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Tulla Comhaltas Members Stay In Tune Despite Crisis

TULLA Comhaltas are making sure younger members stay in tune, while their regular music lessons and band practice sessions remain suspended as the Covid-19 crisis continues.

The organisation, which has up to 100 members in the under-18 age category, has been inviting its junior musicians to record performances in their homes and share them on the Tulla Comhaltas Facebook page. The activity has proven hugely popular with audiences worldwide and has been instrumental in keeping young musicians busy and learning while the lock-down continues.

The initiative is the brain-child of Youth Officer Aisling Hunt, who, up to the advent of the crisis, had been busy training junior members for Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, the All-Ireland Fleadh.

“At the moment, there are no individual lessons going on, no group practices and no sessions,” she explained. “We don’t know if or when the Fleadh will take place. That was scheduled for August in Mullingar, but it’s now postponed. Our young members had been really busy practising and we wanted to make sure that they’re still getting a chance to play. We have U-12, U-15 and U-18 age categories, with up to 30 or more in each. They’re off school and, obviously, they’re not able to get to their lessons and practice sessions, so lots of them are really missing those. We have quite a few family groups, so they have the opportunity to play together, but other members won’t have that chance. We’re encouraging them now to perform a few pieces and share them, so that’s a way of getting them busy with their music and motivated to keep practising.”

Twenty-four year-old Aisling, who plays the button accordion herself, came up through the ranks of Tulla Comhaltas and is delighted now to be giving something back to the organisation.

“I have a U-18 céilí band that I would normally be training in my own house,” she explained. “Other friends of mine who would also have come up through Tulla Comhaltas are also involved and there are three U-18 bands in total. At least, by performing on Facebook, they have an outlet.”

Aisling noted that the online performances have also been very well-received by audiences who are missing out on regular musical gatherings because of the Coronavirus restrictions.

“In a way, these are virtual concerts people can watch on Facebook. That’s great because for everyone who loves music, there’s nowhere to go to hear it. All of the regular gatherings are cancelled. So, we’ve had messages of support from as far away as Boston and Australia.”

The response from Tulla Comhaltas members has been building too with young musicians overcoming their initial shyness, Aisling said. “They’ve been coming in gradually and we’re posting one a day on Facebook. My sister and myself put up pieces over the weekend and that’s encouraged more members to do the same and not to be shy. We’ll keep things going as long as it takes because it’s a really positive way for the kids to learn and keep busy.”

The initiative is also a way to cope with the uncertainty over the Fleadh schedule and to keep Tulla Comhaltas members – who hail from as far afield as West Clare – up-to-date with their practice. “For now, the All-Ireland is postponed, with the possibility it might happen in October, but we really don’t know at this stage,’ Aisling said. “As regards the County Fleadh, that was scheduled for June in Lisdoonvarna, and is actually one of the later county events, lots of them were scheduled for April and May, that still depends on the lifting of restrictions, whenever that happens.”

In the meantime, Tulla Comhaltas is encouraging members to send their performances to Aisling on WhatsApp or via the Facebook page.

About Fiona McGarry

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Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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