08 April 2016
If you have been around the Strabane town on a Tuesday morning over the last nine weeks you couldn’t help but notice the large number of men roving through the foyer with guitars or accordion cases. Indeed in Derry’s Pilots Row Centre similar sights were occurring on a Tuesday afternoon.
This has been a men only developmental music project offering an opportunity for the individuals to hone their music skills on a variety of instruments during the classes. So thirty local men have brought in musical instruments to learn under the tutorship of professional musicians Mickey Joe Harte, Terry McCafferty and Keiran Gallen. Many of the guys were engaging in the arts for the first time and this was to be their first forte in to the world of performance.
Although some folks were total beginners, for others it was about developing their confidence and learning to accompany fellow musicians. Their only entry requirement was that they wanted to be a part of the project and they were willing to try their best while enjoying a little escapism! The goal they are working towards is a finale performance for their friends and families in the Alley Theatre on Tuesday evening 19th April at 7.30pm so it is practice, practice and more practice!
This project targets the male population is the second phase of the our Arts for the Third Age projects held in Derry City and Strabane District and this music part we have called Music to your Ears.
Welcoming the initiative the Mayor, Cllr Elisha McCallion says it is all about encouraging men to engage in the arts regardless of their previous experience:
‘We were unsure who we would attract or what skills they might have. With two very capable and well known musicians facilitating the workshops, they quickly developed a format that’s worked, splitting them in to small groups to develop their skills from total beginners to intermediate guitar players mixed with keyboards and accordions- indeed an eclectic mix to encourage! Although the main part of the workshop time has been used practicing their playing skills, the men have been introduced to other music styles through visiting musician s demonstrations and developed their song writing skills.’
This project is around maintaining people’s health and well-being through the arts and support for this programme has been secured through the lead partner Arts Council of Northern Ireland under their Arts and Older Peoples Programme which is jointed funded by Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Dept. of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Public Health Agency and the Baring Foundation.
Roisin McDonough Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland said:
‘Engagement in the arts is one way to reduce the very real issue of isolation of older people in our communities, particularly men. Not only does participation provide a platform to express identity and explore new talents, it also offers a way to meet people and have new experiences. It offers a voice for older people.’
The Mayor added that Council hopes the finale will be fun for them and their families will enjoy seeing their dad or grandfather perform on a professional stage for the first time. Having got the music making bug we hope their involvement will encouragement them to keep on playing long after the projects completion.
As part of this project there are traditional craft workshops for men too as part of this programme of activities for Arts & Older People programme delivered by Derry City and Strabane District Council and entitled ‘Arts for the Third Age’. For further information on the project contact Jean Smyth Arts Development officer at the Alley Theatre or tickets for the Music to your Ears can be booked through the Alley Theatre Box office 02871384444.