Todays Photo Album

I have been wandering around making photographs this morning in between reading artists statements, getting people into their printing phase, organizing a million little details, putting out fires and miscellaneous other tasks. All good.

Here are a few images that might help provide a sense of this place and what this program is about. Time, Space, and Inspiration!

Matthew Allen:  My colleague, friend and partner on this adventure.

Matthew Allen: My colleague, friend and partner on this adventure.

Julia Long.  Our main contact at the BCA.  Thank you Julia for all of your help with logistics, and for your friendship.

Julia Long. Our main contact at the BCA. Thank you Julia for all of your help with logistics, and for your friendship.

Finbar!  One happy rooster with 3 ladies to keep him company.

Finbar! One happy rooster with 3 ladies to keep him company.

Margaret Robe.  Super talent.  Absolutely loves having her picture taken.

Margaret Robe. Super talent. Absolutely loves having her picture taken.

Elise Waelder putting the finishing touches on her prints.

Elise Waelder putting the finishing touches on her prints.

Liam Grace-Flood and Jack Brotherton at the computer in a printing session.

Liam Grace-Flood and Jack Brotherton at the computer in a printing session.

Karl Rivera working on his concept statement and tweaking images.

Karl Rivera working on his concept statement and tweaking images.

This picture is special.  Anne (l) and Martina.  These people cook run the Cafe.  Outstanding food and they contribute so much to the spirit of this place.  Thank you!

This picture is special. Anne (l) and Martina. These people cook run the Cafe. Outstanding food and they contribute so much to the spirit of this place. Thank you!

Morgan Johnson.  Outstanding musician and songwriter.

Morgan Johnson. Outstanding musician and songwriter.

lunch with our feathered friends.

lunch with our feathered friends.

The main gallery at the BCA currently featuring the work of Richard Hearns.

The main gallery at the BCA currently featuring the work of Richard Hearns.

Music students working out the last details of original compositions and collaborations.

Music students working out the last details of original compositions and collaborations.

More later folks. Pictures and commentary about our exhibition, final performances and closing ceremonies.

Update from the Burren

Updates from the Burren

On the weather front: clouds, rain, sun, repeat.

We are in “crunch time.” Our closing exhibition is this coming Friday, July 3rd at 1800 hours. The title of our exhibition is “Erratics.” I’m sure that most of you know that an erratic is a large (or small) stone/boulder that has been transported from its natural home to another place via glaciers during the ice age. As the ice melted these boulders were deposited in their new home. The Burren is littered with erratics and for some of us there is a parallel between the relocated stone and 15 relocated students.

Today, July 1st, was a hectic day of trying to complete projects, write artist’s statements, preparing the exhibition space, paint, print, and polish. Studio spaces are in the process of being converted to exhibition spaces, posters are being distributed throughout the area advertising the opening, and everyone has become part of a collaborative effort to finish up successfully. We have one more full day to pull all of this together before artist’s materials, cameras, and artwork are prepared for travel.

We have a tradition that students will prepare a meal for all to enjoy at least once prior to departure. Students are living in three separate houses, each with its own kitchen. Each house is preparing one part of the meal in their kitchen and then everything will end up at one house for dinner. Matthew took a representative from each house shopping this morning for ingredients. Not exactly sure how this will turn out but it has been pretty successful in the past. [update on the update!] The meal was amazing: steak, root vegetables, quinoa cakes wrapped in bacon, mac and cheese, salad, pasta, and ice cream and more.

After dinner, everyone is getting together at O’Lochlan’s Pub where a faculty member from Johns Hopkins will be playing his harmonica and our students will be performing with their instruments and singing. When you think “harmonica” please don’t envision sitting around a campfire with that soulful “home, home on the range” playing in the background. This guy can play and our students match him step for step in the vocal and instrumental department. A great way to blow off a little steam in the midst of controlled chaos.

I will be posting plenty of photographs in the next day or so. Images to look forward to will be: photos of the houses where our students have been staying, our dinner together, preparation of the studio spaces for the exhibition, our opening, musical performances and miscellaneous images that will help you visualize what this experience has been like for our students.

I will also be posting my “Farewell to Ballyvaughan” as my time at the Burren College of Art will end with this Arts In Ireland 4 group. Time to pass the torch.

Ode To The Music Students of “Arts In Ireland”

Our music students pose for a photograph inside the 4th floor of Newtown Castle.  The castle is their rehearsal space.

L to R: Drew, Nesli, Mir, Sophia and Morgan

It’s a brilliant sunny Tuesday 7am on the final week of the class. We’ve got four days now to wrap it up. At the outset: the stellar weather demands a brief mention as more than a bit player in this creative drama of ours. In Ireland one doesn’t need for there to be sunny cloudless skies in order to move about, appreciate the country, do one’s work, or meet people. One just needs not to be subjected to constant deluge à la Noah. So – the great weather we’ve had, which once again appears to be continuing today as I sit here comfortably in a short sleeve linen shirt, has been a great help to us in our work. While the weather can be counted as a contributing factor to the truly substantial progress you musician-composers are making during this trip, it doesn’t begin to explain the variety and depth of musical composition you’ve undertaken, nor the degree to which you have been collaborating with each other both in general as supportive friends, and in specific terms as creative artists – co-authoring and arranging music, and serving as support performers for each other’s final presentations this Friday evening. Yesterday morning in our beginning-of-week meeting I sprung on you the request to devote 20% or so of your remaining creative energy this week to working on one additional new composition, perhaps something quite different from what you’ve been doing already. I saw the raised eyebrows. I know – you’ve already all generated a substantial body of work. Asking for more at this time, when you’ve deeply probed new sides of your musical personalities and challenged yourselves to write in new forms for new groupings of instruments, is audacious on my part. And asking you to do this when you’re deep into polishing and preparing your newly-composed works for this Friday’s opening, doubly so. But you all have shown you’re perfectly capable of coming up with new work in this environment. Several of you have told me how this trip has allowed you to go further than ever before, in an undistracted fashion, in the pursuit of who you are as musicians and composers. That’s just what my colleague Andy and I hoped for when we set up the class – to provide you a clear quiet open workspace, a selection of suggestive stimuli (cultural historical geographical botanical and etc ), and to challenge you to charge into that space with your ideas and dreams.

Music, Music, Music!

P.J. Curtis and the Howley Sisters This past weekend was chock full of music in the Burren. On Friday evening June 26th, Burren resident and music producer/novelist/poet/environmental activist/ radio personality PJ Curtis came and gave us a lecture on Irish instrumental music.

P.J. Curtis

P.J. Curtis

PJ produced records by the the most important Irish bands of the 1970s and 80s, groups such as Planxty and The Bothy Band, and for a long time hosted a national radio show on Irish (and other forms of) music. He demonstrated for us the important instruments used in Irish traditional music, the fiddle, concertina, whistle, accordion, and concert flute, above all stressing the unique importance of the Irish uilleann ‘elbow’ pipes. The sound of the Irish pipes is produced by pumping air into the bellows with a leather sack held underneath the elbow, unlike the Scottish bagpipes and most other pipes, which depend on the player blowing with the mouth into a tube of some kind. PJ discussed how for many Irish listeners, the pipes are the most expressive instrument, carrying the deepest cultural meaning and power. And he stressed the importance of musical families in preserving Irish communities through challenges ranging from historical adversity to bad weather. The next evening, Saturday the 27th, we met one of our area’s most important musical families. We were once again in the Burren College of Art lecture hall where the Howley Sisters from Kilfenora, Tara and Emer, entertained us on a wide range of instruments. Twenty-year old uilleann piper Tara Howley has just released her first CD and is receiving great acclaim for her mature and powerful piping style.

Tara Howley

Tara Howley

Tara

Tara and her Uilleann Pipes

Emer Howley

Emer Howley

It’s something of a rarity to see women playing the pipes, however in Tara’s generation there are now quite a few women taking up that instrument and excelling in it. Uilleann pipes are not only difficult to play, they’re difficult to find. Tara told us that uilleann pipes are simply unavailable in music stores – the number of good pipe makers is quite few, and their waiting lists for getting an instrument are long. Tara said that on her second piping lesson with her teacher, he told her “put in your deposit now”! on a set of pipes. She did, and waited eight years for delivery. While Tara played the uilleann pipes, pennywhistle, and concertina, her sister Emer joined her on fiddle and banjo (the third Howley sister, unable to be with us this evening, plays accordion and cello), and a South African musician, David Shapiro, accompanied them on guitar. They played a mesmerizing set that featured everything from slow airs to up tempo dance tunes, and included several of Tara’s own compositions. The Wheaton group were visibly impressed with Tara and Emer, whose great music prepared us all for yesterday (Sunday) evening’s activity, set dancing at Vaughan’s Barn in Kilfenora, to be chronicled by my colleague Prof. Howard.

Critique #1 is History!

We had our first full critique today with both studio students and music students participating together. Students are well on their way to producing some great art work and original musical compositions. Before this course is over we hope to be able to show you some of the artwork and possibly post a few audio samples. Today, each studio student was expected to organize their studio space so that all of us could see their work in progress and listen to their conceptual ideas. This was followed by a Q and A period to allow for clarification and further discussion. The music students performed their work in progress as well, followed by comments from the entire class and suggestions for improving the work. I am posting a kind of gallery tonight to better help you understand what the work environment looks like accompanied by photos of individuals “in action.” Please know that we are doing our best to feature everyone in these blogs. If someone doesn’t seem to be getting adequate “face time” they will before we are through. Enjoy the photographs!

_DSC3995

_DSC3973 _DSC3971 _DSC3998 _DSC3954 _DSC3961 _DSC3966 _DSC3970 _DSC3946 _DSC3942 _DSC3939 _DSC3937 _DSC3920 _DSC3925

Margaret Robe

Two Days On Inishmor

2015 Bonfires on the Aran Islands At 9:00am Tuesday, the day before yesterday, we boarded the bus for a half hour ride down the N67 to the small coastal town of Doolin. Doolin is known as home to some of the best pubs for live music in Ireland, but that wasn’t on our agenda, rather, we were catching the 10am Doolin O’Brien’s Ferry to Inishmor, the largest of the three Aran Islands, which sit just off the coast between the Bay of Galway and the open Atlantic. _DSC3660 _DSC3658 After a thankfully placid crossing we landed at the main town Kilronan, found our lodgings for the night, grabbed sandwiches at the Spar Market, then a bunch of us rented bicycles for the afternoon. The island has two main east-west routes, the preferred one for cyclists being the less-traveled northern coastal road. The weather was clear and many bicyclists were out, as well as horse drawn tourist buggies and small tourist vans. Over the course of four hours or so cycling up and back this road, I kept running into Wheaton students on bikes, swimming in the … invigorating… water, cozying up to sea lions, or stopping to see archaeological sites like Teampall Ciaran, of a monastery named in honor of one of the disciples of St. Enda, and built perhaps 1,000 years ago. We chose the 23 June as the day to spend our overnight on the Aran Islands partially because traditionally on this night, St. John’s Eve in the Christian calendar, residents of Aran light large bonfires. _DSC3712 There are lots of stories about the meaning of the fires – that they protect people from drowning, they commemorate summer solstice, they protect the crops, and many others. Just before sunset, we all walked up the road to Mainistir, a small settlement where we had heard one of the larger fires would be set. _DSC3722 _DSC3766 _DSC3738 _DSC3753 When we crested the rise in the road and arrived at the fire, we could also see smoke rising from other neighboring villages’ fires to our left and right. It gave a sense of how the whole island was participating in this summer solstice ritual. And then it was a great surprise to see as we looked across the Galway Bay towards Connamara in West Galway, that there were a string of fires all along the horizon on that side also. Connamara and Aran seem to be about the only places in Ireland where the tradition of the Midsummer Bonfires continues today. It was majestic to see points of light in all directions on the horizon, and to know that at each place people were gathered, thinking about the long winter just past or the summer now just beginning. Our Wheaton group hung out on the edges of the fire for about an hour as the sun went down and the sky reluctantly, very slowly, started to go dark. There were about 50 local residents there, eating, talking, stoking the fire, and after a while, people started to play music as well. _DSC3762 At one point I decided to walk a bit further up the hill, and in just a few minutes came up on a family quietly sitting in front of their own personal fire, drinking glasses of wine. I asked them what the evening of bonfires meant to them; they told me that there are pagan as well as Christian interpretations. And while they didn’t say so explicitly, I got the sense that the bonfires were a way to clean out the old & bring in the new, to show your back to winter and look forward to a warm clear summer.

The Black Fort

The Black Fort

In the morning after breakfast we all headed out walking different directions. I worked on an excellent facial sunburn – for some reason it never occurred to me that there was enough sun in Ireland to burn. Point taken about an innocent looking somewhat hazy sky.

This Is A Workday

The sun is shining! It is an absolutely beautiful and productive day here in the Burren. Students are all working very hard on their projects. You can hear a pin drop in the studios. Projects are beginning to take shape and everyone is becoming more and more excited about their work as the uncertainties drop away. One of the most difficult tasks here is to develop work based on a fairly precise visual concept. For the musicians, the vocabulary may be different from that of the visual artists but developing an idea in a compacted space and time scenario is very challenging. It all comes together eventually but not without a fair share of angst. The universal tell-tale sign that indicates how far a student has come with their work is the size and scope of the smile on their faces. I have seen a few of those in the last couple of days.

Margaret Robe is working on a series of watercolors.  Her visual concept has recently fully come together.

Margaret Robe is working on a series of watercolors. Her visual concept has recently fully come together.

This is the tower at Newtown Castle.  It is also the rehearsal space for our music students.  Each floor has a fully functioning fireplace where peat burns to keep out the draft.

This is the tower at Newtown Castle. It is also the rehearsal space for our music students. Each floor has a fully functioning fireplace where peat burns to keep out the draft.

Our music students pose for a photograph inside the 4th floor of Newtown Castle.  The castle is their rehearsal space.

Our music students pose for a photograph inside the 4th floor of Newtown Castle. The castle is their rehearsal space.

Drew is working out a composition in the shadow of Newtown Castle.  It's a very relaxed atmosphere but still charged with creative things going on all over the campus.

Drew is working out a composition in the shadow of Newtown Castle. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere but still charged with creative things going on all over the campus.

Nesli is working out a musical composition on her auto-harp.

Nesli is working out a musical composition on her auto-harp.

In a future blog post, students will be explaining their visual concepts along with examples of their work. They will also be posting their impressions of this experience. So far, all of this has been pretty much one sided so it will be great for you to hear directly from them.

This evening, Saileog Ni Cheannabhain, a Conamara style singer, will be performing in one of our student houses. This will be a wonderful opportunity for them to broaden their exposure to a very specific style of Irish music. Somehow, everything our students see and hear finds its way into their work.

After her performance it will be time to pack for our overnight to Innishmore, the largest of the Aran islands. Much more on that on our return. We take a ferry from Doolin, Co. Clare, and students will be staying at a hostel in Mainistir. They will have two full days to explore the island before returning to Doolin for a group dinner in one of the local pubs. The trip takes approximately one hour each way and we are hoping no one falls victim to seasickness.

Back to work. Matthew and I spend our days working with individual students, confirming arrangements, double checking all the details, and making sure everyone is progressing, happy, fed and productive. This is not a difficult job as this group is a pleasure to work with.

I may not be able to post for a couple of days as we will be away but you can be sure that you will receive a full report on our return. As I stated in an earlier post, if there is anything that you want to know or if there are specific photos that you would like to see, please e-mail me at howard_andrew@ wheatoncollege.edu.