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What does Arts in Education practice look like? Read about the processes and partnerships behind current projects happening around Ireland.


Songs For Our Times – An Intergenerational Intercultural Music Project.


Performance Day - Songs for Our Times

Tell us the story of your project – What was the impetus? What was it about? Who was involved? How did you begin?

Ruti Lachs, Artist

I had run similar intergenerational projects in Kerry in the past, using music, songwriting, singing, and visual art to express ideas and feelings about our own stories. These projects always received great support from local partners and the press, and culminated in a public exhibition and/or a performance. The interaction between the generations was a most important part of this project.

I moved from Kerry to Cork in 2016, and I was touring two one-woman shows. One of the characters in the shows is my Jewish grandma, and there was a lot of audience interest in this character. I started researching the Cork Jewish community as it was in the early 1900s, and writing a musical play on the subject. I’ve always played Jewish music, and I saw great interest in Cork in its Jewish historical past, which I wanted to know more about, and to share my knowledge of. This had not been evident in my 28 years in Kerry, as there was no Jewish community in Kerry previously.

I had built up a relationship with the Arts Officer in Cork County Council, Sinead Donnelly who suggested running the project in two areas, Youghal and Bandon.

We worked with Bandonbridge Primary School sixth class pupils and their teacher, Freda O’Neill and the Bandon Daycare Centre, with support from Bandon Library.

The project took place over four Tuesdays in September and October 2019. Two workshops would take place in each centre (the schoolchildren had their workshops in Bandon Library), one visit by the children to the Daycare Centre, and a visit by the daycare participants to the school for the concert day. In the end, I visited Bandon a total of 7 times – two introductions, the four planned dates, and one evaluation day.

Freda O’Neill, Teacher

The children completed a number of workshops with Ruti, in the local library, in school and at the day-care centre. The goal was for both groups, the children and the day-care patients to compose and perform a song for each other and to enjoy a singsong and each other’s company at the final performance.

How were the ideas developed and how did the young people, artist and teacher work together?

Ruti Lachs, Artist

I worked with the principal, the teacher, the daycare staff, and the 2 groups (older and younger).

In the first workshop,  I introduced each group to a little bit of Jewish Irish history and Jewish culture, I taught them a song in Yiddish, and we had a little jam with me on accordion and them playing percussion. I then asked them to think about how it might be to move to another country, and about any experiences they had themselves of living in other places, or moving from one place to another. I asked the groups to say out loud how they might feel if they moved to a different place. These words were written up on a flipchart. We used chime bars (each person gets a note to play, from a kind of xylophone) to work out a melody that might be nice for a song. Then we fitted some of the words that the group had come up with into the melody, and with a bit of adaptation from myself, we worked the words and melody into two songs. One verse only was developed that week. I also taught the children the song In My Town, a song I wrote and recorded on my CD for children, Stomping in the Woods.

The following week, the children came to the Daycare Centre to meet the older people. We had a singsong, which I facilitated as I had brought song lyrics, my accordion, and some percussion, and the children had prepared questions to ask the older group about where they went to school, did they ever travel, etc. One lady had brought some instruments that she had bought in Ghana years before, and she passed them round to everyone. I had brought apples and honey with me as it was Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and this is a traditional food for this festival, so everyone had a slice of apple with some honey.

It was a lovely intergenerational, intercultural sharing. Everyone really enjoyed it, and the older people commented on how polite the children were. The groups sang their song verse to each other, and they shook hands and looked forward to meeting again.

The next week was a workshop where each group completed the song, with my help, and we added instrumentation to it. The children brought in violin, tin whistle, keyboard, and guitar, and I brought percussion instruments and chime bars.

A lot of work at home followed, as I wrote out precise arrangements for the teacher to work with the children on, and recorded both songs, and sent them to the schools.

The final week, I arrived early at the school, with the film maker Dervla Baker, and ran through the original song, and the Yiddish song, with the children, while Dervla set up the video camera. The older group arrived, and about 20 of the children’s parents, and two other classes from the school, and their teachers, so the hall was packed. The new songs were sung, as was a Yiddish song that I had taught the children, and a song about Bandon Town that the older group sang. Then there was dancing to live klezmer (Jewish wedding music) as my band, Pop-Up Klezmer, came from Cork to take part in the concert. It was great to see the children and adults of all ages singing along and dancing and clapping to the music. And to give the older and younger groups a chance to perform original songs. All agreed it was a great experience. After the audience left, the children chatted with the older people and shook hands again before everyone left.

Freda O’Neill, Teacher

The children chose to work on their lyrics first and then to add in the melody and instruments afterwards. They worked in small groups initially and then Ruti helped them to collaborate to create a whole class edition. We practised on a daily basis leading up to the final performance. Some of the children worked through a couple of lunchtimes to perfect their parts.

What was your personal experience of the project in terms of successes and challenges?

Ruti Lachs, Artist

The challenges were mostly weather, as the children had a long walk to the daycare centre and library, although they weren’t deterred. For me the biggest challenge was setting up the project, as it was a complicated project, and it was quite tricky communicating with the funders, as one of the arts officers was off sick. So the admin side took a lot of time and energy.

Although it was lovely working with both groups, there were challenges with the older group, as one or two of the participants were partially deaf, or just didn’t have the energy to participate very much. But most of them were delighted to take part.

The feedback from the Daycare Centre group was that they enjoyed the interactions with the children, but that they could have done with more workshops to prepare them for the concert, and that it took them a while to be clear what the project was about. They enjoyed playing different instruments, hearing great musicians, and the chats with myself and each other. The staff said it was challenging to get the participants confidence up for singing in public.

The feedback from the school children was that they enjoyed learning the dances, playing the instruments, meeting the daycare group, learning about Jewish culture and religion, hearing the klezmer band, learning new songs,  and the final performance. They would have liked longer with the older group, and more time to learn the song lyrics and instrumental parts.They would have liked more musical styles and more younger children attending the concert. The feedback from the teacher, Freda, was that the children loved it, the venues worked well, the final performance was fantastic, positive, and seeing the interactions between the groups was lovely.

My personal experience of the project was very positive. Everyone involved saw the benefits of so many aspects of the project – making music, creating new music, discussing ideas, and the interaction between the generations.

Both groups and all staff agreed that they would like to do a project like this again.

Freda O’Neill, Teacher

The project was a great success. The children really enjoyed the music side of the project but mostly responded very positively to the intergenerational element. It was wonderful to see how both groups interacted so pleasantly with each other.

A challenge may have been the time allowed for this project. Another couple of meetings and practices with Ruti would have been worthwhile.

What was significant for you about the project that is worth sharing?

Ruti Lachs, Artist

Intergenerational interaction, composition in groups, arranging music, and performance  – these are all aspects of this project that I would like to highlight as significant. Composing in groups means working together to create something interesting, meaningful, and hopefully, beautiful. This is a good team-building exercise, and just a lot of fun. Also great for confidence and interaction. Performing one’s own composition in public, and getting recognition for its value, is one of the most uplifting things I enjoy as a performer, and I think that this was so for the participants also. The Jewish aspect was also meaningful to me – to teach children a song in Yiddish – a language they have never heard before – and to lead them in dancing to klezmer music, was a privilege.

Freda O’Neill, Teacher

Sixth class were enthusiastic and happy while participating in this project which made it quite easy to manage for me as their teacher. As mentioned above, the most significant part was how well both groups responded to one another.

Has anything changed in your work as a result of the project?

Ruti Lachs, Artist

I have more confidence in bringing Jewish material to schools (although I have been doing this in different ways, eg candlemaking workshops at Chanuka, for many years anyway). I bring my interests into the classroom, and I do quite complex projects, even though it is a lot of work and tires me. I put a lot of energy in, and often don’t feel that I am earning enough to warrant the amount I put in. But that is my journey. I have been very lucky to be supported along the way by a lot of lovely people. It’s worth it!

Freda O’Neill, Teacher

I would definitely be open to taking part in a project like this again. Also, the inclusion of the older generation in some school activities would be something I would consider more now.

 

Spotlight


Artist(s):

Artist Ruti Lachs

I am an innovative, professional and experienced performer, music educationist and arts facilitator. I have published two CDs of original songs, one for children (Stomping in the Woods) and one for adults (Sleeping People).

My community music business, Active Music, aims to enable everyone to enjoy live music at whatever level they can. To this end, I have run music workshops in numerous settings including hospitals, parent toddler groups, schools, youth centres, disability support groups, schools of music, nursing homes, festivals, and wedding parties. I also teach piano to children at Cork City Music College. 

I play klezmer and jazz music, at weekly sessions with Pop-Up Klezmer and in various duos and trios throughout the year. I am a solo performer, having performed two one-woman shows over the last few years, Sideways on Planet Piano  and A Different Kettle. 

My musical play, Green Feather Boa, set in the Cork Jewish community in the early 1900s, is currently being developed for performance in 2022/23.
My Cork Jewish Culture Virtual Walk has been awarded a National Heritage Week Award, and can be viewed on rutilachs.ie.

www.rutilachs.ie

www.activemusic.ie


Teacher(s):

Teacher Freda O'Neill

I am a primary school teacher, currently teaching sixth class in Bandonbridge N.S. in Bandon, Co. Cork. I have been teaching a range of classes in Bandonbridge N.S. since 2010.

As well as being a teacher I am a mother to two young, active boys. I love getting out for walks in beautiful West Cork, reading a good book and spending time with family.


Artist(s)

Ruti Lachs

Teacher(s)

Freda O’Neill

Fiona Giles

Noreen Walsh


Artforms

Music & Sound

School Level

Primary

School/
Participant Group

Bandonbridge National School, Co. Cork


No. Participants

45


Region

Cork

Age/Class

6th Class


Dates

September/October 2019


Weblinks


Leading Agency

Cork County Council Arts Service


Other Partners and/or Funders

Cork County Council Library Services

Key themes/ lines of enquiry

This project explored the issues around moving to a different county and how that might feel, and creating music to express this.


Curriculum Strands

Music, culture, intergenerational and intercultural activities



Composing in groups means working together to create something interesting, meaningful, and hopefully, beautiful.

Ruti Lachs, Artist

Singing to the older group - Songs for Our Time

Working on the Song - Songs for Our Time

Performance day - Songs for Our Time

Meeting of the two groups - Songs for Our Times

Working on the song - Songs for Our Times

Rehearsing in the library - Songs for Our Time