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BU Abroad: Arts in Ireland

Irish music comes alive in the classroom

| From BU Today | By Alan Wong


Watch this video on YouTube
In the video above, BU students in the Arts in Ireland course play the bodhrán and tin whistle in a seisiún, or
Irish traditional music session, with a group of Irish musicians. Photos by Cydney Scott. View closed captions
on YouTube

On a cold winter afternoon in Dublin, four BU students gather in a large open space at Dublin City University’s Inter Faith Centre to meet Padhraic Egan, one of the lecturers in their elective course Arts in Ireland. With its vaulted ceiling and tall windows, the room is bright and reverberant—the perfect setting for the day’s seisiún, Gaelic for an Irish traditional music session. As Egan and his bandmates set up their instruments, the students take up the tin whistle, a recorder-like instrument, and the bodhrán, a handheld drum indigenous to Ireland.

The four students—Adam Osman (ENG’13), Molly Coyne (COM’12), Kristen O’Leary (ENG’13), and Nasim Zehdar (ENG’13)—are among 48 engineering, health science, international relations, and communications students spending a semester studying in BU’s Dublin Study Abroad Programs. In addition to a variety of classroom and internship experiences, all students in the program are required to take an elective that exposes them to some aspect of Ireland’s rich cultural history.

“Education in, and exposure to, the arts is a fundamental part of the experience here in Dublin,” says program director Mary McCloskey. “It is very important for students not only to learn about the local culture, but also to partake in it.”

Arts in Ireland in particular is divided into two parts: the first a survey of Irish traditional music and the second an overview of the country’s visual arts. Among the other cultural electives students can choose are Modern Irish Literature, International Human Rights Law, and Film and Television Drama in Ireland. The program also offers optional noncredit courses in Irish dancing and language.

“These classes are there primarily to give us a feel of what Irish culture is,” says Osman. “Obviously you can’t do it entirely in three months, but it’s been a good ride so far.”

As Egan and his fellow Irish musicians play traditional songs on their tenor banjo, accordion, fiddle, and acoustic guitar, Osman and his classmates join in right on cue with an array of stick patterns on the bodhrán. It is hard to believe that the students have spent just weeks learning these traditional instruments.

“The style of playing at the end of six weeks is amazing,” says Egan. “Most of the students are able to play along at full speed to jigs, reels, hornpipes, polkas, and the standard tunes of Irish music. People would look and think, ‘They’ve been playing this for years.’”

Watch this video on YouTube In the video above, Arts in Ireland lecturer Padhraic Egan demonstrates various beats and techniques using a bodhrán, a traditional Irish instrument. Videography by Phil Zekos. View closed captions
on YouTube

Read more about BU Abroad here.

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