Inishowen Trad Orchestra and Choir at NCH
On the 22nd January 2023, the Inishowen Traditional Music Project (ITMP), in partnership with the Donegal County Council brought the specially commissioned work “Inishowen” to The National Concert Hall, Dublin. This new suite of music was performed by the Inishowen Trad Orchestra and Choir (a 150-piece ensemble) and was an expansive journey through a millennium of the musical heritage of Ireland’s most northerly peninsula.
The performance on a national stage was the pinnacle of over twenty years of work by the Inishowen Traditional Music Project (ITMP), a voluntary community project. It was a labour of love by the musicians and choir members, and we were all so proud of how everyone came on board and fully embraced the project from the start. Martin Tourish who conducted the performance on the night also selected and arranged the music.
Martin really poured his soul into this project. On receiving the brief in 2019, he fully immersed himself in ITMP’s Online Archive (www.inishowenmusic.ie), selecting and researching the music. In the initial draft of ideas he delivered to us, we could sense that it was going to be a powerful and uplifting celebration of our music.
The first rehearsal was an anxious one as the vast scale of the project became evident. With the challenge ahead there also came a profound sense of community spirit, as the small army of musicians and singers immersed themselves in the passion and joy of their local heritage.
Martin certainly challenged us with his arrangements. The suite started with Deus Meus which was written by Mael Ísu Ua Bhrolcháin whose death was recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters, as having occurred in 1086. He was educated at the monastery of Both Chonais, in the townland of Carrowmore, now in the parish of Culdaff.
Martin proceeded to take us on a journey of music and song that spanned over a thousand years.
He uncovered gems from Honoria Galweys, Old Irish Croonauns and other Tunes’, published in 1910. Honoria Galwey was born in 1830 and lived in Moville for 22 years, collecting songs and tunes of the area.
In a movement dedicated to Dinny McLaughlin, Martin sensitively captured the many attributes of this legend of Irish music. Dinny now in his mid-eighties devoted his life to music through playing, teaching, and composing. Dinny is a formidable character and Martin captured his humour, rascality, and emotion in this movement. In one of Dinny’s reels called Skip About, Martin challenged the musicians with his arrangement set in the style of the great classical master of humour, Franz Joseph Haydn.
The fifth and final movement featured the music of the Clonmany Céilí Band, Seamus Grant, Paddy, and Tom Byrne. It celebrated the ‘Big Nights’, an Inishowen expression for a great night of music and craic. Martin Tourish Conducting the Orchestra and Choir 22 January, 20023. (Photo by Brendan Galvin)
ITMP was delighted that the show sold out and was received with such enthusiasm. We were also delighted that President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina were in attendance and met the orchestra, Choir and of course Dinny McLaughlin. After two sell out shows in the Inishowen Gateway, Buncrana in April 2022, we knew we were part of something immensely powerful when we saw the audience overcome with emotion just two minutes into the show. Thankfully this was not just a parochial reaction and the show translated well in the National Concert Hall, Dublin.
Below is a review of the performance, in the Journal of Irish Music (January 2023)
The privilege of attending this concert was the opportunity to see and to be among such sincere local pride. Playing to as full an audience as I’ve seen at the National Concert Hall, aged from very young children to the elderly (with even President Higgins in attendance, who received as warm a welcome as the musicians)
This concert was an unabashed and joyous celebration of the rich musical tradition of the northernmost part of the country, a homecoming away from home.
Brendan Finan, Journal of Irish Music, (January 2023)
Roisin McGrory, Inishowen Traditional Music Project, February 2023