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Remarks by President Mary McAleese At the launch of the Traditional Irish Music Syllabus

Remarks by President Mary McAleese At the launch of the Traditional Irish Music Syllabus Royal Irish Academy of Music

Ta áthas orm a bheith anseo i bhur measc ag an ócáid seo, agus go raibh míle maith agaibh as ucht bhur bhfáilte caoin.

- It gives me great pleasure to be here today, to launch the new Traditional Irish Music Syllabus designed by the Royal Irish Academy of Music in association with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. This is a very exciting and important new development: - a graded system of examinations for traditional Irish music instruments. The syllabus is the first of its kind in Ireland and will provide a fully structured set of examinations in all traditional music instruments, from beginner to advanced level. I believe that this initiative will go a long way towards raising the standard of traditional music performance in Ireland, and will help ensure the preservation, appreciation and development of our wonderful music tradition.

- Traditional music has always been an intrinsic part of our culture. Wherever Irish people gather and indeed in all the places they scattered to across the world, our music can be heard. Over the centuries, it has shown great resilience and adaptability. In traditional music, Ireland has a well recognised and vibrant heritage. This heritage is constantly being enriched and developed by musicians, composers and performers the length and breadth of this country and many other countries throughout the world. It is equally at home in the concert halls of the world and the small homely pubs of rural Ireland. There is a worldwide appreciation of the richness and beauty of our music.

- That our music is alive and developing is thanks to those who have taken care to introduce it to a growing number of young musicians. Traditional music has been passed from parent to child, from one generation to another in an unbroken line which stretches back many centuries. This tradition of passing the music to the next generation is something which Irish musicians take very seriously and is the lifeblood of a healthy culture and it needs people with a profound love, a passion for their music and heritage. They devote much of their free time and energies unselfishly giving their knowledge and passing on their skills to younger musicians.

- We owe a great debt to these teachers, who, as custodians of our cultural treasury, have given the skills, confidence and musical space to young players to develop their own individual styles. These teachers are the unsung heroes of Irish traditional music. They have ensured its survival. Traditional music has been defined as an anonymous product of the people which provide us with a true mirror of their genius, character and spirit. It is a precious living thing which we should be very proud of and which repays nurturing and freedom to evolve.

- The inclusion of traditional Irish music in a formal teaching and examination based structure, will be of great benefit to pupils and teachers alike, giving students a structured goal to aim for, possibly for the first time in their musical careers. The Royal Irish Academy of Music and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann are to be commended on their vision and dedication, in the development of the new syllabus.

- As we approach the new millennium we will also celebrate a half century of service by Comhaltas to the Irish nation. There have been many challenges which the members tackled with a sense of idealism and determination. The challenge presented to the founders of Comhaltas at the inaugural meeting held in Mullingar in 1951 was accepted with determination and imagination. Through the ready availability of classes young people have been given the opportunity to know and appreciate Irish traditional music, song and dance. This enthusiasm and dedication is ever present, and reflected in the development of this exciting new syllabus which is being launched here today – to say nothing of the many show cases for Comhaltas which audiences and musicians have benefited from over the years.

- 1998 is also an important year for the Royal Irish Academy of Music, for it is celebrating its 150th anniversary. The academy is Ireland’s oldest musical institution and is a home of musical excellence and dynamism. It is renowned as a place of teaching and learning which consistently achieves its objectives of transmitting and maintaining the highest standards of performance and appreciation in all musical disciplines. As a national 32 county institution, the Academy embodies and reflects the traditions and heritage of Irish musicianship. Past and present pupils and teachers include such international names as John O’Connor, Veronica Dunne, Aisling Drury-Byrne and Philip Hammond, Head of Performing Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland. The Academy is able to offer the finest Irish musical training to students from all corners of the world.

- It is enlightening and reassuring to see two such wonderful and worthy institutions working in cooperation to help sustain and maintain standards of excellence in relation to Irish traditional music – Ní neart go chur le chéile.

- I wish to conclude by thanking all individuals involved in the development of the new syllabus, and wishing every success to the new venture. I look forward to the launch of the Traditional Irish Music syllabus in other countries throughout the world – I understand that it is envisaged that the programme will be launched in Great Britain and the United States in the near future.

- Again, congratulations to all involved – I am sure that the new syllabus will prove a tremendous and lasting success.

- Thank You.