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  • Writer's pictureDaithí and Adèle

Spring in our Steps

We may have slowed down in our blogging for 2021 and while it may reflect a slowdown in our travels and adventures, we have been delighted to be part of loads of local and virtual activities. We have been fortunate to benefit from ongoing and new collaborations and our research and musicking has been enriched by the wonderful network of friends, colleagues and students with whom we engage.

One of the most notable projects of the first quarter of the year has been the links developed with Professor Heather Sparling of Cape Breton University. Daithí and Heather were awarded a D'Arcy McGee Beacon Fellowship by the Ireland Canada Universities Federation. The Fellowship included an online public lecture and additional activities that will lead to further research links and collaborations between us, our institutions and communities into the future. The Fellowship is named after the Carlingford-born journalist and politician Thomas D’Arcy McGee, who is revered as a father of Canadian Confederation, so the Louth connection is very apt. As well as a public lecture, enjoyed by over 60 international attendees live in March, Heather facilitated events with the Oriel Traditional Orchestra and postgraduate students at DkIT and there are plenty of ideas to follow up on.

We have been working on a number of publications, independently and together in recent months and were delighted to see one reach publication in February in the All Ireland Journal of Higher Education. Reflecting on some of our international projects, particularly those involving students, motivated us to write about our belief of the importance of international opportunities and experiences in Higher Education. The restrictions on international travel due to COVID-19 has impacted on the ability of staff and students to participate in international conferences, Erasmus exchange and mobility programmes and other international activities that had been part of their Higher Education experience. In this paper, we critically reflect on two international activities that we were involved in with students and highlight how a number of benefits and experiences cannot be replicated in virtual contexts. To this end we draw from previous reflections by staff and students that formed part of a number of small research projects and presentations that resulted from international travel. This has informed the planning for and design of extra-curricular activities, as well as programme development in our institution. For music graduates seeking to develop a career in performance or engage in interdisciplinary teams, international experiences and cultural competencies prepare them for a career in the global industries. Despite the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on international travel this paper highlights the ongoing potential of international projects to impact positively on staff and students’ experience in Higher Education and we look forward to engaging again in international travel when restrictions allow.

In the meantime, we are delighted to be continuing our international collaborations and began working on two new Erasmus+ funded projects, AMIE and Next Step. With many familiar faces involved and a few new friends, we are looking forward to these projects developing over the next few years. AMIE explores the potential of mindfulness in early childhood education while Next Step continues our engagement with Creative Learning and STEAM philosophies. Working as part of international teams opens up fresh perspectives and pushes us to continue to re-evaluate what and how we teach, placing music at the centre of inter- and trans-disciplinary approaches to education.

While these international projects have broadened understandings of the importance and role of creativity in education, over the past few months we have also enjoyed the Creativity and the Creative Industries Seminar Series organised by the Creative Arts Research Centre at DkIT. Supported by the National Forum's 2019 SATLE funding, with thanks to the Centre for Learning and Teaching at DkIT the series included Jack Talty (Raelach Records), Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart (Cartoon Saloon), Ed Devane (sound artist), Ken McHugh (Left Hand Productions), Feilimí O’Connor (Táin Media) and Mary Hickson (37d03d Events). There was a lot of overlap in the messages and learning despite the breadth of disciplines spanning Irish traditional music, animation, sound art, storytelling, television, theatre and festivals and all of the facilitators engaged in stimulating conversations with the staff and students in attendance.

While our positions at DkIT require a lot of time and energy, we benefit greatly on many levels from our involvement with the Oriel Traditional Orchestra. Working with our colleague, Dr Philip McGuinness, we were delighted to submit an article for publication in a forthcoming journal on music and wellbeing. Daithí’s composition, The Oriel March, formed the soundtrack for a project with the Heritage Office at Louth County Council entitled ‘Performing Oriel’s Heritage’, which featured the musicians of the orchestra record virtually for a film featuring the beautiful landscape and rich built heritage of the region.

Another video project for the orchestra involved a new arrangement of the set dance, St Patrick’s Day, by Adèle and Daithí. Performed again by the orchestra, the video featured dancers from across the region including a number of local dance schools including the Corrigan-White School of Irish Dance, the Mc Gee School of Irish Dance, the Robinson School of Irish Dancing, Scoil Rince Cosceol, Scoil Rince Móna Ní Rudaigh, and the Fiona Harold School of Irish Dancing.

It’s not all work and no play and we thoroughly enjoyed a virtual social night with the orchestra that highlighted some of the very clever ways people can socialise virtually. While so much of the OTO activities are local and led by the members, we were delighted to welcome Niamh Magennis and Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh for singing workshops part funded by Seachtain na Gaeilge le Energia. We also began working with composer Dave Flynn for a project with the Féile Patrick Byrne Festival funded by the Arts Council of Ireland. As mentioned, we also welcomed Heather Sparling for a special evening about how/where/why traditional music is practised in Cape Breton, how it is maintained, and how it is transmitted. Members of the Oriel Traditional Orchestra considered how the Cape Breton example compares with their understanding of traditional music in their own community. We learned Brenda Stubbert’s Reel, a composition of the late Jerry Holland, in preparation for the evening and the event certainly sparked much interest in Cape Breton music and culture.

While the OTO are the focus of much of our musicking outside of our day jobs, we enjoy connecting with many other musicians and groups also. We were delighted when Tara Tine featured excerpts of The Oriel March in her vlog about the legends of St Brigid in Louth, while The Glas Quartet recorded Daithí’s composition ‘Finding My Way’ especially for St Patrick’s Day. Daithí also contributed to the Sea Shanty Project by local band Kern and we are looking forward to a new project, Songs of Lann Léire, led by the choir of St Brigid’s Church, Dunleer, and funded by Creative Ireland Louth.

There is much more to come in the months ahead. We will be presenting at the SMI/ICTM Virtual Conference (27-30 May) and the ACIS 2021 Virtual Conference (2-5 June 2021) on our research related to Irish dance and Siamsa Tíre, and the Siamsa Céilí Band. We look forward to publishing material on Charles Villiers Stanford, Josephine Keegan, the Fleadh, music ensembles and wellbeing in the coming months also and will keep you posted here. For now, we look forward to enjoying the longer evenings and continuing our adventures through music, texts and virtual communities.


Kearney, D. and Commins, A., 2021. The World is our Oyster: The Benefits of International Experiences in Higher Education. All Ireland Journal of Higher Education, 13(1).

DkIT. 2021. Beacon Fellowship for DkIT Lecture and Canadian Counterpart. 1 March.

DkIT. 2020. Exciting New European Collaboration at DkIT. 29 October.


Oriel Traditional Orchestra. 2021a. Performing Oriel’s Heritage, comp. Daithí Kearney.

Glas Quartet. 2021. Finding My Way, comp. Daithí Kearney.

Oriel Traditional Orchestra. 2021b. St Patrick’s Day, Arr. Adèle Commins and Daithí Kearney.

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