While so many people have been missing out on live music, one of the advantages of how artists and communities have adapted to the times we are living in has been the ability to watch and listen to so many performances online. Many aspects of academia have also moved online and we have taken the opportunity to attend and participate in events that we may previously have not been able to engage in. All of this merely whets the appetite for future adventures but as we prepare for our trio to become a quartet, it has been great to engage from the living room.
Reflecting back on recent months, the year end is an opportune time to document our outputs. Since our last blog, which was dominated by conference presentations, we have been delighted to have further publications in the areas of music education and folk theatre.
With our colleague at Dundalk Institute of Technology, Dr Philip McGuinness, we published an article on the virtual activities of the Oriel Traditional Orchestra as a response to COVID-19 in the Journal of Music, Health and Wellbeing. There were many lessons learned and it was challenging but the orchestra continued on and strived to continue musicking in isolation. There was fantastic news in November when the OTO secretary, Uta Bean Uí hAlmhain received an award in Louth and was shortlisted nationally for her voluntary efforts that are so important to the orchestra. We recognize that the virtual experience did not replace the face-to-face activities and although we were not in a position to join in, it was wonderful to hear of the excitement and delight of members who returned to face-to-face in recent months.
The Oriel Traditional Orchestra reflects the immediacy of and connection between musical communities and their places. In a chapter for the book Musical Spaces, Daithí drew on research involving students from the DkIT Ceol Oirghialla Traditional Music Ensemble and stakeholders from the wider Irish traditional music community in the region to reflect on how regional identities are relevant in Higher Education. Prior to COVID-19, the Ensemble had performed at least two concerts a year that often drew on regional themes and celebrated musical heritage and musicians from Louth and surrounding counties. The programmes for these concerts can be accessed here: DkIT Ceol Oirghialla Traditional Music Ensemble (alouthlilt.com)
Daithí also published a further two papers on Siamsa Tíre. For Timbres of Identity, Daithí critically reflected on the connection with and representation of Kerry in the work of the company. He focused on three productions, namely Ding Dong Dederó (1991), Tearmann (2006) and Moriarty (2009). An important aspect of these performances is the Munnix style of dance, which is the subject of forthcoming publications. The book will soon be available as an e-book from Association of Ethnomusicology Publications and print requests can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the journal Confluenţe. Texts and Contexts Reloaded, Daithí drew comparison with the poetry of Séamus Heaney, focusing again on Ding Dong Dederó (1991), in addition to Fadó Fadó (1968) and Oileán (2003). Responding to the journal theme of solitude, the examples reflect themes of solitude and isolation, both in relation to individuals and communities, as well as the creativity, wisdom and understanding attributed to moments of isolation. In the poetry and theatrical productions, the characters of thatcher, blacksmith and musician are represented in relation to their craft, shown to draw inspiration from nature and their community, and are imbued with a mystical quality.
We also presented at a variety of conferences and events. We very much enjoyed the Society for Music Education in Ireland conference in November. Adèle focused on the activities of the Oriel Traditional Orchestra while Daithí reflected on a community project involving the parish choir and other musicians in Dunleer. Adèle’s paper furthered the research from the article in the Journal of Music, Health and Wellbeing, demonstrating the need for ongoing engagement to ensure that music education and community music continue to respond to changing circumstances and uncertainty. Daithí’s presentation similarly highlighted challenges for community musicians facilitating projects in a virtual space, but also highlighted how such projects contribute to local identities and satisfaction.
Daithí also contributed to a symposium on Music, Monuments, and Memory Symposium at The Centre for Death and Life Studies, Durham University, in November. Returning to elements of his PhD that focused on the Sliabh Luachra region, he incorporated new knowledge and understanding, benefitting from more recent scholarship by Verena Commins on related themes. Newcastle University hosted a one-day symposium entitled 'Access and Participation in Traditional Music in the Anglo-Irish World' with many excellent papers, including one by Daithí's PhD student Maurice Mullen. Daithí also enjoyed participating in a one-day symposium on developing a practice-based HE folk music network, again hosted by Newcastle University. In addition to thought-provoking presentations from some of our Scandinavian colleagues, there were excellent discussions with colleagues engaged in teaching traditional and folk music in institutions across Ireland, Scotland and England.
Networking and collaborating with international colleagues remains very important to us, as highlighted in our publication in the All Ireland Journal of Higher Education from the start of the year. We have continued to work on STEAM projects and were delighted to be part of the conference review committee for the international Next Step conference in December. Our colleague Bridget Kelly presented on behalf of the STEAM team at DkIT, critically reflecting on some of our activities with students at the Institute. Bridget and Daithí also led sessions with colleagues from Norway and Portugal as part of a Next Step workshop that sought to consider how we can steer education and pedagogy to be engaging and relevant in a changing world.
Interest in the music of Charles Villiers Stanford continued and Adèle continued to bring this to audiences beyond academia with a virtual talk to the Stanford Society in December. Continuing a focus on Stanford’s comic opera Shamus O’Brien, Adèle highlighted venues that had not previously been identified, members of the cast and the reception of productions in newspapers of the time. Although noted in her contribution to Imaginaires (2019), Adèle has uncovered much more information on productions of Shamus O’Brien on both sides of the Atlantic. Amongst forthcoming publications is an article on the uilleann pipers Patsy Touhey and Thomas Garoghan, who appeared in productions of the opera.
With the Christmas lights burning bright, we delight in continuing to shine a light on musical culture and look forward to further adventures in 2022. We hope you will come along with us and take the opportunity to wish everybody a peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Commins, A. 2021. A Charming Picture of Irish Life’: Shining a Light on Performances of Shamus O’Brien. The Stanford Society. December 2021.
Commins, A. 2021. How well did we survive? Reflections of a community orchestra emerging from COVID-19 related restrictions. Society for Music Education in Ireland Annual Conference. 6 November.
Commins, A., 2019. Watchmen on the Walls of Music Across the Atlantic: Reception of Charles Villiers Stanford and his Music in the American Press. Imaginaires, (22), pp.29-59.
Kearney, D. 2021. ‘Forging The Dance: The Expression of Regionality in Irish Folk Theatre’. In: Timbres of Identity: Ethnomusicological Approaches to Music-Dance and Identity. Ed. Özlem Doğuş Varli. Turkey: Association of Ethnomusicology, pp. 39-57.
Kearney, D. 2021. ‘Performing Local Music: Engaging with Regional Musical Identities Through Higher Education and Research’. In: Musical Spaces: Place, Performance, and Power. Ed. James Williams and Samuel Horlor. Jenny Stanford Publishing, pp. 85-114.
Kearney, D. 2021. A Need for Pied-Pipers?: Making Connections in Community Arts. Society for Music Education in Ireland Conference. 6 November.
Kearney, D. 2021. Constructing Sliabh Luachra Through Music, Monuments and Memory. Music, Monuments, and Memory Symposium, The Centre for Death and Life Studies, Durham University, 13 November.
Kearney, D. 2021. Port na bPucaí: Representations of solitude, isolation and otherworldly encounters in Irish poetry and folk theatre. Confluente.
Kearney, D., & Commins, A., 2021. ‘The World is our Oyster: The Benefits of International Experiences in Higher Education’. All Ireland Journal of Higher Education, 13(1).
Kearney, D., 2021. Creative Arts, Discovery and Empathy: Sharing Creativity and Exploration in Education. ETBI Journal of Education, 3(1), pp.27-32.
Kearney, D., Commins, A. and McGuinness, P., 2021. Virtual Musicking During COVID-19: Maintaining a Music Ensemble Community. Journal of Music, Health, and Wellbeing, 11.
Kelly, B., Kearney, D., Price, R. and Commins, A. 2021. Undergraduate STEAM internships: using interdisciplinary teams to develop creative ways to communicate science. The Next Step: STEAM Approach in Science Education, 6-8 December.
Mullen, M. 2021. Is there a place for the amateur player in Irish traditional music today?. Access and Participation in Traditional Music in the Anglo-Irish World. Newcastle University, 18 November.