Yesterday 13th June we had our first of two visiting music consultants here at the College, the Cork singer Sean O Se. Sean was a member of the most famous group of the 1960s Irish folk revival, Ceoltoiri Chualann, and has continued to entertain in Ireland and around the world during and after his career as a public school principal. In the afternoon he conducted a master class with our music concentrators, which was listened in on at various moments by several of the visual artists who have gradually been discovering our perch atop the castle (something we are delighted about). Sean took us on an audio tour of great Irish singers and important vocal genres. He himself is an example of a very hybrid vocal style because while he grew up in an Irish-speaking home and so learned many songs in the folk tradition, after graduating from teacher training college he started taking classical vocal lessons with JT Horne, the organist at the cathedral in Cork. He credits Horne with the fact that now in his late 70s he still can concertize around the country and overseas. In the evening Sean gave a vocal recital ranging from some of the great sean nos (“old style”) ballads in the Irish language to lighter fare. Clare is famous for its concertina players and its Ceili bands, and two eminent local musicians stopped by and played a guest set during our concert: concertina player Chris Droney, longtime member of the Kilfenora Ceili Band, who as he told us has been playing the instrument continuously for 79 years, and his neighbor guitarist/songwriter Sean Tyrell.
Hilary, Andy, Tyler and Nate are now focusing their concentration on what will become their final music compositions for the class. Yesterday around our peat fire we had a conversation in which they brainstormed and reacted to each others’ ideas. Their nascent plans, which remain highly classified at this moment but which will emerge soon into the public eye, are the four of them extremely different one from the other. They all show a great creative engagement with the sounds, structures, and landscapes they have encountered and the people they have been meeting so far. This evening after dinner our music cohort is going over the mountain to Kilfenora to a ceili dance, where we will see our first full live band, have a ceili dancing lesson, and get out on the floor. Well, I’ll watch them out on the floor because I always get confused and dizzy when I try to move my limbs in any kind of graceful fashion; I suppose that’s why I ended up playing for dances rather than doing them.