A Music Masterclass with Nuala Kennedy27 February 2018
The guest for this week's music master-class was Nuala Kennedy, a successful producer and traditional Irish musician. She is currently working on an album entitled Snowflake, playing with two Norwegian folk musicians. Fusing traditional Irish and Norwegian music together, on the album cover are the first snowflake photographs ever made.
This album not only illustrates Nuala's creativity and originality, it also shows what has made her a successful artist. 'To step outside of what you know...to try to do things that are intimidating' has been a guiding principle throughout her career. She tries to innovate in her music as much as possible and go outside what she is comfortable with.
In the masterclass Nuala told her story. She grew up in Dundalk and studied classical piano in Dublin under John O'Connor. After this she attended art school in Edinburgh. Her career in music was not assured by this point. Even after she discovered her love for Scottish flute playing (which brought her back to traditional music), she struggled with confidence as she made the journey of finding her musical voice.
The opportunity of playing at a traditional music gig in Italy helped to launch her career as a musician in 2002. From there onwards she toured internationally in France, Canada, and the U.SA. Nuala was the first Irish traditional musician to play at an event in upstate New York. She would practice with other musicians in an empty grain silo. Throughout the talk, she emphasized that it is the people you meet and the relationships you create through music that are just as important as the music itself.
Her first record was The New Shoes (2006), followed by The Books in My Library (2007). She began songwriting, which was new to her. 'When you are happy' she said, about the style that you have developed 'change it'. In a way, this is the essence of folk music. It is spontaneous, flexible and constantly changes and adapts over time.
Apart from her albums Nuala has worked on the Cross-Cultural Project (2010-2015). The most challenging and exciting aspect of it was 'explaining the nuances of traditional Irish music' to people from different countries. Recently she has worked on the SPARK music project in Scotland.
During the masterclass she played the flute, sang in Scots-Gaelic and showed some of her previous work online. Nuala finished by having us sing with her What Will We Do When We Have No Money, an old traveler ballad.
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If you have any questions please contact:
Lorcan Dunne, Assistant Lecturer in Department of Creative Arts Media and Music