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23 June 2015

Residency at Tyrone Guthrie Centre, County Monaghan

Jacqui Rutten at Annaghmakerrig Image: Jacqui Rutten at Annaghmakerrig  
© Miles Lowry

I was fortunate to visit the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in County Monaghan Ireland for two weeks in May this year. My composing residency was assisted by a generous grant from the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia.

The Tyrone Guthrie Centre is about one hour's walk to the nearest village which has a general store. The setting is lovely - hectares of land, including a lake. The buildings are very stylishly decorated with lots of artwork everywhere. I was lucky to be given a cottage of my own, and a large music room with two grand pianos for the duration of my visit.

I have some Irish ancestry and a strong musical connection with Irish music - especially sacred and Celtic music which I have been composing and singing and playing for quite a while. I was a regular cantor at St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne (1999-2005), and have presented many Sacred Stage concerts, solo and with others, featuring original and extant Celtic sacred music.

Annaghmakerrig, which the Tyrone Guthrie Centre is also known as, is a very special place. It is not just the amazing buildings and gardens, but also Robert McDonald, the Director, and all the staff are very helpful. Meeting the other artists was a great exchange of knowledge and ideas. For example, I sang with an Irish woman Eileen Keane, for hours - many Irish folk songs that we both knew off by heart, song after song. I also had the chance to improvise with a Canadian dancer David Ferguson just for a moment, and to visit four artists' studios. I had also visited the Contemporary Music Centre in Dublin for research before my residency and was given a wonderful CD of their composers' works which was interesting to listen to.

I was composing a work called Memorial, based on my own 'Improvisations as Nature', and an Easter Sunday chant. The piece is partly a memorial to the 1916 Easter Rebellion at the General Post Office in Dublin (next year is the centenary). I was given a book about the GPO's museum exhibition. Memorial was initially inspired by Birtwistle's Earth Dances, which I heard while speaking at a music conference 'Composition in the 21st Century' at Trinity College, Dublin, last year. I am hoping my piece will be premiered in Belfast at a Catholic college, and also performed locally.

I completed a final draft of the 10-minute work during my two weeks residency. I composed the work with pencil, rubber, and paper, sometimes in my studio and sometimes sitting by the lake notating birdsong to include in the work. I was interested in how much culture we add to this direct depiction of nature, a resonance I found with another Irish artist in residence, Jean Bardon, a print maker. Having the grand pianos at my disposal to play through what I had composed was great, and the huge music room to do my daily voice and instrument practice was also a bonus. I also found myself singing with the birds along a forest track every day, learning their trills and turns.

I hope to return to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre and would recommend the place to anyone with a strong and active interest in Irish culture.

Further links

Jacqui Rutten - AMC profile
Tyrone Guthrie Centre (http://tyroneguthrie.ie/)


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