New ways of working

It feels like my life is becoming all about exploring new ways of working and new types of projects – it’s both an exciting and a scary time. I’ve been planting seeds of ideas of how to create work for the next year. I’m really hoping that these will come off for me. I’m about to start two research projects with local bursary funding: for one I’m looking into Kristin Linklater’s work and applying this to singing technique and for the other I’m developing a short professional development course in creativity, spontaneity and confidence for later in the year. Do let me know if you are an experimental singer / performer and would like to know more about this.

There have been some fascinating things happening online. This is my first time in a number of years not to be visiting the Kilkenny Arts Festival, but I’ve been really enjoying some of their online offerings including their Secret Music Series (running from 7th -16th August –  a daily series of short pop-up performances, with performers including Siobhán Armstrong, Sharon Carty, Ailbhe Reddy, Martin Hayes, Dominic Dudley, David Keenan, Mick McAuley, Laoise, O’Brien, David Power and Malcolm Proud (who has performed in each of the last 47 Kilkenny Arts Festival). The videos are so fascinating, absolutely stunning images and wonderful music. I’m really enjoying the exploration of the behind the scenes element of the festival. As Laoise O’Brien said in her video:

“It felt like being re-energised coming back into the gardens, and I don’t think anybody’s going to take a gig, or an opportunity like this, for granted.”

I also came across a really interesting project curated by young Irish composer / pianist Tiffany Qiu, where 11 Irish pianists are performing new works by 11 composers from across three different continents, inspired to some degree by a connection with Beethoven = the performances are streamed from their homes as the originally planned concerts were cancelled, with a CD planned for later in the year.

As I come off the Covid payment with the help of some upcoming concerts, and with the first of my choirs returning to rehearsals earlier this week online, I am so grateful for all the support and advice that I have received throughout the last number of months from the National Campaign for the Arts. This is a volunteer-led, grassroots organisation who work to ensure that the arts are recognised as a vital part of contemporary Irish life. Last week they continued that work with a document highlighting critical issues around the proposed changes to the pandemic payment that are affecting the Arts Sector , while also highlighting potential solutions to these. If you haven’t come across this organisation and are working in or are a supporter of the Arts in Ireland, do have a look and see the work that they are doing.

Looking into the more distant future, it is a time of uncertainty but I am hopeful that a way of working will emerge. Recently, in writing my own Arts Council bursary application and in conversations with other musicians and artists who would like to work with me, I saw that there are so many different ways of thinking about the current situation, and different ways of finding solutions. I just hope that my singing and my leadership with choirs can be part of many different ways forward for artists in Ireland.

My path out from the current situation began with my performance in the last of the CMC Salons. The Contemporary Music Centre have been a great support to the New Music sector in Ireland for as long as I can remember and before then too. Through the current times they have been rolling out various schemes to support composers and performers. It was very special for me to be able to the first visitor to their centre on Fishamble Street in Dublin, and to perform my concert from what must be one of Dublin’s newest venues. I performed a programme of works by Jennifer Walshe, David Bremner, Gráinne Mulvey and Ian Wilson. I don’t know where the end of this path out may be, but I look forward to the journey.

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