There was no December decrescendo as the roll over from November and the high of The Gap of the North to close the month was continued with another month of exciting musical activity, kicked off immediately by the visit of members of Ceolta Sí and Lár na Cruinne to Co. Louth.
Staying at An Grianán in Termonfeckin, Daithí facilitated a workshop there with them on the Friday evening, revisiting material from previous workshops and introducing some new material that may become part of the summer season of Seisiún performances, amongst other activities in 2018. That night, they performed for visitors to An Grianán. On Saturday the group teamed up with the Oriel Traditional Orchestra for a shared rehearsal before engaging in a tour of the facilities at Dundalk Institute of Technology, where some of them may go on to study.
Saturday 2 December witnessed the premiere performance of the Oriel Traditional Orchestra in St Brigid’s Church, Dunleer. Featuring some of the finest musical talents of the Oriel region of all ages, the Orchestra took pride in performing music associated with people and places around them. The visiting orchestra from Cork under the direction of Ciara and Aoife Butler complemented this well with a selection of music from and associated with people and places in Cork. They were also joined on stage by the Cúchulainn Strings, under the direction of Noreen McManus and the evening’s finale brought together nearly 80 musicians for a rousing set of jigs. The concert was preceded by an Advent carol service performed by the choir of St Brigid’s Church and the children’s choir from Philipstown and the group from Cork also provided some music for the mass in the church that evening.
Wednesday 6 December saw the second instalment of the Hear Our Voices concerts. Established in 2015, the concert celebrates the collaboration between RehabCare Dundalk and Dundalk Institute of Technology and is part of an ongoing research project in which Daithí is involved. Following the success of the project and concert in November 2015, Daithí and collaborator Sandy Sneddon presented a number of conference presentations highlighting the strengths, benefits and challenges of the programme which sought to integrate adults with intellectual disabilities into university life through engagement with a music programme and working collaboratively with third level music students to create songs. This year Paudie Breen came on board as we continued to develop the project and enlisted a new group of participants from both organisations. There is multifaceted learning on all sides as facilitators, lecturers, students and participants gain new perspectives and experiences that inform future development, careers and life.
The 2017 Hear Our Voices concert was particularly special as the theme chosen, Space for Everyone, was related to this year’s Global Science Opera. We first became aware of the GSO through our collaborations with the then Stord Haugesund University College, when Adèle undertook an Erasmus Teaching Mobility there in 2010. We both travelled there in 2013 as part of an Erasmus Intensive Programme on Creative and Aesthetic Learning. One of our colleagues on the programme was Oded Ben Horin, the driving force behind the science opera. Working with him again currently on another Erasmus funded project on STEAM education, we were delighted when he proposed that DkIT create a scene for the 2017 GSO, Moon Village. While the project at DkIT created seven new songs, one was chosen to be filmed and submitted for broadcast on 13 December, along with contributions from 27 countries around the world. The opera included streaming from the European Space Agency Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Holland which we visited in March – you can read all about it in our ‘Experience SPACE in Holland’ blog post.
Speaking of things international, we traveled to Dublin Castle in December to present at and participate in a joint HEA and QQI conference on internationalisation in Higher Education. We prepared two posters for the event. One focused on international performances by members of the Ceol Oirghialla Traditional Music Ensemble and the benefits that accrued for staff, students and the Institute. We have produced and performed with students in North and South America, Scotland and Norway over the past few years and believe that those involved have gained much from the experience. Many of these trips have involved partnerships with other education institutions or organisations, including two performances at the International Society for Music Education Conferences in Brazil (2014) and Scotland (2016).
Our second poster focused on the benefits of our international collaborations funded through Erasmus. Two significant projects have been the IP CREAL (2012-2014) which aimed to develop shared approaches to creative and aesthetic learning and for which we worked with colleagues and students in Dundalk, Stord (Norway) and Antwerp (Belgium). For our current programme Strategic Partnership: Agents for Change in Education (SPACE), we have added partners from Holland, Portugal and Wales, as well as the European Space Agency. We are currently preparing to return to Norway for a weeklong intensive programme that will seek to further develop our research outputs in the area of STEAM education that will, in time, become available to other educators internationally.
The conference in Dublin Castle was informative and allowed for a sharing of information between different institutions and stakeholders, creating space to make more people aware of what is going on and how this can be enhanced. It is clear that music allows for the development of internationalisation not only through performance but through developing interests in musical practices around the world. Ethnomusicology is a central facet of our teaching and research, not only introducing international audiences and students to Irish musical traditions and narratives but also engaging with the music of other cultures. This semester, Daithí has also collaborated with a colleague in a university in Pennsylvania and together they have explored and taught about the Irish song traditions drawing on perspectives from both sides of the Atlantic.
All of the focus on the day job has not prevented other musical activities. We were delighted to be part of a great session with members of the Oriel Traditional Orchestra in Byrne’s in Dundalk following their final pre-Christmas rehearsal. Daithí travelled down to Drogheda for the increasingly infamous session in the Grey Goose with Daragh Ó hÉiligh and friends.
We are busy preparing for Christmas masses with our choirs in Louth and Dunleer, while Adèle will also perform the musical celebrations in Tallanstown. 2018 promises to be full of more music and adventures and we are looking forward to more international engagements including Norway (February) and Scotland (January and July). Hopefully you can join us along the way but for now we would like to wish all of our friends and followers a very happy and peaceful Christmas and a prosperous and musical New Year.