by Kathleen Lewczyk and Sam Hutchinson
Today on January 26th our class left the exciting, busy country city of Galway and made our way further out into the beautiful Irish countryside into a small town inside West County Limerick called Templeglantine. It was a long drive filled with conversation, reading, and viewing the beautiful scenery outside our bus windows. We began to see less and less of big buildings and crowded apartment complexes that filled Galway, and more and more of the lush, grassy farm fields filled with livestock, perfect for our bus driver Phil to play his favorite game, “Beep the Sheep”. Phil honks his horn at the grazing sheep on side of the road farms, and the rest of us get to watch them run away from our bus! We approached the town tired from our bus ride, and luckily got the chance to relax and rest after checking into The Devon Inn Hotel. After resting and some freshening up, our class met in the hotel’s dining room for a delicious group dinner. The old-fashioned style of the room provided an optimal location for our class to discuss our experiences on our trip thus far, and also allowed some of us to discuss with Professor Graham what Jan-Term and semester classes we had taken in the past, and also give our opinions on some of our favorite, and not so well liked, teachers (Professor Graham and Father Tom being our favorites of course). After an excellent dinner, Father Tom told us that we would be meeting at the lounge room for some Irish singing and dancing, led by Father Tom’s cousin Tadhg Mulcahy.
You can imagine some of us being a little hesitant as to what exactly this would entail, but we made our way to the lounge room to meet up with Father Tom and his cousin to get our authentic Irish performing arts experience. None of use could have anticipated what would come after we had taken our seats. Tadhg called forward all the musicians and to our astonishment, the entire band consisted of young children. They played all sorts of classic Irish instruments: fiddles, accordions, flutes, percussion, and harps. There were also more obscure instruments such as cow bones and fire prods, which our talented performers use as instruments that help keep the tempo of the song. They started off with a few short warm up songs, but later on is where they’re incredible talent was put front and center for class’ viewing and enjoyment.
We all had the privilege of watching solo flute performances, traditional Irish dancing, lilting (a form of traditional Irish singing used for dancers when there was a lack of instruments), and the singing of moving Irish folk songs (our classmate De Leys even chipped in with her own performance). Seeing the younger generation of local Irish children performing traditional Gaelic forms of music, singing, and poetry gave us a new insight into the Gaelic culture which we had talked about so much in class, but only seen bits and pieces of during our trip. It also showed our class how much pride these people take in their traditions. It was explained to us later that this group of performers along with dozens more throughout all the counties in Ireland, belong to Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, which globally promotes the practice and celebration of traditional Irish music and culture. The group was founded in 1951 during a time when a lot of people had emigrated away from Ireland to pursue other living and working options due to the poor conditions. As more people left Ireland, so left their traditional culture. Colmhaltas’ mission was to keep Irish song, dance, and language alive. Today, this organization exists not only in Ireland, but in many other parts of the world. Even distant locations like Japan and Russia have Colmhaltas locations.
In addition to the performances, the dancers instructed us how to perform several traditional dances. We were intimidated at first as we had never participated in this type of dancing but were eager to try. Some of the dancers and musicians assisted us in learning and attempting to perform the steps. We had an amazing time trying and keep up with them and laughing at ourselves when we made mistakes. One of the dances we learned was “Shoo the Donkey” which gradually became faster and faster forcing us to quickly learn the steps. The musicians, dancers, and their families all participated and complimented us on our efforts. After a night full of dancing and singing, we were exhausted yet thrilled with another eventful day.
To view our class learning an Irish Dance follow click here :