March began in the snow and our adventures brought us to the home of one of the legendary Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460) who is often credited as the father of the Age of Discovery. As we embark on our travels, exploring, learning and disseminating our research, it is interesting to reflect on the various aspects of Henry’s legacy from the place where he was born and the impact on the music of Portugal and Brazil as we hear it today.
But before we reached the still cool city of Porto, we had to endure the unusually cold Irish spring and the snow. Being trapped inside by the weather for a few days allowed us an opportunity to do some desk research and work on some writing. With deadlines coming up for articles related to some of our longstanding research areas, the opportunity was welcomed and the snow-covered landscape proved somewhat inspiring.
March was also a busy month for performances. The traditional music concert at Dundalk Institute of Technology, Éirí na Gréine, took place in conjunction with the launch of the Irish language scheme. The following week, we were involved in an adaptation of the musical Finian’s Rainbow. In between we had rehearsals for the Oriel Traditional Orchestra. On the 16th March, Daithí performed in the 60th Anniversary Celebration concert for Craobh Dhún Dealgan CCÉ in the Táin Arts Centre.
Our trip to Porto began in the early hours of the morning. Flying from Belfast to Stansted and onto Porto, we stayed at the aptly designed and named Hotel da Musica. After landing we had a little time to walk around and grab some dinner. Luisa Caiano, director of the Curso de Música Silva Monteiro, collected us on our first morning to bring us to the beautiful old home that houses the music school. Founded by three sisters, the philosophy of the school centres on the homely atmosphere with family photographs decorating the space. We were delighted to perform for some of the teachers and facilitate a workshop on Irish traditional music.
That evening Porto-based Fadó singer and researcher Patricia Costa invited us to a performance by her at the Restaurante da Típíco Fadó. We were delighted to meet Patricia at the Pedagogies, Practices and the Future of Folk Music in Higher Education Conference hosted at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in January where we discussed our research in Ireland and Portugal. Accompanied by Paulo F. Carvalho and Samuel Cabral, we enjoyed stage side seats and an opportunity to observe at close hand the performers, with Patricia discussing some of the context and repertoire with us afterwards. Patricia is currently undertaking research on Fadó at the University of Aveiro.
The following day we were up early to join our colleagues back at the Curso de Música Silva Monteiro for an intensive day of review and planning in the presence of our external evaluator on the Erasmus+ Special Agents for Change in Education. As well as reviewing progress to date, including the excellent work produced by students during the recent intensive programme in Norway, we explored ways of developing new ideas further. After a short break, we continued our discussions and exploring future opportunities over dinner. After dinner, we went to a private music session at the Porto Guitarra shop. The shop has hosted numerous famous musicians over the years and has a wonderful collection of stringed instruments from Portuguese and Brazilian music.
The following day we collaborated on developing apps for use in classrooms that would engage teachers and pupils in STEAM education and planned an Intensive Programme to be held in Porto, followed by a conference on STEAM education. Afterwards, we had an opportunity to visit Casas da Musica with our colleague Oscar Rodriguez who often facilitates workshops in the state of the art building. Oscar told us of community music projects at the Casa involving homeless people in Porto in an orchestra and engaging local skateboarders who make full use of the area surrounding the Casa. That evening we returned to the Porto Guitarra where we had an opportunity to play with owner Agostinho Tico Rodrigues and musician and researcher Carlos Batista Júnior. Carlos, who had lived for a time in Ireland, is undertaking postgraduate research on the cavaquinho.
When we returned to Ireland, we headed for Galway where Adèle presented at the Notaí/Notes Music and Ireland Research Symposium in the Hardiman Building, NUI Galway. Adèle focused on the role of Charles Villiers Stanford in the development of the Feis Ceoil. Other papers gave consideration to the concept of the album in Irish traditional music, the development of the Oireachtas in the twentieth century, the philosophy of Thomas Davis, and the evolution of artwork for Irish traditional music albums.
The intensity of the month meant that we didn’t manage to fit in everything. We were particularly disappointed to miss the Patrick Byrne Festival, which included fantastic performances and workshops nearby in Carrickmacross. Over St Patrick’s Weekend, there was a traditional music festival in Newry and a taste of the Fleadh in Drogheda. We did contribute to music in Louth and Dunleer with our choirs. The richness of musical activity in the region reflects the eco-system that exists and the efforts being made to give life to our traditions.
We are looking forward to visiting Youghal with the Oriel Traditional Orchestra, enjoying the Michigan Irish Music Festival Initiative at the Spirit Store, and the Dublin Fleadh.