Pádraigín’s web­site a labour of love

The Argus - - NEWS - By MAR­GARET RODDY

FOR singer Pádraigín Ní Ul­lacháin re­search­ing, doc­u­ment­ing and record­ing the tra­di­tional songs, tunes and cul­ture of the hin­ter­land where she grew up and lives is a life­long labour of love.

She has leafed through dusty manuscripts, tran­scribed old tunes, lis­tened to songs, and now, has learned the lan­guage of the in­ter­net as she worked on the Oriel Arts Project, which was of­fi­cially launched in Omeath on Satur­day.

The web­site, www.orielarts.com is, she says ‘a re­newal of the song and mu­sic’ which she wrote about in ‘ Hid­den Ul­ster: Peo­ple, Songs and Tra­di­tions of Oriel’.

The web­site is not an on­line ver­sion of the book - it’s a glo­ri­ous well of im­ages, songs, mu­sic and in­for­ma­tion about the rich cul­tural her­itage of this re­gion.

Vis­i­tors to the web­site are greeted with a three minute video of the Oriel land­scape by her nephew film maker Feil­imí O Con­nor which pro­vides the back­drop against which the mu­sic and songs were orig­i­nally com­posed.

The web­site ex­pands on ‘Hid­den Ul­ster’ and rep­re­sents, not just the labour of the last two and a half years, but a life­time ded­i­cated to re­veal­ing the cul­ture of Louth, Ar­magh and south Down.

‘It’s all about the re­newal of ma­te­rial which had been lost in li­braries and ar­chives, and give new life and fo­cus to Ir­ish songs lan­guage songs and mu­sic,’ says Pádraigín.

Along­side the doc­u­men­ta­tion and tran­scripts, there are per­for­mances by mu­si­cians from Oriel and Co Down which bring the mu­sic and songs to life.

‘In the sum­mer of 2016, six singers from Oriel, and three from the Done­gal Gaeltacht, were filmed singing Oriel songs, to­gether with three lo­cal in­stru­men­tal mu­si­cians from the wider Oriel re­gion in­clud­ing Coun­ties Ar­magh, Louth and south Down, who se­lected tunes from the mu­sic manuscripts col­lec­tions, pub­lished in fac­sim­ile in A Hid­den Ul­ster,’ she ex­plains.

Pádraigín is joined by her niece Si­ub­hán, neph­ews Donal and Feil­imí, brother-in-law Gerry, lo­cal mu­si­cians Zoe Con­way and John McIn­tyre, along with singers and mu­si­cians from Ar­magh and Done­gal.

The project also saw her shin­ing a light on the harp tra­di­tion of Oriel, go­ing back to the manuscripts of Patrick McGa­hon of Dun­goo­ley and Luke Don­nel­lan who were fa­mous col­lec­tors of songs and tunes from the re­gion.

‘ Tur­lough O’Carolan came to Bal­ly­mas­can­lon where he stayed with the McNeills and wrote mu­sic for them. He would have met Sea­mus Dall Mac Curta and the Oriel po­ets,’ she says. Other lead­ing harpists from the area in­clude Patrick Quinn, Patrick Byrne and Patrick Lin­den.

‘ The harpers of Oriel would have played on an early wire strung harp, and the se­lected pieces here are played on a copy of the Patrick Quin, Ot­way Harp,’ she ex­plains.

Just as the book was ideal for dip­ping into, the web­site prom­ises to be a won­der­ful re­source for any­one in­ter­ested in tra­di­tional mu­sic. What makes Oriel Arts so fas­ci­nat­ing is that, like the book Hid­den Ul­ster, it puts the mu­sic and songs in so­cial and po­lit­i­cal con­text, with Pádraigín telling the sto­ries be­hind the mu­sic and songs, cast­ing light on the mu­si­cians and com­posers and the times they lived in.

The web­site was de­signed by Rob­bie McMillen from Belfast. ‘I learned how to use Word­press and did the up­load­ing and lay­out,’ says Pádraigín who spent the sum­mer up­load­ing the ma­te­rial to it.

‘I wanted it to look beau­ti­ful and be ac­ces­si­ble to peo­ple and I hope that the di­as­pora will avail of it as well.’

Coin­cid­ing with the web­site launch, Pádraigín has re­leased a CD of songs from Oriel.

‘I was able to do this project thanks to gen­er­ous fund­ing from The Arts Coun­cil,’ she says, adding that the work will be on­go­ing as she strives to en­sure that the re­gion gets the recog­ni­tion it de­serves.

Irene Mar­tin, Padraigín Ní Ual­lacháin and Nicholas Carolan and pic­tured right, Eileen Ní Ghal­lachóir with Áine and Mar­ian McGeeney at the launch of the new web­site by Padraigín Ní Ual­lacháin held in the Gran­vue Ho­tel, Omeath.

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