The ancient art of singing along to a work song

by Padraig Conlon

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]The age old tradition of singing at work is the theme of an art project taking place in businesses throughout south Dublin.

Titled “Work Songs”, the project is commissioned under South Dublin County Council’s public art programme.

Visual artist and story teller Fiona Dowling and composer George Higgs collaborate with workers from local workplaces to create a musical portrait of South County Dublin’s economic profile.

Transforming the rhythms, movements and sounds of work routines into songs that will be performed, the artists design a work-song for each of the chosen businesses in collaboration with the staff and management.

The songs will be performed and filmed in the workplace itself and in a concert hall or theatre, at a later stage.

Visual artist Fiona Dowling explained to Dublin Gazette exactly what it’s all about.

“This is our third in a series of five Work-Songs for South Dublin County.

“Our process is that I go and interview the workers in each workplace.

“When possible, I directly observe them at work and I record their gestures, rhythms, the sounds they make and the words they say.

“Then, I give all this data to George who composes the song which is then rehearsed and performed.

“My favourite aspects of the project are interviewing the workers, discovering the melodies and lyrics that George composes in response to each workplace, and rehearsing the songs.

“The next performance is this Saturday (10th) in Massy Estate with a mushroom foraging walk and a song about mushrooms and potatoes.

“George wrote a small part for me in the mushroom-picking song “Meet Us Amongst the Fungus”, so I will be singing the song with Freda and Sheila this coming Saturday.

“The original inspiration for this project was my experience of Georgian polyphony.

“I spent 6 years singing Georgian folksongs weekly with the Zurmukhti Georgian singing ensemble in Dublin.

“These haunting and often energetic three part harmony songs include many work-songs: weaving songs, ploughing songs, grape picking, wood-cutting songs.

“These songs tend to be my favourite to sing because of their strong rhythm and rousing quality as well as the sense of fun and camaraderie they carry.

“What will happen this Saturday?

“I will meet audience members at 11 am at the entrance to Massy’s Wood to take them to the section of the forest where the performance will take place.

“George, Freda, Sheila and myself will sing the work-song after which we will invite our audience to take a little walk in the woods to look for mushrooms.

“We will then come together to share our findings, Freda will talk about how to create mushroom-based dyes and will give a mushroom dying demonstration. Audience members can even bring a little piece of cotton or wool to dip in the dye.”

The event on Saturday is free and takes place at Massy’s Estate from 11am.
To register your interest please email[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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