Beach party at Little Bay, Sunday May 11

You’re invited!

We will be having a small beach party at Little Bay next weekend for all those (kids and adults) who participated in and supported the dance/drumming workshops this year. We’ll have some drinks/snacks, and please bring some to share.

Sunday, May 11 at 2pm until. Spread the word and see you there!

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Threading the needle and breakin’ it down

Yesterday we did some collaborative choreography in both classes, at Lookout Primary School and with the adults in Salem. It was great to get everyone’s creative input!

We included a new figure called “threading the needle,” and also included some moves inspired by Afro-Brazilian/samba and…break dancing. Yep, our Irish cĂ©ili dance has a top rock in it!

The Lookout and adult versions of the dance have the same basic structure, but there are some differences since the students were responsible for the choreography. We’ll keep developing these dances next week and see what we come up with! These would be great performance pieces in the future.

Also, the Lookout girls proposed a great idea: a beach party for everyone who has participated in the Blended Rhythms workshops! We have chosen Sunday, May 11 at 2pm at Little Bay beach for snacks, drinks, games, and swimming. Stay tuned for more on this!

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Some #BlendedRhythms announcements

Schools are on vacation for the next two weeks, so there will be no Irish dance classes for children during this time. (However, Small Beginnings will be holding a youth music camp from 1-13 April in Salem, so there will be no lack of musical education activity!)

St. Augustine dancers will be rehearsing next week for an appearance at the Easter Sunday Hat Parade & Tea Party fundraiser on 20 April at the school in Palm Loop. We’ll be performing an Irish dance alongside the fashion show while attendants enjoy a “cuppa.”

Adult classes are still on, and we will have guest fiddler Mike Evans playing again at our next class on Tuesday 1 April. If you missed last week, be sure to come next week!

Did you see Graham Clifford’s latest article in the Irish Independent about Afro-Irish culture on Montserrat? Blended Rhythms is mentioned at the end, and it’s wonderful to get some transatlantic ink!

Finally, I want to mention that I’m having a blast lately learning the different rhythms of Montserrat. Yesterday I had a lesson in masquerade drumming, and if those rhythms sound difficult, they are even harder to play! What a brain pretzel. Then I went straight to steel pan rehearsal, which is another challenge altogether—the melodic rhythms are difficult and I have a hard time fitting my tenor part into the overall ensemble puzzle.

I wouldn’t say that all these Montserratian, Irish, and African rhythms are “blending” in my head, but they are certainly competing for space! But it’s a harmonious competition. It’s pretty exhilarating.

Update: Post-St. Patrick’s Day Schedule

We now have the post-St. Patrick’s Day schedule confirmed! Irish dance classes will continue starting next week until the middle of May. The schedule will be as follows:

Mondays, 3:15pm, St. Augustine Primary School, grades 3-6 only
Tuesdays, 3:15pm, Lookout Primary School, grades 3-6 only
Tuesdays, 7:30pm, Old Salem School, adults

See you next week!

Last class at St. Augustine before performance time

Apologies for the lack of photos or videos today, but we have been too focused on rehearsing for the upcoming performances to pull out the camera!

The Irish dance class learned a final piece of choreography so that they will know all the same pieces as the other schools. Now all schools (St. Augustine, Brades, and Lookout) know the same snippets of choreography so we can easily stitch something together when we all meet up next week at Salem Park on St. Patrick’s Day. The girls showed noticeable improvement this week with keeping straight lines and avoiding collisions, so things are looking good!

We will have a sort of “dress rehearsal” at St. Augustine on Wednesday morning when a film crew from the Irish Independent comes to the school to take some footage of the dancing. The students will actually be Skyping with an Irish language school in Ireland, so it will be a bit of a transatlantic encounter! I wonder if they will be impressed by our Caribbean-style Irish dancing?

The St. Augustine dancers will perform at the St. Patrick’s Catholic Dinner on Saturday March 15, and then again on St. Patrick’s Day itself when they join up with the other schools.

In other news, unfortunately Dominique has had a family emergency and had to leave Montserrat a week early this morning, just as the festival kicks off! So we will need to improvise without him. I will try to lead the final drumming classes as best as I can (we’ll see how much drumming I’ve learned myself!) and we plan to still have some drumming students perform during the festival activities.

We’re all sending thoughts and prayers to Dominique and his family from Montserrat during this time.

Performance schedule – stay tuned for updates!

We will be updating this post as performances and appearances for both students and instructors during the St. Patrick’s and African Music Festivals are confirmed. Stay tuned for updates!

Wednesday, March 12
7:30pm >> Kate and adult Irish dance students will be performing with the Martin Healy Band and Emerald Community Singers at the Shamrock Cabaret (@ Old Salem School)

Thursday, March 13
7pm >> Kate will be making her debut with the Volpanics Steel Pan Orchestra at Rhythm Night (@ Salem Car Park, by Gary Moore’s)

Saturday, March 15
6pm >> St. Augustine Irish dance students will be performing at the St. Patrick’s Catholic Dinner (@ Montserrat Cultural Centre)
9pm >> Dominique’s band Jalikunda will perform at the African Music Festival (@ Salem Park)

Monday, March 17
Afternoon/evening >> Workshop students will participate in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, at the Slave Feast, and throughout the day’s festivities (@ Salem Car Park near Gary Moore’s)

Blended Rhythms interviewed for Montserrat documentary

This morning we were interviewed by Amadin Ryan and his team from the UK for a documentary film that is being made about the history and culture of Montserrat. They are here for a week to wrap up an 8 year project and they are planning to release the film later this year.

We talked about our project: where the idea came from (short answer: our simultaneous visits last March!), how the workshops have been going and how people are responding to the classes (short answer: very well!), what are our impressions of Montserrat (short answer: wonderful people!), and what advice we would give to other artists who have creative ideas for projects in Montserrat (short answer: just do it!).

We also talked to Amadin about his own initiative and the research that has gone into the project. His family is from Montserrat and he has strong ties here, and he explained that, in his opinion, anyone who embraces Montserratian culture is indeed a Montserratian. The film will include interviews with all kinds of people, from Sir George Martin and Paul McCartney, to Governor Davis, to local personalities, as well as other artists doing creative projects on Montserrat like we are. Can’t wait to see the finished product!

And you can see it was a beautiful day for an outdoor interview!

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Workshop added to schedule

Now that the Brades Primary School has moved back to its usual location in Brades, we’re adding a class for those students who were attending the classes at Lookout Primary School up to now. Brades students will have their own class on Fridays at 3:15pm after school starting this week (2/14). We will still be teaching at Lookout Primary School on Tuesdays at 3:15pm.

Thank you, Awesome Without Borders!

We are so excited, thrilled, and honored to accept a $1,000 grant as the 55th grantee from Awesome Without Borders (a collaboration between the Harnisch Foundation and the Awesome Foundation) to purchase djembes for the workshops, which we will donate to the youth community of Montserrat after the St. Patrick’s Festival in March. The drums are currently in transit!

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We are happy to be able to share our love of rhythm with Montserrat, and it is Awesome that we will now be able to leave behind something lasting so that young musicians here can continue to develop their drumming skills even after the workshops finish. And maybe we’ll be able to continue the tradition next year? Our drumming fingers and tapping toes are crossed.

Thank you, Awesome Without Borders!

(Also check out the announcement for our grant with our application’s project description on the Awesome Foundation website.)