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Diarmuid de Faoite: “It wasn’t today nor yesterday that the people of County Clare fell in love with music and the county has a deserved reputation in the field of traditional music.”

Project finds store of Gaelic songs in Clare is far from empty

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AN exploration of the Gaelic songs of County Clare has unearthed 130 songs, with that figure continuing to grow.

The outcome of the project, carried out by actor, writer and director Diarmuid de Faoite titled Dúchas is Dóchas (Heritage and Hope), will be launched by the Clare Arts Office and The Irish Traditional Music Archive (ITMA) this Saturday in Cultúrlann Sweeney, Kilkee.

The work was done as part of the third Duala: Creator-in-Residence Scheme.

“It wasn’t today nor yesterday that the people of County Clare fell in love with music and the county has a deserved reputation in the field of traditional music,” said de Faoite.

“Despite this reputation, however, songs in Irish are rarely heard and even rarer still are songs in Irish from the county, save the ubiquitous ‘Beidh Aonach Amárach’,” he noted.

“Though the music has been preserved and enriched, our voice was lost quite suddenly and traumatically with the rapid loss of language” he added, posing the question; Is the store empty?

Through the Duala scheme de Faoite began to dig through the ITMA archives and was delighted to discover that not only have the songs not been lost, singers today continue to sing and compose wonderful songs in Irish.

The songs deal with every topic and come from all over the county, even from parts of the county where the language had died out well over a century and a half ago.

The richness of theme and style is vast: these songs are a storehouse of love, humour, politics, society, football, hurling, genealogy and, of course, sedition.

They are jewels through which it is hoped to inspire both singers and the communities and parishes they come from to deeper understandings of themselves and their heritage, not only as historical accounts of what was but as proud expressions of who they are now and into the future.

Siobhán Mulcahy, Clare County Arts Office stated, “The interrogation of such an important part of traditional singing in Clare by Diarmuid has brought great joy and interest, unearthing songs and stories of people and places.

“Building on our Traditional Singers in Residence Project, this work by Diarmuid further underlines our commitment to supporting traditional singing in the county whilst encouraging contemporary Irish language singers to compose new songs as gaeilge.”

Liam O’Connor, ITMA Director added that, “Willie Clancy believed that “the Irish language was the greatest music of all”.

His advice to young musicians was echoed by another great Clare musician Tony Mac Mahon who said: “My advice to the wonderful young players who are up and coming today, it to listen out for the love we all have in our arteries and in our bellies for the Irish language and to let that influence our music.”

“Eugene O’Curry, Brian Merriman and Micho Russell come to mind when imagining that liminal space between the Gaelic language and Clare’s rich living musical tradition.

“Diarmuid de Faoite has undertaken a hugely important body of work in Duala to “unearth” a canon of songs in the Irish language from Clare,” said O’Connor.

“He has made them easily accessible to the point that they can inspire a new generation of singers to breathe life into the Irish language songs of the “Banner” that are awaiting living voices.

“ITMA is proud to be working in partnership with the Clare Arts Office on another Duala Project.

“Diarmuid de Faoite’s work epitomises our belief that archival sources are best used to help us understand our past, benefit the living tradition and shape an even better future for our music, song and dance traditions.”

A selection of the songs discovered will be hosted on  www.clarearts.ie and www.itma.ie and the project launch takes place in Cultúrlann Sweeney, Kilkee at 8pm on May 28. Booking at www.clarearts.ie/events

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