As one of the first acts slated to perform at this year’s Arts Fest, the Boston College Irish Studies Music Program set the scene for a wonderfully enchanting weekend. The show drew in a variety of audience members on Thursday, ranging from professors and family members to students and members of the Campus School. The treat of traditional Irish sounds had everyone beneath the O’Neill Arts Tent brimming with excitement.
The Irish Studies Music Program encompasses a variety of different Irish music and cultural outlets. In addition to the staple fiddle music and singing, there’s also an element of dance that is involved in the makeup of the program. What is beautiful about the program in general is that it pulls from all walks of BC’s life, as many of the students involved in the program are at different stages in their studies. From students to full- and part-time faculty, the image created on stage added to the dynamic of the whole performance group.
The performance allowed the audience a glimpse behind the scenes as the performers delved into the nuance of their respective crafts. Irish dancers must learn how to dance in more than one type of show, hard and soft, adding an extra layer of difficulty to the skill. These different types of shoes require different elements of dancing. Although they are rooted in the same technique, there is a much lighter approach that exists with the soft shoe. While dances like the reel and slip jig are performed with the soft shoe, dances like the hornpipe and the treble reel are performed with the hard shoe. Dancing alongside Kieran Jordan, a part-time faculty member in the Irish Studies program, the women were graceful as they glided along the stage. They were accompanied by Sean Smith of the Office of Marketing Communications on the guitar and Sheila Falls Keohane, a part-time member of the Irish studies faculty, on the fiddle with her students.
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The fiddle students brought another big element to the show. Their fingers danced across the strings creating a warm, inviting, and playful sound. Weaving one melody after another, the transitions between pieces felt effortless. Keohane said that this is the “best fiddle class that she has had” and it is great to meet with them every week.
Keohane moved from praising her students to the talent of Sean O’Rourke, LSOE ’17. Starting off the segment with his rendition of “The Lakes of Pontchatrain,” made famous by Paul Brady in the ’70s, the musician captivated the audience with his vocal tact and left everyone wanting more. According to Keohane, O’Rourke began in her fiddle class, but when she found out O’Rourke could sing, she started preparing this tune with him for the performance.
Although the show had a nice turnout, attendance was scarce—even O’Rourke had to hop off stage and onto his next commitment immediately following his performance. This sort of on-the-run student lifestyle has a noticeable impact on some of the smaller shows in Arts Fest. The Irish Studies performance took place in the middle of the day, and the entire festival is the weekend before the exam crunch begins. It is such a critical point in the year before exams that it can be especially hard to miss a class when the material covered on that day may show up on the final.
But for those who were in attendance, the intimate song and dance of the Irish Studied Music Program is likely to reappear in our minds during quiet parts of our days in the havoc to come.
Featured Image By Celine Limb / Heights Staff