The speed at which the days come around means that we can’t always get to everything that is marked in the diary but October still had a few treats for us, with a few new beginnings.
The highlight of this month was undoubtedly Adèle’s trip to Zagreb in Croatia where she presented about the Irish-born composer Charles Villiers Stanford. The 13th International Musicological Conferences was entitled ‘The Great War (1914-1918) and Music: Compositional Strategies, Performing Practices, and Social Impacts’. Organised by the Croatian Musicological Society, Croatian Institute for History, and the Department for History of Croatian Musics of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, the venues for the conference highlighted the beauty of the city of Zagreb and its wonderful history. Ireland was well represented amongst the international panels with Professor Fiona Palmer, Professor Harry White, and Shane McMahon also presenting.
For this conference, Adèle examined a number of Stanford’s compositions from the period of the First World War, which included dedications to soldiers and others affected by the war. Moving beyond these compositions, a consideration of Stanford’s correspondence and personal life also highlights the impact of the war on musicians and composers in Britain at this time. While Adèle focused on musical life in Britain at this time, other papers provided examples from Armenia, Czech, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, Serbia, the USA and Croatia, highlighting the significant impact of war on musical life in many places. Commonalities can provide shared perspectives and greater understanding of different musical traditions, styles and musical activities. Although in the twilight of his career, it is clear that this period of Stanford’s musical life and his contribution to music at this time through compositions and advocating for music, is worthy of study and consideration and can inform a more complete understanding of Stanford’s contribution to music in Britain.
Back at home, there was another great 'Music at the Gate' session in Drogheda on the 7 October led by the wonderful Darragh Ó hÉilligh. The crowd seems to be growing at the atmosphere was fantastic. The recently closed Laurence’s Gate was built in the thirteenth century and with the recent closure of the gate to traffic, it provides an amazing backdrop for events such as this. There was a great gathering of musicians, singers and dances of all ages.
The Comhaltas tour of Ireland visited Dundalk Gaol on 12 October. It was a lovely evening of high-class music in this very atmospheric venue. The excitement on the night was further strengthened by the presence of Tadhg Mulligan on fiddle and bouzouki in the touring party. It was also nice to meet old friends and chat – it has been some time since Daithí first saw Máirtín Ó Cathasaigh take his first steps on the Siamsa stage. Others were met at fleadhanna and workshops. All were led by the inimitable Dick Beamish who had been an insightful voice at the Abair Trad event in Youghal back in June.
It is always great to be involved in the community and groups such as Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éíreann, Scoraíocht Lann Léire and various church choirs. This month we began our roles with the Oriel Traditional Orchestra, under the direction of Noreen McManus. Following auditions, our numbers settled at sixty performers of all ages. In our first rehearsals we worked on arrangements of ‘The Job of Journeywork’, which was often played by the Siamsa Céilí Band, and our polkas that make up the first track on the A Louth Lilt album. The sound was fantastic and we were delighted to travel to Carrickmacross Workshouse for our first rehearsal, followed by Dundalk Institute of Technology. Next stop Mullahgbawn in County Armagh!
Performances during the month took us to Dublin with some students where they performed for the 10th European Congress on Violence in Clinical Psychiatry. They performed for a Civic Reception in the Mansion House on the Thursday night before Daithí led a session and céilí back at the conference hotel. The following night they brought the wonderful surroundings of Clontarf Castle to life to the delight of the delegates.
Samhain, the Celtic festival marking the transition between summer and winter that is now celebrated as Halloween, was marked this year by a special issue of Estudios Irlandeses, the journal of the Spanish Association for Irish Studies. Informed by the concept of the second life of folklore, the articles in the issue were inspired by the work presented at the interdisciplinary conference entitled “New Crops, Old Fields – (Re)imagining Irish Folklore 2”, held in Belfast in June 2016. For the conference, and again in an article for this publication, Daithí focused on the production of Oiléan by Siamsa Tíre – “a commemorative piece of ‘folk theatre’ that loosely narrates the stories and traditions of the Blasket Islands through music, song and dance rather than ‘spoken dialogue’”. Oileán brings the past and present together in a manner that is meaningful for both local and international audiences.
So as we move from ‘summer’ to ‘winter’ we look forward to new adventures, continued challenges and exciting opportunities. Join us on our journey.