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Music Generation Laois Trad Orchestra – ‘The Impossible Dream’

Music Generation Laois have produced a short video to document ‘The Impossible Dream’ project. This video was produced by Naoise Kettle, with music by Martin Tourish and the Music Generation Laois Trad Orchestra.

Music Generation Laois commissioned composer Martin Tourish to create a 20 minute suite of music inspired by the life of Colonel James Fitzmaurice for the Music Generation Laois Trad Orchestra.   Colonel James Fitzmaurice was a pioneering aviator from Portlaoise who was part of the first successful transatlantic aircraft flight from East to West in 1928. 

The Music Generation Laois Trad Orchestra was established in 2016 and is a traditional music ensemble that provides a platform for the burgeoning interest in traditional music among young people in Co. Laois.  Martin Tourish is working in a highly collaborative way with the young musicians – they are creating new music together. This project moved online after Ireland went into lockdown in March 2020. After a national call out in May 2020, the Laois-based orchestra expanded from 23 members to 76, and together this group face the challenges of composing, workshopping and performing music remotely, with young musicians from different parts of Ireland, north and south, from Armagh to Cork.  The project development has unearthed many intriguing parallels between our current challenges, and those faced by Fitzmaurice in his lifetime. 

This project is supported by Creative Ireland 2020, via Creative Laois in partnership with Laois County Council. A strong partnership with the Laois Heritage office, provided MG Laois with the inspiration to develop this project, and we are indebted to the contribution and assistance of Laois Heritage Officer Catherine Casey, and Local Historian Teddy Fennelly.

This video was produced for and supported by the Laois Arts Office for Culture Night 2020.

Percussion Section Rehearsal 27 November 2020 – Image Credit Alf Harvey
Martin Tourish pictured with online orchestra members 27 November 2020 – Image Credit Alf Harvey
Sectional Rehearsal, Laois Music Centre, 27 November 2020 – Image Credit Alf Harvey

Tionól Harps and Pipes 2020

Music Generation Laois, supported by the Music Generation/Arts Council Partnership Creativity & Collaboration Fund, presents our annual Tionól for harp and pipes. Tionól 2020 has been re-imagined to go online, we are grateful to the network of Music Generation programmes around Ireland for supporting this event.

Non-Music Generation harpers and pipers can sign up to take part in our Tionól, send an email to mgl@loetb.ie including your name, telephone number, DOB if under 18, and how many years you have been playing for, or an idea of standard of playing, and we will offer you 4 workshop spaces over the weekend of the 31 October and 1 November. Payment can then be made online, and links to your classes will then be emailed to you. 4 workshops is €40.

Saturday 31 October, Sunday 1 November: Online Workshops

Louise Mulcahy (pipes) James Mahon (pipes), Paul Harrigan (pipes), Ryan Murphy (pipes), Kieran O’Hare (pipes), Leonard Barry (pipes), Joseph Byrne (pipes), Tim Doyle (pipes)

Michael Rooney (harp), Catriona McKay (harp), Rachel Hair (harp), Siobhan Buckley (harp), Grainne Hambly (harp), Anne-Marie O’Farrell (harp), Lauren O’Neill (harp), Rachel Duffy (harp), Jill Devlin (harp)

Performances series on the Music Generation Laois Youtube and Facebook channels.

Sunday 1st November @ 7pm: Live-streamed album launch of Catriona McKay’s new solo harp album ‘Love in Secret’, Dunamaise Arts Centre, Portlaoise (Free), Music Generation Laois Youtube and Facebook channels.

Musical Memories 2020

Paddock NS – Image credit Alf Harvey

‘Musical Memories’ is a Music Generation Laois intergenerational Song-Singing project for care-home residents and children & young people. It is an interactive, sing-a-long musical experience with songs from many different eras and genres.

‘Musical Memories’ is one of a number of projects across Ireland that was successfully funded from the Positive Ageing and Creative Wellbeing Challenge Fund as part of the Creative Ireland Programme. The Programme is delivering a suite of creativity initiatives on positive ageing and mental wellbeing for older people in the community and in care facilities.

‘Musical Memories’ project aims to :

-Support positive ageing by placing a value on the input of residents in care settings;

-Mitigate the negative impact of social cocooning by re-establishing inter-generational human connection;

-Have a shared learning experience for all while preserving songs from different eras.

Paddock NS, Image credit – Alf Harvey

MGL Singing and Early Years Music Specialist, Nuala Kelly is Lead Musician for the project. She works with MGL in various Primary Schools in County Laois and as a singer/guitarist and choir director, she has been singing in residential care settings/nursing homes for many years. Nuala says,

The effect of singing and live music is quite amazing and can add immensely to the quality of life of nursing home/hospital residents. I’ve seen first-hand how someone who finds it difficult to speak because of conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, can recall words to songs and sing with perfect diction.’

In a changing landscape and in times of social distancing, technology has come to the fore and is a creative new way for a project such as this to be delivered. The songs will be pre-recorded for the nursing home/hospital to use as often as they need to engage residents with the project songs.

‘I’m also very interested in intergenerational singing as so much can be learned from children and older people, and along with creating these Musical Memories via a collaborative performance, the children will be preserving songs from an older generation that too often are forgotten. We have given careful consideration to select good quality music across different genres so there’s something in the repertoire that will appeal to all musical tastes.’

Live Zoom sessions with children & young people and nursing home residents will be organised to rehearse the songs. A pre-recorded video performance of all participants singing, with the possibility of a future combined performance in real-time, pending government regulations at the time. The project also includes a small team of MGL tutors on Piano, Harp and Fiddle and runs from September to December 2020.

The selected songs and accompanying lyrics sheet can be accessed via the following links :

Musical Memories Part 1 – Tennessee Waltz, Red River Valley, Secret Love


Musical Memories Part 2 – The Spanish Lady, Red is the Rose, After the Ball


Musical Memories Part 3 – Oh What A Beautiful Morning, Black Hills of Dakota, Can’t Help Falling in Love


‘Musical Memories’ is supported by Creative Ireland Laois as part of the Creative Ireland Programme (2017-2022) and in partnership with Laois County Council. For more information on Creative Ireland Laois go to https://www.creativeireland.gov.ie/en/laois/.

Creative Adaptations 2020

Music Generation Laois’ team of musician educators will take part in training to continue the provision of our high quality multi-faceted performance music education programme, where a blended learning model will be implemented (a combination of live music delivery, and online music delivery), in light of the Covid-19 Pandemic. We will also invest in equipment to supplement this delivery.

This project is supported by Creative Ireland Laois as part of the Creative Ireland Programme (2018-2022) in partnership with Laois County Council.

Call out for New Members: Music Generation Laois Trad Orchestra (online)

Martin Tourish and Michael Rooney with the Music Generation Laois Trad Orchestra onstage at the Dunamaise Theatre (Nov 2019) Photo Denis Byrne

Applications are now open for high-standard, dedicated trad musicians to join the Music Generation Laois Trad Orchestra (online).

The Music Generation Laois Trad Orchestra is embarking on an ambitious collaborative composition project with Accordionist Martin Tourish, and Orchestra Director Siobhan Buckley. Using online platforms, the orchestra will collaborate with Martin Tourish in the composition of a new suite of music.

New members are invited to join the orchestra for this exciting project, which will culminate with the premiere of new music in October/November 2020. New members can sign-up to be part of this project until the premiere of this new music in the Autumn and pay a membership fee of €50.

We would love to see old members re-join for this special project too!

Members from all over Ireland are welcome, however we remain hopeful that a live performance in Laois might be possible in the Autumn (only if safe to do so), so do take into account that if restrictions are lifted there may be some travel involved for final rehearsals and performance if coming from outside of Co. Laois. If a live performance of this music is not possible, we will create an online premiere.

The positions open for audition are:

  • Button accordion
  • Guitar
  • Concertina
  • Whistle
  • Trad Flute
  • Mandolin
  • Banjo
  • Fiddle
  • Piano
  • Harp
  • Uilleann Pipes
  • Double bass
  • Bodhrán/Percussion

Standard: This opportunity is for intermediate/advanced traditional musicians with 4 years experience and upwards

Age: Open to all ages

Weekly rehearsal: Successful applicants must be available for weekly rehearsal on Tuesdays from 12noon to 1:30pm (from Tuesday 2 June onwards – full schedule tbc, we may break at some point for holidays), Attendance is strictly monitored, if members miss more than 3 rehearsals, their membership will be relinquished.

As rehearsals will be online, a good internet connection is required.

Fee: Orchestra membership fee until November 2020, €50

How to apply: Spaces are allocated on an audition basis, in the current climate, a pre-recorded video is acceptable – send an email to mgl@loetb.ie attach a video of you playing a reel. In the email include your name, date of birth, instrument(s), standard (how many years you have been playing, any significant performances or achievements in this time), Parent/Guardian contact telephone number (for those under 18) and home address. Please Note, as this is an advanced ensemble, expression of interest emails are to come from applicants, applications made by parents/guardians on behalf of musicians will not be accepted.

For large video files, use wetransfer.

Deadline for receipt of applications is 5pm, Thursday 28 May, 2020.

The Music Generation Laois Trad Orchestra was established in January 2016 under the directorship of Paul Finn and Siobhan Buckley. In May 2016, the orchestra collaborated with Donegal Accordionist Martin Tourish to create a new 30 minute suite of music ‘1916 Visions and Voices’ funded by the Laois 2016 Community Fund, Per Cent for Art through Laois County Council and the Music Generation Arts Council Partnership.  The music was premiered on the 22 of May 2016, as part of the Music Generation Laois New Works Series, to unprecedented public response! The work has since been performed in Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann in Ennis 2016, for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin Castle and in Powerscourt for the Ireland Funds Worldwide Conference attended by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Prince Albert of Monaco and has also been recorded an launched as a CD. In 2018, the Trad Orchestra premiered a new work ‘Loinnir Laoise,’ commissioned by Music Generation Laois and composed by Ryan Molloy as part of Music at the Malt House 2018. This suite of music was performed for a second time on the gig rig at Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann 2018 in Drogheda.

Throughout the past academic year (2018/2019) the Trad Orchestra have collaborated with many well-known musicians including Christ Stout (fiddle), Catriona McKay (harp), Zoe Conway (fiddle) and John McIntyre (guitar).

Please note: This is a highly professional ensemble, repeated absenteeism is not acceptable nor is poor timekeeping.  Frequently additional rehearsals and performances are added and these are mandatory.  Musicians must come prepared to rehearsals. Poor conduct and irresponsible behaviour is not permitted.

Current members do not need to re-audition.

This project is supported by Creative Ireland Laois.