We hope everyone had a great St Patrick’s Day yesterday! Around the world, people gather together on this special day to celebrate Irish culture and the festival of Ireland’s patron saint. But at One Education, we have been lucky enough to celebrate over the course of the whole week with our live Irish Music Celebrations. In partnership with the Manchester Irish Education Group, One Education has hosted a variety of concerts and workshops for schools to take part in so that children can gain a real sense of the history, traditions and music of the Emerald Isle.
Exposure to live music is essential for children’s development, not just cognitively and linguistically, but also to cultivate various social and emotional skills. However, our musicians went a step further to create a truly memorable, multi-sensory experience by inviting children to participate in the concert themselves: playing instruments, singing along, and even performing dance routines. In this way, children saw music from every perspective, from the sounds and vibrations of instruments, to the stories behind the lyrics, and what it feels like to perform.
Together with our Irish music band, the children first sang along to the popular songs I’ll Tell Me Ma and Molly Malone. They performed on a whole range of instruments, including ukuleles, tin whistles, shakers, tambourines and drums, whilst some children learned to play body percussion by clapping their hands, tapping their chests, patting their heads and stamping their feet in tune with the rhythm.
With the next folk songs, the children mastered singing with both their voices and their hands, using sign language to perform the choruses of Golden Jubilee and Gypsy Rover. When it was time to sing Let Him Go, Let Him Tarry, all the children were eager to show off the wonderful dance routines they had learned, and some of the best performers got to stand on stage to lead the rest of us.
But of all the folk songs performed, Katie Daly might have been the favourite, as the children jumped out of their seats to shout ‘Yeehaw!’ and mimicked swinging a lasso above their heads – not just at the end of the chorus, but the end of each and every line of the song!
Whilst the children were very passionate and talented performers, they were also very engaged and eager to learn as the band members introduced them to each of their instruments. Laszlo Palko introduced us to the bodhrán drum and showed us an Irish jig, whilst Richard Sanderson talked about the history of the fiddle and played an Irish reel.
We also learned about the origins of the tenor banjo from Angela Usher, as well as the tin whistle and the flute from Rioghnach Connolly. It was interesting to hear the children’s interpretations of the instruments, especially the flute, which transported some pupils to the seaside, others to a mountaintop, and one child went all the way to the fictional world of Kung-Fu Panda.
Rioghnach Connolly, the band’s lead singer and flautist, also known as BBC Folk Singer of the Year, had a wealth of knowledge of Irish language and history to share with us. She taught the children how to count to four in Irish, so that they could count in the band, as well as lots of other Irish words: dia duit for hello, le do thoil for please, go raibh maith agat for thank you, and slán for goodbye. Rioghnach also explained the meanings behind the different songs, including Molly Malone’s backstory as a fishmonger, and what different words like “britches” and “caubeen” meant from the song Golden Jubilee. This was a great opportunity for children to learn more about the history and culture of a country that is different to our own.
The highlight of the week is being able to teach all aspects of Irish culture, language, and stories intertwined with songs and live performances. From a personal perspective, I have three generations of family from around Manchester, and I know my ancestors would be really proud to hear Irish stories and language being spoken in this area.
Aside from the concerts, children have been able to take part in song, dance, and band workshops, where they got to experiment with a variety of different instruments and explore more complicated ance routines.
Afterwards, we got to watch outstanding solo performances from the children as they showed how hard they had worked in rehearsals. It was lovely to see how their skills and confidence developed as they got a taste for what it’s like to stand in the spotlight. Perhaps best of all, we saw the children bonding as they came together to work as a team and share the fun of the festivities, especially with the celebration fleadh in the afternoon.
As the week draws towards an end, Angela, one of our musicians, remarks on the importance of the week’s celebrations:
The Irish Music Days are vital learning opportunities for children to experience what it is like to perform in front of an audience, as well as to watch and learn from others. We give the children the chance to try out different instruments and perform with a professional band, which is something that many don’t often get the opportunity to do. By inviting them to local venues, we’re also teaching children that they are able to visit various cultural hubs and engage with the community. They learn that everyone is welcome and no one is excluded. And as the children learn more about Irish music, they understand more about all the culture and history that music reflects.
Thank you so much to all the schools who took part in this week’s festivities. We are so pleased that we have been able to include so many children in our Irish Music Days this year, as well as many others throughout the community. Over the week, both young and old came to watch the performances, dance and sing along, and listen to Irish stories. On St. Patrick’s Day, we were also very proud to welcome Sarah Mangan, Ireland’s first Consul General to the North of England, to join in with the celebrations. One Education is delighted to see the local community come together to share such a wonderful day of the year.
Of course, we couldn’t have done it without our spectacular musicians, Ruairi Leonard, Richard Sanderson, Angela Usher, Laszlo Palko, and Rioghnach Connolly – a big round of applause to all of you!
Enjoy the rest of your St Patrick’s Day celebrations. We cannot wait to see you all again soon!