Uilleann piping at St John’s

Picture of Fionn Ó hAlmhain on uilleann pipes from Alyson Gavin.

Picture of Fionn Ó hAlmhain on uilleann pipes from Alyson Gavin.

This month’s National Heritage Week events in St John’s Church, Sandymount, will culminate in a unique musical performance that will combine the distinctive sound of the Irish uilleann pipes with the church organ.

St. John’s organist Eoghan Ward and piper Fionn Ó hAlmhain have collaborated to produce a unique programme of music which includes pieces composed by St John’s’ 1916 revolutionary organist Cathal Mac Dubhghaill.

Mac Dubhghaill, who forsook his Protestant background to join the 1916 Rising, is remembered for contributing to the musical heritage of Ireland by having penned the first arrangement of the national anthem.

“I’m finding it enticing to work with material that was thought up by a mind in the middle of the revolution. It is the closest connection we can have to the people in that situation,” said Ó hAlmhain, an accomplished Dublin-based uilleann piper, traditional flute player and opera singer who has recently returned from performing at the Garden of Geniuses festival at the Tolstoy Estate at Yasnaya Polyana, Russia.

“I’m very glad to be involved in the musical heritage of 1916,” added Ó hAlmhain. “It was after all much more than just a political revolution. The leaders of the 1916 rising held Irish culture at the heart of their ideal and many of them were themselves artists, teachers and promoters of Irish culture and language.

Therefore, helping the cultural heritage and language of Ireland flourish is the greatest tribute to them. This is an idea that all cultural and political leaders in Ireland should hold dear and I am delighted to do my part as best I can.”

National Heritage Week, a national programme of events coordinated by The Heritage Council, seeks to build awareness of heritage and provide educational events, thereby promoting the preservation of heritage and heritage sites.

The Heritage Week events in St John’s will see an exhibition celebrating the conflicting and converging narratives of Mac Dubhghaill and other historical characters such as Dr Charles de Burgh Daly of the Royal Army Medical Corps, a distinguished member of St Johns’ congregation, who was fired upon by Countess Markievicz in Dublin during The Rising.

The exhibition will also incorporate the stories of other members of the de Burgh family including Dr de Burgh’s son Charlie, who was killed in the Battle of the Somme and his wife, author Emily French De Burgh Daly, who was a sister of songwriter Percy French.

Another featured section entitled Portals of Unpreparedness, a display told through words, maps and watercolours, will depict the arrival of the Sherwood Foresters in Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire), and their march to Dublin and the Battle of Mount Street Bridge. It is the work of artist Peter Derbyshire and writer Leo Cullen.

Heritage Week events at St John’s will run from Thursday 25th August until Sunday 28th August with the uilleann pipes and organ recital occurring between 3pm and 4pm on the Sunday. The programme is organized by St John the Evangelist Church with funding from Dublin City Council 1916 Commemoration Fund for Communities, and from sponsors Charles U. Daly, Charles Lysaght and Peggy O’Driscoll.

Admission is free and everyone is welcome. Opening hours are: Thursday 25th , Friday 26th and Saturday 27th August, 10am to 4pm; Sunday 28th August: Exhibition from 12 noon to 3pm and music recital from 3pm to 4pm.

St John’s is located on Park Avenue, Sandymount. Details of services and events at the church can be accessed at: www.sandymount.dublin.anglican.org

By Harry Bradley