Where is the Deeper Conversation About Our Decimated Music Scene?

The latest restrictions on live music events leave many unanswered questions, writes Toner Quinn.

Last Friday, a post by the National Campaign for the Arts expressed how many felt:

Anger, frustration, disappointment and exhaustion across our sector as we unravel again. Jobs lost, businesses decimated. We are resilient but we are running on empty.

The Government had just announced that the capacity for concerts and indoor events was to be reduced by fifty per cent, and nightclubs would be closed entirely. By when? As it turned out, in four days time. When the announcement was made, artists and promoters had been putting on full-capacity events for just 43 days. Now their plans, their careers, their well-being, would crumble again.

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What If We Had More Music Hubs?

The new Beatles documentary ‘Get Back’ gives an incredible insight into the band’s creative process, and provides an important lesson for our society today, writes Toner Quinn.

In Peter Jackson’s new three-part Beatles documentary Get Back, we see the magical chemistry that arises when a group of musicians return day after day to the same space.

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Persist to the Other Side

The fiddle-player Martin Hayes has recently published a memoir of his life in music, ‘Shared Notes: A Musical Journey’. Toner Quinn reviews.

The last three years have seen a generational shift in Irish traditional music. We have lost some of the outstanding musicians that have shaped previous decades, from Liam O’Flynn and Tommy Peoples to Tony MacMahon. And we have lost many others. Much of their musical knowledge is gone with them, and those who knew them are thinking about what they learnt from them and what they need to hold on to. They have of course left us their music, and other significant documents, including Peoples’ 2015 tutor/memoir Ó Am go hAm – From Time to Time, O’Flynn’s papers now lodged with the Irish Traditional Music Archive, and MacMahon’s radio and television programmes, interviews and essays, but the fact is that we still have few in-depth biographies and autobiographies of leading traditional musicians from the past sixty years, a period that has been a momentous era for this music. That is a significant blindspot in our book publishing and in our cultural dialogue.

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We Have Celebrated Ó Riada Enough

On 25 September, the National Concert Hall, the Arts Council and RTÉ presented two tribute concerts to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Seán Ó Riada’s death. Toner Quinn reviews.

The day before the two concerts last Saturday that were organised to celebrate the legacy of composer Seán Ó Riada, his son Peadar, also a composer, musician and a broadcaster on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, published a particularly negative perspective on Irish traditional music over the past five decades.

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No One is Talking About What Musicians Get Paid

The new report on the night-time economy has 36 recommendations, but it has an unfortunate blindspot, writes Toner Quinn.

Last week, the government published the Report of the Night-Time Economy Taskforce, focusing on entertainment and culture between 6pm and 6am in towns and cities. It contains 36 recommendations that the Taskforce believes can transform the night-time economy, energise our urban centres, and make Ireland an extra-special destination for tourists. The proposed actions are broad, from modernising licensing laws to pilot events to developing transport.

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After the Silence

The return of live music to the Lime Tree Theatre in Limerick featured Iarla Ó Lionáird, Úna Monaghan and Kevin Murphy on a Music Network tour. Toner Quinn reviews.

The narrative for the return of live music has been regularly repeated. After eighteen months, everyone will launch themselves into the experience. It will be characterised by joy and celebration. It will be a relief to be back to normal, or what you feel normal is. But what if it is not quite like that? We are different now. We carry a new experience that shifts the way we look at the world. Music and art will change.

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Music in Ireland has a Glass Ceiling and it’s Called Nationalism

Unless music is coated in nationalistic terms it will struggle, writes Toner Quinn.

It was when I heard the interview with Justin Green of the Events Industry Association of Ireland on RTÉ’s Drivetime on Tuesday (23 August) that I realised things had become desperate. Referring to the 18 months the industry has been closed, he said: ‘We were asked to do everything [i.e. cease holding events] … for the country.’ ‘We all understand that we have to do our part… for the country,’ he reiterated. Green understood that the only way left to make his argument for the return of live music was to coat it in the language of nationalist, patriotic rhetoric.

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Does Irish Music Need One Voice?

The restrictions on live music are frustrating and perplexing for musicians and they point to larger issues, writes Toner Quinn.

The frustration over the lack of planning for live music continues to grow. Minister Catherine Martin held another meeting yesterday (18 August) with a number of organisations working within the live events sector, and yet no date was set for a full reopening. It appears that the Minister’s plan for reopening the music and entertainment sector was rejected at the beginning of the month by Government.

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Irish Fatalism and the Lack of Planning for Live Music

When it comes to reopening the live music sector, we have fallen for the classic Irish mistake: dreaming, but not taking practical steps, writes Toner Quinn.

It is now almost five months since Minister for Arts Catherine Martin struck this optimistic note:

The Live Entertainment Industry has extensive expertise in developing health and safety protocols and, following two successful test pilot events in 2020, I now intend to establish a consultative stakeholder forum that will help solidify the guidance for reopening and returning to live performance. 

Six weeks later, at the end of April, there seemed to have been more progress. The Minister added:

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Music and the Arts Need Ideas and Debate Too

The writer Desmond Fennell, who died this week, had clear ideas about the role of new thinking and debate in society. They are relevant to Irish music today, writes Toner Quinn.

One of the lessons I learned from the Irish writer Desmond Fennell, who sadly passed away this week, was that every societal challenge is all down to the way we think about it, and therefore applying yourself to thinking in new ways about a particular issue is valuable. He took the role of thinking and articulating new ideas seriously and dedicated his life to it. 

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