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Scoil Chríost Rí students Kadiaga Diallo and Ronan Gilmartin with music teacher Karen Vaughan & Cllr Mary Howard

GALLERY: Donations instrumental to school’s music programme

TRADITIONAL music frequently reverberates through Scoil Chríost Rí in Cloughleigh, with instruments that the school has received through an instrument appeal run by Councillor Mary Howard.

The latest haul was brought to the school last Friday morning and music teacher Karen Vaughan said that the instruments received over the years have made a huge difference, giving children access to music that they wouldn’t otherwise have had.

“It’s fantastic. Mary Howard set up an instrument donation scheme for us many years ago, on the back of a wonderful visit we had from the Phoenix Twinning Committee Band.

“They came from America on a visit, we had a band here and when the two came together something magic happened.

“Mary was here that day and she said will we set up an instrument donation scheme because there must be loads of instruments around the county not being used.

“Over the years I’ve been championing traditional music here in the school and I have got funding from many different agencies all over Clare to give us money to let the music happen here in the school, because the kids here would not normally have access to instruments here in Cloughleigh and they wouldn’t be going to music classes.”

Every year the store of instruments gets a bit stronger.

“We’re very fortunate to have Mary as a champion for music here in the school. She’d be advertising and canvassing for anyone who has instruments at home to dust them off if they’re not being used. It’s wonderful that every year Mary will arrive here with her treasure chest for us.”

Every child in the school gets to play an instrument, she said.

“In second class every child starts on the tin whistle. We have junior band for second class and third class on a Friday and they learn the whistle in the classroom so they understand beat, notes and scales and basic tunes. In third and fourth class they can choose any traditional instrument they want to play.”

She said there is a lot of rock music in the school, but Karen makes sure everyone is exposed to indigenous music also.

“We have 27 different nationalities in the school, but despite their backgrounds the vast majority were born here in Clare so I felt it was important they would know how to play a few tunes. One of the first tunes they learn is My Lovely Rose of Clare.”

The music has gone on to be a huge part of some past pupils’ lives.

“They go on and do music for Junior Cert and Leaving Cert and some of them have gone on to university to do music.

“These kids otherwise wouldn’t have played an instrument, they only get the music tuition here in the school. I think we only have one little girl who goes to private music classes.”

Reflecting on the start of the instrument donation scheme, Councillor Howard reminisced, “I said to Karen we’ll find some way of getting an instrument appeal going for second hand instruments, because nearly every house in Ireland has a fiddle or something under the stairs or on top of a wardrobe or under a bed.

“It was just to get those dusted off and brought in here, we have loads of people who will recondition the instruments for us.

“Over the last number of years a few hundred instruments have been donated. Mostly here to Scoil Chríost Rí, we’ve donated to the Youth Service, we’ve a piano gone into a nursing home, we’ve instruments gone up to Ukrainian people in Lisdoonvarna.”

She said that anyone with instruments can give them to her at any time and she said the scheme will be extended to Ennis Community College/Gaelcholáiste an Chláir, where many of the Scoil Chríost Rí kids go after sixth class.

“This year we’re starting to partner up with Ennis Community College, they will have instruments because they don’t currently. Whoever goes in there from here who had talent, they will have an instrument to play.”

Yvonne Walsh is Deputy Principal at Ennis Community College/Gaelcholáiste an Chláir and she is looking forward to the schools musical resources increasing.

“We are honoured to be included in Councillor Mary Howard’s musical instruments project and we’re delighted that Karen Vaughan is helping to extend it.”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.