How RTÉ Can Restore Its Leadership Role in Music

Music and broadcasting go hand in hand, but RTÉ’s leadership role in music has been shrinking in recent years. Toner Quinn suggests four ways to turn the situation around.

Public service broadcasting in Ireland would be unimaginable without the contribution of music and the Irish music sector. Music recordings make up the majority of radio broadcasting, and music permeates every aspect of television and online broadcasts, from music performances to music themes, soundtracks and all forms of entertainment.

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The Continuing Journey of Martin Hayes

Martin Hayes’ livestreamed concert from the National Concert Hall last week (8 December) gave an insight into the changing music of the fiddle-player, and revealed new collaborative directions. Toner Quinn reviews.

We hear a quiet strum of four strings, checking his tuning, and then, solo on the stage of the National Concert Hall in Dublin, fiddle-player Martin Hayes begins the air ‘The Lark in the Clear Air’. It’s a tune familiar to those who grew up in Ireland before this difficult millennium. It was the theme tune of a long-running Sunday morning radio programme. Then it was comforting, now it is wistful.

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Understanding the Core Tradition

The latest release from the traditional music label Raelach Records is its very first compilation album, featuring Noel Hill, Aoife Ní Bhriain, Pádraic Keane and Nell Ní Chróinín. Toner Quinn reviews.

Rogha Raelach Volume 1, Raelach Records’ first compilation album, is not drawn from their 16 previous releases, although, with albums by Noel Hill, Ensemble Ériu, Tony MacMahon and Claire Egan, that would have made an attractive record. Rather, concertina player Jack Talty of the label has put together a collection of previously unreleased tracks from musicians he has worked with.

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Rebuilding the Public Conversation Around Music

Why is the public conversation around music important, and how do we make it stronger? Toner Quinn reflects on twenty years of publishing the Journal of Music and the changes that have taken place.

For the past couple of months, I have been reflecting on what I have learnt from twenty years of publishing the Journal of Music. The first issue appeared on the week of 5 November 2000 and I can still remember the weight of the box of magazines in my arms as I carried it from music shop to bookshop around Dublin city, asking if they would take a few copies. Keep on reading

How the Arts Made Their Funding Breakthrough

The government’s funding announcement for the arts last week was unprecedented, and there are lessons to be learned from the way in which it came about, writes Toner Quinn.

The scale of the funding increase for the arts and music sector in last week’s Budget was so significant that it is important to understand fully what happened. 

The government gave €130m to the Arts Council, plus another €50m for the live entertainment sector. To put this into context, the Council’s funding had peaked at €83m during the Celtic Tiger, thirteen years ago. When the economic crash hit in 2008, Continue reading

John Hume and the Artists That Make Us Think

John Hume’s views on the role of artists in a conflict are worth considering today, writes Toner Quinn.

John Hume, the great peacemaker of Northern Ireland who died this month, was known for his political words, but a year before the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, he also published an essay on culture and society and the role artists can play in a conflict. I came across it last week and it struck me as relevant to some of the challenges we face today. 

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The Silencing of An Spidéal – Why Catherine Martin Needs to Set Out a New Vision for the Arts

The experience of one village in the west of Ireland shows that the new Minister for Arts faces a serious challenge, to change the way we think about culture and its role in our society, writes Toner Quinn.

A few months before the pandemic, a new building called Gteic opened in the village of An Spidéal in County Galway. The stylish white premises are home to a digital and innovation hub with hot desks, meeting rooms and break-out areas for remote workers, local businesses, and start-ups. It is actually one of 30 digital hubs being established in Gaeltacht areas and on islands, built to encourage people to live in the area and to promote entrepreneurialism, all of which I believe in and welcome.

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The Unresolved Mystery of David Gray

A new documentary explores the extraordinary story of David Gray and Ireland in the 1990s, the making of ‘White Ladder’, and how it became Ireland’s best-selling album of all time, but is the story as simple as it seems? Toner Quinn reviews.

In the first ninety seconds of David Gray: Ireland’s Greatest Hit, the new RTÉ documentary on the singer’s successful 1998 album White Ladder, a number of images from Ireland that decade flash across the screen: crowds with tricolours singing ‘Olé, Olé’, traders on a stock-market floor, a photo-shoot marking the introduction of the euro currency, the businessman Denis O’Brien shaking on a deal, Riverdance on stage, a picture of the broadcaster Pat Kenny opening a bottle of champagne…

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The Songs We Don’t Talk About

If we are going to tackle racism, we need to improve our conversations about culture, writes Toner Quinn.

Of all the ways that we could tackle racism in Ireland – from educational campaigns to investing in communities to stronger legislation against hate speech – the potential of music and culture to open our eyes to the issue must surely warrant serious discussion.

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