TOPAZ Issue 8 / 2003
Welcome
A Musical Tribute
Understanding Competition
The Template of Sacred Architecture
Helping hand for ADHD children
Brief history of humour
More about Humour
How to watch films
Shakespeare’s Private Theatre
A Day in the Theatre of Life

The Essence of Ireland - A Musical Tribute

One thing we all share is that we are born to a place, and no matter what nationality a person is, the place where we grow up or live seems to have a way of marking us. For example, the way of an Irish person is quite different to that of a German person, or a French person to an English person and so on. These characteristics are quite distinctive as if the land imbues us with a resident tune which we cannot help but dance to, often without really being aware of it. And it doesn't just stop there either, as evidenced by the great theatre of expression which turns up in local heraldry, tradition, costume, music and dance - all of which comes together to weave the rich tableau we call our heritage.

But the picture this paints can tell even a deeper story. 'Each country has its traditional music that connects to its heritage, shared values and nature of the land from which it springs'. note 1 Much can be revealed about the land and its people from its music as, for example, can be seen in the dual nature of Irish music which expresses itself in either a 'pixilated' or a 'longing' way. The pixilated nature is found in the silver quick, bright and intoxicating music which ignites like fire in the jigs, hornpipes and reels, and which in behaviour expresses itself in a quick wit, the love of stories and jokes, the readiness to have the 'craic' and the willingness to be lost to the contagion of it all.

By contrast the 'longing' nature has its home in the evocative slow airs and songs that have the power to enchant into other worlds and that give rise to deep unknown feelings which form up like mist, quiet and still over a midnight lake, touched by hauntings of other things and the sense of great unseen mysteries in the nearby. It is often in special moments like this where one can be moved to reflect on the fundamental nature or 'essence' of life, that spring of well-being which brings home afresh what one holds dear and causes a quiet contemplation on the qualities, meaning and natural richness of life one would wish to have and uphold.

It is in relation to this that something quite unusual seems to be happening in Ireland. In recent times, I have noticed how more and more people are talking about how the Irish way of life is changing and this has become quite a phenomenon in the last two years, with similar concerns turning up repeatedly in one conversation after another. To give a sense of this, here follow some extracts from a recitation note 2 written in an effort to catch what is being said:

'Sure it's gone', 'We're losing it', 'Not much left now', they say of the simple values of yesterday, the spirit and magic of life; laying the blame on changing times, the rise of the Celtic Tiger and the lure of the Euro and cent'.

What is it that speaks so - that I should meet it in the home, the workplace, in the restaurants or the local shop? Whatever it is, it seems to be moving through people from all walks of life and carries with it the feeling of a rising disquiet, a concern shadowed by the sense of an unhappy resignation... Is it the voice of a nation recovering its wisdom after its first and dizzy rush of money after centuries of none? Or is it the cry of a land speaking out through its people, urgent for its future and theirs?

And what to think about this, how to respond? For if we say we are losing our humanity and the essence of life, will we 'become what we think' and so unwittingly become a self-fulfilling prophecy? It is a matter of some concern - for who would willingly say yes to a lesser nation?

The danger of becoming a 'self-fulfilling prophecy' stood out because in all that was said, not one conversation expressed a hope of things becoming better in the future. So when we in the Template Foundation, Ireland, decided to hold a concert in aid of local charity (Teach Tearmainn Women's Refuge Project in Co. Kildare) it was a great opportunity to respond, and what better than to dedicate the event towards paying tribute to what we love and wish to see more of in the ways and essence of this lovely island.

So with this in mind, the concert called 'The Essence of Ireland - A Musical Celebration' took place in the Moat Theatre, Naas, Co. Kildare on a magical mid-summer's night in June and it was indeed a rich and atmospheric tribute to the natural richness and essence of Ireland. With over 23 people volunteering to play at the concert, it was very inspiring to see how people all over Europe and not only in Ireland responded to the sentiment of the event. It brought together in spirited celebration of the 'Irish essence' a rich table of plenty with fiddlers, flute and whistle players, guitar and mandolin players, a harpist and a piper, singers and story tellers. This included Irish artists from the Template Foundation, musicians from the 'World Mosaic of Sound' network coming from Wales, England, Denmark and Holland along with guest musicians from the locality, who together delighted the audience with a lively selection of lilting songs, jigs, reels and hornpipes, haunting favourites such as 'The Lonesome Boatman', 'My Lagan Love', 'Mná na hEireann', music from other Celtic countries along with other new and original pieces; and of course in good old Irish fashion, some jokes, story telling and recitations as well! It was a lovely, magical and homely night where even those who were not Irish were happy to be 'Irish'.

In its own way, the concert was a small effort towards honouring the nature and character of a land, its people, its life and its magic, to pay tribute to what is good with the wish for things to be better in the future and for those yet to come.

Extract from recitation:

...'Such simple wisdoms though easy to forget, to uphold the best in ourselves, each other and the land where we live, and to carry that forward leaving behind the rest. Making space for the future and for that great something new, for the life that gives back, inspires and uplifts. Sure it's a challenge fit for a nation and each one of us at that!'

Órla Ní Chéileachair

For more information, contact the Template Foundation, Ireland (Ltd) at Scratham View, Moone, Co. Kildare, Ireland. Tel. +353 (0) 507 24981. Fax. +353 (0) 45 881 945.
For more information on the World Mosaic of Sound, visit www.worldmosaic.org

note 1 Nick Woodeson, 'World Mosaic of Sound', Topaz 2/2001. ^
note 2 An oral presentation called the 'The Great Untold Story' written by the author for 'The Essence of Ireland' concert. ^

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