Monday, November 27, 2006

World Premiere of "Battle Of The Books"

World Premiere of Ceol na nÓg Sligeach in Co. Sligo

Copyright battles have never been as thrilling as this one!

“The Battle of the Books”, is a specially commissioned music and dance suite composed by Michael Rooney and centres on the epic consequence of the world’s first copyright judgement.

It focuses on 563 AD; when the armies of the High King and the King of Connaught battle over the copying of a book by Columcille, Colmcille (as the Donegal people call him), St. Columba (as the Catholic church calls him). This was the first known battle over copyright.

About the performance

Phew! This was a far more incredible event that I ever imagined especially considering the speed the project was composed and assembled. This first performance was after only three months of rehearsals with young people only available for a few hours a week. Considering this was a creation from original material that none of the cast and musicians had ever heard, this was a miracle performance.

A major production like this could run into 10s of thousands of euros but was made possible not only by an arts council grant but donated venue by Sligo's Southern Hotel.

All 44 musicians and 12 dancers were very cramped on the stage but despite violin bows poking neigbouring musicians and dancers sometimes seemingly being in a rugby football scrum rather than on a stage this was a first plus class performance with exciting and moving tightly played music.

The superb original music suite by Michael Rooney was composed in traditional Irish music style with the addition of sweet melodies, mood enhancing and tingling excitement elements way above traditional Celtic music that most people are familiar with.

A DVD is going to be produced from the filming of the show. I sincerely hope that the DVD along with comments and chat from the large thrilled audience will open doors for this production to develop, mature and enter into the world stage.

This show has the potential of being up there and beyond the famous Riverdance and Michael Flatley productions. To kick off with, I, and others, though the music was the best ever for this kind of Celtic show.

With the opportunity to perform on more spacious stages the dancers will be able to catch up with the musicianship standard very quickly because they have the skills and charisma but just need the extra space.

I would also like to see the worded story develop more as a dramatic story told with the spirt of the traditional story tellers in between the musical sets rather than as an introduction. I feel the story needs to be truly integrated into the event.

I have written to Michael Rooney to suggest that.

This performance, that included musicians Michael Rooney, June McCormack and Niamh Crowley plus over 40 of Sligo’s finest young musicians and a dozen wonderful young traditional dancers from the Mary Gallagher School Of Dancing, deserves to become world class.

I know I would go to the show again and again if I could. Its infectious!!!

A bit of history

The High King of Ireland declared “To every cow its calf and to every book its copy” as he ruled that the copying of a valuable book by Colmcille was illegal. Colmcille had originally borrowed the book from Finnian and made a copy without permission.

A battle ensued where Colmcille, supported by the King of Connaught, took on the might of the High King Diarmuid O’Cearbhaill’s army, with Colmcille’s father's army annihilated 3,000 men. Legend has it that such was Colmcille’s remorse that he left for Iona where he established his famous monastery.

Above is a very brief version of the story. At the World Premiere night, historian Martin Enright provided his excellent story of the events before and after the battle. This was valuable for me because a couple of parts of his story made more sense than within the story I learned and now tell.

About Ceol na nÓg Sligeach

Ceol na nÓg Sligeach was formed last January to support and develop the talents of young musicians in Sligo and to provide various forums to showcase their music. It is comprised of the best of the emerging traditional musicians from Comhaltas Ceoltóirí na hEireann branches in Sligo and Leitrim and young classical musicians of the Sligo Academy of Music Sinfonietta Orchestra.

The Sligo Academy of Music, under the direction of violinist Niamh Crowley, provides music and instrumental education to young people in the North West of Ireland while the Mary Gallagher School of Dancing is renowned for producing prize-winning dancers at national and international competitions.

The Future?

At the moment I do not know
but I intend to ask Michael Rooney, Mary Gallagher, and members of the Ceol na Nog Sligeach for interviews that I will try to publish for you, along with soundtrack samples of the music, as a podcast in the near future.

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