I giggle at the concept- ‘Tune’ can also be defined as a ‘ringing noise in the head‘ in the English translation of the Irish word Ceolán.

My background

From my experience of teaching both primary and secondary school music classes, honestly, there were lessons taught where I came away agreeing with this analogy! Try listening to thirty 4-year olds vigorously shaking percussion instruments to accompany a ‘song’ and you might agree with me.

I fondly remember a lesson I once delivered to 14-year olds, in teaching composition of ‘punk music using vocals and keyboards’ and though the lesson was a success, there were moments within it that a ‘ringing noise in the head’ was felt by more than just me!

As a musician born in Northern Ireland I acknowledge our ancestral roots and the rich, colourful backgrounds that inspire deeply written lyrics and expressive melodies. Celtic modal ballads and Ulster-Scots marches weave threads amongst city-inspired pop songs, all telling their different tales in representing the Music of Northern Ireland.

We’re grand, so we are.

Some aspects ‘look ok’ here in Northern Ireland but just as the iceberg that hit the Titanic, damage is deeper on closer inspection. There has been ‘progress’ in certain aspects, yes, but when I hear today’s headlines I cannot help but think things here are still like a typical family game of Monopoly gone wrong. One in which nobody is winning, there have been some ‘jail’ issues neither will let go of, there have been fall outs over petty things, the Community Chest is out of luck and nobody wants to take a ‘Chance,’ there are property concerns, cheating ‘rules’ and perhaps worst of all- players abandonment (thanks Stormont). But where there is pain, there is potential for expression. It is important that we allow ourselves to tell our stories, poems, memories, songs. We each have a voice, a story, a song within us.

We have a few people and things we like in common too! Feargal Sharkey, Van Morrison, soda bread, chip buddies, an Ulster fry, a Belfast Brew, a stroll around Maiden City walls…

This land is not ignorant of struggle and conflict. Yet it is not the worst wee place either! We have a wealth of artists who do not let the underlying ‘quakes of politics shake them too much. Musicians, artists, poets, writers, photographers, many of whom you will have heard of. Many who take the time to express the unspoken.

I personally am grateful to have grown up in an environment where music was valued, encouraged and freely expressed. There have been generations of singers, musicians and lyricists among us, humble about their talents and willing to share them.

What about you?

I’m sure you can think of a couple of scenarios in your own experience where an Open Mic Night/Karaoke event/ Talent Show presents an over-enthusiastic singer who may well define the term ‘ringing noise in the head.’ As for ‘Tune’– well, that could be stretching what ‘modern sounds’ are heard on the radio these days. Yet there is a place and time for both!

Without referring yourself to the audiologist too soon, I encourage you to look beyond (perhaps an unfamiliar language) and find instead of a ’ringing in the head,’ a ‘tune’ which you are proud to put your own stamp on or incline your ear towards.

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