‘I’ve travelled more of the world with the light of a penny candle than you have done in all your years of travelling’.
Eric Cross, The Tailor and Ansty, 1970, p. 58.
Our blogs are often dominated by our experiences of travelling. This past month will be regarded by many as the most surreal that they have experienced. Without notice, plans were changed, tragedy befell many people and we all are faced to adapting to new situations. While many took to social media to share their creativity, we took time to reassess and adapt. Working from home as a trio rather than a duet was a challenge as we sought to find new harmonies in life as well as music. Our schedules had included research-related trips to Denmark and Germany but these have been postponed. These opportunities will arise again and, in the meantime, we have another set of questions to address. We continue to travel through our research and the candle has not dimmed in shining a light into our understanding of the world.
March required many people to explore the virtual world in new ways, particularly in the sphere of education. Grappling not just with technology, we sought to give consideration to both learning outcomes and the creation of engaging material for students. This was a concern not only for formal education schools and systems but also for community and voluntary groups. While exploring the use of online space had been the focus of previous research, it took time to give consideration to the variety of platforms that people were exploring for online teaching of music ensembles. Daithí’s paper, ‘Capturing the Moment and Replaying the Tape: Developing Technology-Enhanced Strategies for Student Learning and Engagement in Music Performance at Third Level’ (2017), considered a blended approach but this still required classroom contact for success. Having previously taught online for the MA Traditional Music Studies at DkIT, the ability to deliver lecture and tutorial content was perhaps more straightforward, although challenged by poor broadband services in the area, and student engagement was excellent.
Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann were also adapting systems and various branches around the country were implementing new practices to address the situation. Craobh Eochaille CCÉ returned to a tunebook that Daithí had compiled in 2008, Seinn Port, as a starting point for an online system. Utilizing recordings made by Daithí while based at Brú na Sí, this was augmented by recordings from other teachers and tunes selected by Sinéad Mansfield, all compiled and put online by their secretary Janice O’Leary. The initial three levels acted as a pilot scheme to assess engagement. A subcommittee continued to review the system and explore options for development. Craobh Droichead Átha compiled video recordings of tunes from their tune book by their teachers to share with members, providing an opportunity to continue to engage with learning and also to experience the tunes played on a variety of instruments.
The relationship between Sir Charles Villiers Stanford and Joseph Joachim was the focus of Adèle’s research and we all enjoyed listening to string quartets. A conference had been organized in the German city of Karlsruhe by Joachin scholar Katharina Uhde. While the conference did not go ahead, we enjoyed listening to music by both Joachim and Stanford as Adèle examined scores and developed her research. Letters from Stanford to Joachim communicate Stanford’s admiration for a man he considered a mentor, including requests for help relating to his teaching. Stanford dedicated his String Quartet no.5 to Joachim in response to the latter’s death in 1907. Stanford first met Joachim as a young boy growing up as part of a vibrant music scene in Dublin and Joachim became a significant influence on the Irish-born composer. Joachim was a frequent exponent of Stanford’s music and they both shared similar views on composition in the late nineteenth century.
While developing online teaching resources was the main focus of Daithí’s activities, he also collaborated with our good friend Tico who owns Porto Guitarra. We have been very fortunate to visit the beautiful city of Porto for conferences, performances and Erasmus+ projects and have made many great friends there. Fado singer Patricia Costa introduced us to Tico and his wonderful shop. We have enjoyed touring the Casa de Musica with our friends from Curso de Musica Silva Monteiro. Even in lockdown, Adèle has been in communication with our colleagues there about future projects, engaging in international meetings – while the lockdown has pushed many people online, for these projects, online meetings and work practices had already been the norm.
Daithí was looking forward to visiting both Aarhus University and Business Academy Aarhus. Aarhus University has a fine campus and a range of programme that parallels well with our Department and Research Centre at DkIT. Daithí was looking forward to meeting researchers and engaging in both a lecture recital and leading a seminar on music and culture. The BAA has an interesting range of programmes and it was particularly interesting to compare the systems of education in the two countries. For now, collaborations are restricted to virtual engagement but there is much we can do together without travelling.
Although physically isolated, we remained in constant contact with our postgraduate students. Their studies include an evaluation of Music Generation Louth, female musicians in Donegal, female performers of Irish country music, Irish traditional music in north Co. Dublin, and music production aesthetics in albums by The Corrs. Undergraduate research projects have also pushed us into critically considering the use of social media and folklore on film. All of these projects require us to develop our knowledge of current literature, approaches to research and new ideas in musicology, ethnomusicology and cultural studies. Our students challenge us to remain current and, in turn, inspire us to continue our research.
We missed participating in the Easter ceremonies with our choirs and meeting with the Oriel Traditional Orchestra but we look forward to singing and playing together again soon. It was nice to see The Dance of Life again, streamed for Easter by St John’s Parish in Tralee. It is twenty years since this enormous production directed by Fr Pat Ahern filled the Green Glens Arena in Milstreet with performers drawn from throughout the Diocese of Kerry. It was a momentous achievement and, like the story it portrays, has stood the test of time, even in its transformation from a live event to a televised experience.
While we may not be travelling far from our doorstep in the short term, we can draw on the wisdom of the Tailor:
‘People travel much oftener and much farther and know less. They go journeys too quickly, and see and hear nothing. They are mad to be where they are not. They neither learn anything at home nor on their journeys.
The old people stayed at home and journeyed round their own doorsteps, until they came to know their own place thoroughly. If a man knows his own doorstep well, he knows a deal about the world already.’
Eric Cross, The Tailor and Ansty, 1970, p. 88
Commins, Adèle (forthcoming). From Autograph to String Quartet: The Relationship Between Joseph Joachim and Charles Villiers Stanford.
Cross, Eric (1970). The Tailor and Ansty. Mercier Press Ltd.
Kearney, Daithí (2008) Seinn Port 112 Great Session Tunes. Cork: Craobh Eochaille CCÉ.
Kearney, Daithi (2017). "Capturing the Moment and Replaying the Tape: Developing Technology-Enhanced Strategies for Student Learning and Engagement in Music Performance at Third Level" in Maguire, Moira, Nuala Harding, Gina Noonan, and Tamara O'Connor Teachers as learners: Exploring the impact of accredited professional development on learning and assessment in Irish higher education pp. 48-57.
Uhde, Katharina (2018). The Music of Joseph Joachim. Boydell and Brewer.