DIT researchers uncover hidden musical history

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31st January 2013: From the earliest years of the theatre up to the 1960s, music formed an integral part of the programming at the Abbey Theatre and while its importance in Ireland’s cultural history is without doubt, this side of the theatre’s history is virtually unknown. Recently, Dr Maria McHale and fellow researchers from DIT’s Research Foundation for Music in Ireland (RFMI) completed an IRCHSS (now the Irish Research Council) funded project to uncover this hidden musical history and to create a website and database of the music performed at the Abbey from the early years of its existence until 1965 at which point the Abbey orchestra was disbanded.

The information contained in this fully searchable database has been extracted from original programmes which are housed at the Abbey Theatre Archive. In quantifying and disseminating the broad range of music performed over this 60 year period an unknown aspect of the theatre’s history is now available, thereby changing perceptions of the Abbey from a venue solely devoted to drama, to a venue that also enjoyed a vibrant musical life.


For example, through the research it was discovered that in the early days, music was provided by a solo violinist, but by 1906 a small orchestra had been formed which was under the direction of the composer John F. Larchet from 1908 - a position he held for 26 years. Other key figures in Irish musical life followed suit including Frederick May, Eamon Ó Gallchobhair and Seán Ó Riada. Almost every night at the Abbey saw a programme comprising overtures, individual symphonic movements, selections from operas and arrangements of Irish traditional airs.

To find out more see http://www.abbeytheatremusic.ie

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