Submersing yourself in a culture’s music and you will find the heart of any tradition writes Dr Trudy Prescott
If you want to understand a culture, immerse yourself in its music. Music is integral to Irish expression, hands down traditions, and is a widely respected, inclusive, affirmative form of cultural expression.
Ireland welcomes not just those who excel but also those who participate and contribute to musical expressions.
On Wednesday evening 25 September, guitarist, singer, harmonica player and fiddler (among other mastered instruments) Seamie O’Dowd launched his new solo album Live at the Hawk’s Well.
His performance included tracks which testify to his extraordinary versatility across music genres: Rocket to the Moon, Hard Hat, and At the Edge of the World were interspersed with a traditional fiddle set and 19th century English love song The Foggy Dew.
He was joined by songwriter, singer, and guitarist Tony Reidy (Hard Hat) who appealed to the audience to take back music from the Simon Cowells of this world and to participate in music making, whatever their level of accomplishment.
Together O’Dowd’s and Riedy’s renditions of Breeze on Your Face and If this is Progress were truly inspirational.
Bridging the generations, O’Dowd was joined by his sons Rory and Stephen whose singing, guitar and mandolin playing testify to the younger generation taking up the inherited mantle, just as O’Dowd did from his musical family.
O’Dowd also paid tribute to the musicians who had passed this year, saying they will not be forgotten but embedded in other players’ musical interpretations.
Bridging styles yet further, O’Dowd and sons were joined by the acclaimed bohdrán player John Joe Kelly and jazz pianist Kieran Quinn for to an enthralling, joyful climax.
That same week two other initiatives were launched in Hawk’s Well, part of a larger effort, Creative Counties involving (Leitrim, Longford, Sligo and Roscommon.
Both Sides of the Lough brings Hawk’s Well in County Sligo together with The Dock multi-disciplinary centre in Carrick-on-Shannon in County Leitrim to commission and produce a music project led by Sligo-based harpist and composer Michael Rooney and Sligo violinist Niamh Crowley, founder of the Sligo Academy of Music.
Workshops in Sligo and Leitrim will bring two groups of youth traditional musicians together with master musicians to work on the newly commissioned work by Rooney.
A community orchestra in Sligo will be joined by Leitrim players while two chamber groups will also explore Rooney’s work.
Youthful contributors in these initiatives include multi-awarded musicians Conal McDonagh (flute), Sinéad Johnston (banjo) and Ryan Sheridan (accordion, guitar, dancer, and bodhrán player) who together featured in the Sligo Culture night and ‘trad after work’ event at the Hawks’ Well on 20 September.
These endeavours will culminate in two performances, one at Hawk’s Well (17 November) and a second at the Dock (27 November).
This is just part of the vibrant and innovative musical scene in north west Ireland which brings musicians of all ages and styles together, bridging boundaries seek to enrich mutually and uplift creatively participants, both performers and attenders.
Hawk’s Well Theatre is contributing to the binding people together, bridging perceived boundaries and manifesting the spirit of enterprise which are intended to build a bright future for the local economy.