Past Projects 3 - Sean-Nós Nua : 2007

Students engaged in the Sean-Nós Nua  project, with Bobby from the Nerve Centre, Derry
Stewartie and Conor having fun and mixing recordings at the Nerve Centre, Derry
Liam Ó Maonlaí, Dr. Lillis Ó Laoire and yound Island Sean-Nós Singers at the Féile Soilsí Toraigh concert.
Students from Pobail Scoil Colmcille who took part in Sean-Nós Nua
The cover of "Buille Bhalor", the Cd and Dvd produced by the students in association with the Nerve Centre, Derry
Dr. Lillis Ó Laoire conducting Sean-Nós workshop

Sean-nós Nua Project, 2007


Ceardlann na gCroisbhealach worked on a creative outreach project during 2006/07 with the 13 students currently attending the secondary school, Pobail Scoil Colmcille, Tory Island. Obviously, accessing such opportunities is very limited for these students due to their geographical location. ‘Pushing the creative boundaries’ and ‘initiating innovation’ has become the trade mark of the Ceardlann’s work in this arena and Sean-nós Nua is it latest production. The project has been funded by Ealaíne na Gaeltachta and the Arts Council of Ireland via the Ceardlann. The project Sean-nós Nua focused on contemporising established Sean-nós traditions using creative technology. However, the Ceardlann took great care to ensure that the island ‘way of life’, its traditions and art forms were not adversely affected as a result of any interaction.

Ethos behind Sean-nós Nua Project

The island has a rich reservoir of folklore and a distinctive, indeed unique, proud cultural heritage. Ceardlann na gCroisbhealach devised this project that would tap into and explore, in a contemporary way, the particularly rich cultural vein that is Sean-nós.

The traditional musical form, Sean-nós which means ‘Old way’, has particular expressions that are unique to certain areas throughout Ireland such as Connemara, Tory etc. The chain of transmission or ‘learning’ this art is of particular significance; it is literally passed on by children observing old performers – a ‘listening on the knee’. The setting, the audience and the ’moment’ are also key elements. It is a finely tuned and delicate cultural jewel. This fascinating art form still exists on Tory and performances can be savoured at its annual Sean-nós festival. This said, the majority of singers are either quite young or mature in years. It seems that it is not so trendy or appealing to the teenagers, particularly the males, but this is not to say that they may well rekindle a pride for it in the future.

Lillis O’Laoire, an authority on Sean-nós and author of ‘A Rock in the Middle of the Ocean: Songs and Singers from Tory Island’, has a long standing relationship with Tory Island. Lillis O’Laoire has been learning and recording Tory Sean-nós since 1987 and this work is thoroughly documented in his book. Over the period of a year, 2005/6 he visited both the national school, secondary school and members of the community continuing to document songs significant to the island as well as nurturing younger singers. The Ceardlann initiative Sean-nós Nua followed on from this work and part of its design was to provide the opportunity to allow teenagers to listen again to Sean-nós.

Multi-disciplinary Working, Painting and Music

The Tory School of painting began in the 1950’s when the artist Derek Hill, who was painting on Tory at the time, was challenged by islander James Dixon that he “could do better himself”. A strong school of painting has continued since this time with artists Patsy Dan Mac Ruaidhrí, Anton Meenan, Ruairi Rodgers and Michael Finbar Rodgers making up the present school. They maintain an island gallery and have exhibited nationally and internationally for many years. Given the prominence of visual art on the island the Ceardlann decided to begin the project at this point primarily to demonstrate to the students how all art is in some way connected.

Strand 1 of the project began in September 2006 with the Ceardlann presenting art workshops to all 13 students in their school which explored basic art theory. Trips to the Irish Museum of Modern Art and the Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin, were included in this section. The aims were to introduce the students to contemporary art and contemporary art practices, broaden their experience of creative expression and to begin developing each student’s own visual expression.

Strand 2 began after Xmas with a tour of the facilities at the Nerve Centre, Derry and a presentation of examples of work they have been involved with. A team of tutors from the Nerve Centre with skills in a range of creative technologies provided training to the young islanders in the techniques of sound recording and digital film-making. The students learned skills in sophisticated multimedia software such as ‘Garageband’ and ‘Protools’ and then went about sourcing and recording examples of Tory Sean-nós from members of their community. They then fed these recordings into their Apple Macs and mixed and re-configured them into a form that appealed to them; Hence, Sean-nós Nua - ‘The old way new’.

Over the years many visiting artists, anthropologists, ethnologists, musicians, botanists, folklorists and generally people interested in Tory’s culture uniqueness have ‘observed’, ‘discussed’, ‘written’ their take on Tory and the Ceardlann earnestly wishes to avoid this methodology. To encourage the students in their endeavours the Ceardlann devised a week-end festival to celebrate their project at which the students publicly presented their ‘new works’ as an extraordinary Dvd titled ‘Buille Bhalor’ on the opening night. All the main events included in this celebration were generated by the islanders themselves, apart from Liam O’Maonlaí and the Scottish band ‘Face the West’ who have been invited as a supportive gesture. The aim was to highlight Tory islands own creative expression.

This project was commissioned by An Gailearaí, assisted by Dr. Lillis Ó Laoire and The Nerve Centre, Derry and scripted and narrated by Dr. Lillis Ó Laoire