our conversation with Fr Seán Quinn of Co. Longford, the man who inspired Conor Ward’s doctoral research on the Kernan fiddle tradition under the supervision of Daithí. We also met up with Mícheál de Buitléir and Barry and Aislinn Cogan from the Youghal and Douglas branches, with whom Daithí taught during his time in Cork.
For some, events such as the Fleadh are associated with the consumption of alcohol and rowdy behaviour but great efforts have been put in to cater for a wide variety of attendees. The Scoil Éigse serves learners, and there are a range of ancillary activities to ensure that families are well catered for. The provision of a baby changing and breast feeding facility demonstrated the greater awareness of inclusivity and accessibility that is now part of planning for the Fleadh. We are looking forward to returning in 2023 when Mullingar will host the event again.
Altogether different in terms of crowds and logistics but no less enjoyable was the Ardee Baroque Festival, held from 25-27 November. Adèle continues to contribute to the board of the festival but the inimitable Pauline Ashwood masterfully guided the ship once more. Although more niche in its appeal, the festival brought some of the finest artists of Baroque music to the little town of Ardee for the weekend with many of them performing in the beautiful St Mary’s Church. In addition to the headline concerts, we enjoyed the afternoon with Musici Ireland in Scoil Mhurie na Trócaire, which was targeted at a family audience. The children could get up close to music that is part of their soundworld through television and advertising, seeing as well as hearing how the sounds are created.
A notable highlight of the festival and one that grabbed much attention was the Saturday night concert featuring Rachel Podger with the Irish Baroque Orchestra. The focus was on the music of Johann Sebastian Bach’s eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann, alongside pieces by Johann Gottlieb Goldberg and Johann Adolf Haase. While much of the programme was unknown, it proved popular with the audience, albeit short. On Friday evening soprano Roisin O’Grady joined Musici Ireland and on Sunday Malcolm Proud (harpsichord) and Maya Homburger (violin) provided a wonderful finale to the weekend.
Reworking Folklore Symposium
On 1 December, Daithí co-convened a symposium with PhD student Luke Malone under the title ‘Reworking Folklore in Sound, Stage and Screen’. Luke’s own work engages with the reworking of folklore in the animated films of Irish company Cartoon Saloon and parallels Daithí’s engagement with the reworking of folklore through theatre and dance in the work of Siamsa Tíre. They were delighted to be joined by a wide range of speakers drawn from both the DkIT community and beyond for an engaging day of presentations followed by a concert that drew upon the same theme.
The day opened with a special screening of Performing Oriel’s Heritage, a video by the Oriel Traditional Orchestra of Daithí’s composition ‘The Oriel March’ featuring footage of heritage sites throughout the region. The sessions considered visual arts, film, festivals, music and theatre and demonstrated the close link between theory and practice. There were performances scattered throughout the day including a special performance of ‘Moll Goggin’s’, a song Daithí composed as part of the Oidhreacht Eochaille project, which was the subject of his talk. Adèle presented on representations of Ireland and Irishness in Charles Villiers Stanford’s comic opera Shamus O’Brien. There were wonderful synergies emergent throughout the day and very worthwhile discussions in what was, for some participants, their first face-to-face scholarly event.
Academic publishing presents a number of challenges, not least predicting when an article or book will finally be published. The tail end of 2022 brought a flurry of publications of Daithí’s research, some of which were a number of years in gestation. It was wonderful to see Jennifer O’Connor Madson, Laura Watson and Ita Beausang’s Women and Music in Ireland published in the Irish Musical Studies series. Daithí contributed a chapter on Josephine Keegan. Inspired by a meeting with Josephine by kind introduction of uilleann piper Tommie Fegan, Daithí presented a paper about Josephine at the Women in Music in Ireland conference in 2012. Her music has been almost ever-present since at DkIT where she was made an honorary member of the traditional music ensemble at a concert dedicated in her honour. The book presents a valuable and diverse overview of the contribution of women to various aspects and genres of music and adds to a rapidly growing body of literature in the area.
While Daithí has been working on and publishing about Siamsa Tíre for a number of years, the publication of the book Staged Folklore, The National Folk Theatre of Ireland 1968-1998 edited by Susan Motherway and John O’Connell is noteworthy. Daithí was delighted to contribute a chapter on tourism and touring, themes that are prominent in some of his previous presentations and publications. The end of 2022 also saw the publication of Forging the Dance, Pat Ahern’s own autobiographical text and Daithí was honoured to provide feedback on drafts of that work in advance of publication.
Two further journal articles shed light on two different aspects of Siamsa Tíre. In Musicultures, Daithí critically reflected on the experience of Fr Pat Ahern as an example of music in Ireland as religious and social practice. Tracing his education in Maynooth and Cork, his establishment of church choirs, composition of masses and production of liturgical pageants, the paper highlights an aspect of Ahern’s creative life that is sometimes overlooked in the shadow of Siamsa Tíre. For the International Journal for Traditional Arts, Daithí utilised his own experience of learning and performing in the Munnix dance style of North Kerry to analyse the development of the dance tradition by Siamsa Tíre.
Daithí also teamed up with collaborators on other projects. Another book chapter was a republication of earlier work with researchers in Birmingham on computer analysis of flute styles in Irish traditional music. Initially developed as part of an AHRC funded project, Daithí was delighted to be involved in a voluntary capacity – like so much research – for a period of time, but the work is being continued by some of the other researchers. Daithí also teamed up with Kevin Burns from DkIT to critically reflect on the use of public space for Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Drogheda. Published in an international collection themed on ‘festivals in the city’, the chapter reflects one aspect of a wider series of discussions and email exchanges Kevin and Daithí have shared and hopefully 2023 will see another element come to fruition, engaging more with concepts of tourism and place that are also evident in Daithí’s work on Siamsa Tíre.
Music and Place: Newcastle
The theme of music and place is evident in many of our reflections, particularly when reflecting on our travels abroad. Over the past number of months, Daithí had the experience of travelling to Newcastle on more than one occasion, as an external examiner at Newcastle University. Easily accessible from Co. Louth via Belfast Airport, Daithí availed of the opportunity of gaps in schedules to explore the city, encountering several references to its musical heritage, albeit without the opportunity to experience the live music scene or the wonderful venues of the city.
I came across several references to Charles Avison (1708-1770), described as ‘one of the most important English concerto composers of the 18th century’ who is buried in St Andrew’s Churchyard. After a period of time in London, where he was influenced by the Italian composer Francesco Geminiani (1687-1762) – the man said to have influenced ‘O’Carolan’s Concerto’ – he returned to Newcastle, which provided him a captive audience. His grave was relatively easy to find following directions from a plaque at the gate erected by the Charles Avison Society in 1994, and he was remembered with another plaque at the Assembly House, the venue for his first subscription concert in 1735.
The impressive architecture of the city spanned the centuries, from the old castle to the modern Gateshead venue. Here, amongst the local heroes remembered on inserts in the pavement, were the folk-rock band Lindisfarne.
Another visit allowed me to visit the gallery with the Annals of Lindisfarne. Nearby was another marker to the ‘beloved comedian, actor, musician and writer’ Brendan Healy, who produced the annual pantomime for the Tyne Theatre. Nearby on a wall was a blue plaque erected by Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council in 1995 to Daniel Defoe (1660-1731), author of Robinson Crusoe (1719), who lived in the area c.1706-1710. Crossing bridges, seeing the old and the new, it was impossible to escape from the artists who were an integral part of the city’s development. In my hurry I did not fall across the memorial to the 19th century fiddle player and composer James Hill at Bottleband in Gateshead but I hope to get there again. In the meantime, I might satisfy myself playing through Graham Dixon’s wonderful collection The Lads Like Beer and enjoy the challenge of Hill’s hornpipes.
2022 saw the first publications of Daithí’s poetry. The first poem accepted was ‘The Cock Pheasant’s Complaint’, which is included in Close Up: Poems on Cancer, Grief, Hope and Healing by Orchard Lea Press. He wrote it in the garden on a summer’s evening during COVID-19 and exemplifies the inspiration of our locality, which is also evident in four poems published in the Canadian journal Paddlers Press, ‘Hedgerows Hum’, ‘Our Roads’, ‘A Seaside Stroll’, and ‘Music All Around’. Five of Daithí’s poems loosely themed around Autumn were included in Arasi: ‘Autumnal Travellers’, ‘October’s Arrival’, ‘Canal Bank Walk With Children’, ‘Planting Bulbs’, and ‘Time’. This was followed by the publication of ‘Tír na nÓg’ and ‘Horses in the Gloaming’ in Patchwork Folklore Journal, for which Daithí drew on his interest in myth and folklore, which was nurtured through his participation in Siamsa Tíre. ‘Two for You’ similarly engages with superstition and belief and was published in Toil and Trouble’, while ‘The Handball Alley’ in Martello, laments the passing of time and the losing of traditions.
As well as writing poetry, Daithí has returned to reading poetry that he encountered during his undergraduate studies in the Department of English at UCC, as well as during his time as a teacher of English in Tipperary. TMP Magazine published ‘Tiger’, a poem influenced by William Blake, whom Daithí had studied at UCC and whose engravings we have encountered in exhibitions on our travels. Daithí also managed to view the Jack B Yeats exhibition in the National Gallery of Ireland, which inspired ‘Wandering with Jack’, published in Salamandar Ink. The boys were the inspiration for three poems published in Bubble Magazine under the titles ‘Certainty’, ‘Towards Tomorrow’, and ‘The Adventurer’.
Daithí has integrated poetry into his research methods and was delighted when he was invited to contribute to a new initiative by social anthropologist Dr Kayla Rush. His reflections on an image that remains after Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Drogheda, ‘Fleadh Fiddler’, is included on the Ethnographic Poetry website. He has a journal article that takes this approach a step further as he utilises poetry to grapple with themes that emerge from fieldwork.
We continued our involvement with the Oriel Traditional Orchestra and musical contributions to religious services in Dunleer, Louth and Tallanstown parishes over recent months. Adèle played and sang for the LMFM mass broadcast on 20 November from Tallanstown. Daithí was delighted to contribute some short articles to the Lann Léire Review, the parish newsletter for Dunleer, and Treoir, the periodical published by Comhaltas Ceoltórí Éireann. These were largely reflective pieces that reiterate the importance of music and participation, whether it is a traditional music ensemble or church choir.
Dixon, G. 2014. The Lads Like Beer. Mitchell Music.
Köküer, M., Ali-MacLachlan, I., Kearney, D., and Jančovič, P. 2022. Curating And Annotating A Collection Of Traditional Irish Flute Recordings To Facilitate Stylistic Analysis. Advances in Intangible Cultural Heritage. Scientific Research.
Kearney, D. 2022. ‘No Longer Second Fiddle: Josephine Keegan’ in Irish Musical Studies 13. Editors: Jennifer O’Connor Madson, Laura Watson and Ita Beausang. Boydell and Brewer.
Kearney, D. 2022. ‘Tourism, Touring and Staged Folklore’ inStaged Folklore, The National Folk Theatre of Ireland 1968-1998. Editors: Susan Motherway and John O’Connell. Cork: Cork University Press, pp. 27-45.
Kearney, D. and Burns, K. 2022. ‘Come Enjoy the Craic: Locating an Irish Traditional Music Festival in Drogheda’ in Festivals and the City: The Contested Geographies of Urban Events. Editors: Andrew Smith, Guy Osborn and Bernadette Quinn. London: University of Westminster Press, pp. 231-248.
Kearney, D. 2022. Music in Ireland as Religious and Social Practice: The Experience of Pat Ahern. Musicultures 49, 187-212.
Kearney, D. 2022. ‘“They must know me”: Embodied Intertextuality and the Reworking of Local Irish Dance Traditions by Siamsa Tíre’. International Journal for Traditional Arts 3, 1-20.
Kearney, D. 2022. ‘A Christmas Carol’. Lann Léire Review Winter 2022, 5.
Kearney, D. 2022. STEAMing up the Score. European School Education Platform, Expert Article. https://school-education.ec.europa.eu/en/insights/viewpoints/steaming-up-score, 17 November 2022.
Kearney, D. 2022. ‘The Magic of Participation’. Treoir 55 (3), 51.
Kearney, D. 2022. ‘A Community Harvest’. Lann Léire Review Autumn 2022, 26-27.
· The Cock Pheasant’s Complaint. Close Up: Poems on Cancer, Grief, Hope and Healing, Orchard Lea Press, 2022.
· Tír na nÓg, Horses in the Gloaming. Patchwork Folklore Journal (2022), 1: 12-13. https://patchworkfolklorejournal.wordpress.com/i-2/
· Tiger. TMP Magazine (2022) 2: 8.
· Certainty, Towards Tomorrow, The Adventurer. Bubble Magazine (2022), 1.
· Fleadh Fiddler, Ethnographic Poetry [website] (2022), https://ethnographicpoetry.com.
· Hedgerows Hum, Our Roads, A Seaside Stroll, Music All Around. Paddlers Press (2022) 5.
· Wandering with Jack. Salamandar Ink Issue (2022) 1. https://salamanderink.com/issues/issue-1/
· Autumnal Travellers, October’s Arrival, Canal Bank Walk With Children, Planting Bulbs, Time. Arasi (2022) 1, 48-50.
· Two for You. Toil and Trouble (2022) 1.
· The Handball Alley. Martello (2022).