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POP AND TRAD - two new music experiences in Dublin
For those of you who are interested in both Traditional Irish Music and the amazing success of Irish groups on the Rock and Pop scene Dublin has a treat in store: Two new music museums have opened this year, one dedicated to the traditional scene and the other to Rock and Roll.

by Olivia Walker

When I say Rock and Roll, the IRISH MUSIC HALL OF FAME on Middle Abbey Street has actually a whole lot more. You are taken on a tour with the aid of state of the art audio equipment. These are head phones which pick up the narrative or music of each section of the museum as you move through it. You will note as you cross the dotted lines on the floor that the tapes change to fit in with the new exhibitions. The atmosphere is set by the posters and the covers of the Irish Rock and Pop magazine Hot Press that greet you as you descend to the Stage Door complete with ‘Johnny’.

The tour through Irish music attempts to trace the roots of the success that many Irish bands have enjoyed on the world stage. Starting with the folk roots and Ceilis of the 1920s and the growth of traditional dance through the music of the Exiles. They have displays of the instruments including a small button accordion from the early 1900s and a scene from a modern day pub ‘session.’

Some of you might recognise the tuxedo wearing figure that stands before you as you enter ‘The Show Band Era.’ Our former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds was a successful Ballroom owner in the 1960s. The Showbands brought the music of popular culture to the youth of Ireland. All the greats are here from Philomena Begley, Big Tom and Joe Dolan to Rory Gallagher and Van Morrison who bridged the gap between the showbands to Rock Music with what became known as the Beat Groups. There is memorabilia from all the main acts ranging from costumes to contracts and tickets. As you pass on to the 1970s you are confronted with the folk revival and Celtic rock. Here you see Luke Kelly’s sheepskin coat, Liam Clancy’s Aran sweater, Christie Moore’s Bodhráin with the lyrics of Lisdoonvarna written on it, and lots more. This is a music experience not to be rushed. We’ve only just started and though it is billed as an hour, you could double that time if you are a keen music fan.

Next you come to The Age of Punk with such notables as Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols (yes - he was Irish). The Undertones and The Boomtown Rats. Stay and listen to the conversation of the Garage bands. It is quite amusing if you can understand the ‘Dart Accent’. Again you have a treasure trove of tickets, bank books, posters and hand written lyrics to study. Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats who set up Live Aid (a fund raiser), which was the biggest single event ever in Rock history, has donated a lot of background paperwork and the (unwashed) T-Shirt he wore for the concert!

The platinum record of Joshua Tree, costumes worn by U2, along with part of the graffiti-covered wall from the Windmill Lane recording studio are all on display here.

The women of Irish Music have not been forgotten either. The dress worn by Dana as a 14 year old school girl in 1970 when she won the Eurovision Song Contest with ‘All kinds of Everything’ is here- She is now a member of the European Parliament! Sinead O’Connor has donated the 1990 Billboard Music Award No1 World wide single she received for ‘Nothing compares to you’. There are also donations from the likes of Mary Black, Enya, Sharon Shannon and Dolores Keane to mention only a few!

There is a display for Riverdance together with the costumes of the principle dancers. Northern Ireland gets a mention too with donations from Brian Kennedy and Divine Comedy. Before finishing on this level you enter the Ireland Goes Pop section with music and displays from the pop culture of Boyzone, to the rock trad style of The Corrs, to the ‘bubblepop’ of Bewitched and many more.

There is now an elevator ride for which you must remove your head-phones and then walk down a corridor decorated on one side with plaster moulds of the hands of the drummers of the more famous Irish bands. On the other side are windows that look into a 500 seater music venue known as H.Q. At the end of the corridor is a room housing more instruments and costumes and several interactive computer games that challenge your knowledge of the Irish Rock/Pop scene. To finish your visit there is a fifteen minute film of interviews with a lot of the stars you have just been introduced to.

The Irish Music Hall of Fame houses a shop, Restaurant, three bars and the 500 seater H.Q. as well as the museum. It is definitely worth a visit though I do have a couple of gripes - Firstly the headphones were only available in English. Secondly the dialogue often started in the middle which could be confusing. However, if you stay at the display long enough it does come round to the start again.

Lastly the tapes have a tendency to jump. Often if you were not in the right spot there was interference which was extremely annoying. Hopefully these are just teething problems that will be sorted out. Don’t let them put you off!

THE TRADITIONAL IRISH MUSIC MUSEUM is located in the revitalised Smithfield area of Dublin in The Francis O’Neill Hotel named after the Chicago Chief of Police who collected and published Irish Traditional Music. He published 6 books between 1903 and 1924 and is credited with keeping the flame of Irish Traditional Music alive during those years of emigration and poverty. The museum is called simply Ceol (Irish for Music), and my only criticism is that it is not more widely publicised.

This is an interactive exhibition divided into four parts, History, Instruments, Song and Dance with a film to draw it all together. There are touch screen computers telling the story and history of Irish Music and you choose from a menu of topics. It is very informative and you will need time to go through them all.

For the children (of all ages!) there is the interactive room with notes you press to make a hand play the flute, a very large puzzle about the construction of instruments, a quiz to test your knowledge of Irish music and footpads to jump to and fro on to play different instruments. There are more computers with information on all the different instruments and samples of the best of Irish talent playing them in the different styles: Jigs, slides and reels. In the middle of all these computers is a small group of statues playing different instruments. If you stand beside one of them you will hear the instrument of that particular statue playing over the music of the others.

A stone walled room gives a cottage feel to the Story room where you can sit and listen to a dialogue of peoples’ experience of Irish music and its influences on them. The Song exhibition has just one set of computers telling you about the story and theme of the songs. You then enter a room full of metal people sitting in an outer circle looking into the middle of the room where you can sit and watch them. Each metal person has a television for a head and the picture on the T.V. is of somebody’s head. You can choose the type of song you would like to hear and one of the metal people will sing it for you while the others all look on - very impressive.

You then go upstairs to the Dance section. As you enter look up at the soles of the shoes of someone dancing on your head! There is a sculpture of dance shoes on the wall and a display which tells the story of the evolution of dance. At the back of the room is a wooden dance floor with mirrors at either end and two video screens the size of real people on each side. You can choose a set dance, jig or reel and the videos show people dancing. You can join them on the dance floor!

To finish your visit there is a short film on the different traditions, instruments and influences from around the country. The screen is 180º and gives the feeling of being whisked across the land and sea to different places. It is an interesting and informative video that shows people playing all the traditional instruments and singing. If you have questions about any part of the exhibition there are enthusiastic guides on hand to explain it all. There is also a shop with an extensive range of Videos, C.D.s, books, instruments and knick-knacks.

For anyone who wants to know more about Irish Music or has just heard a tune and half liked it, this is a must see venue. It can take as little as one hour or as long as you like if you go through all the topics on the screens.

Useful Information:

Irish Music Hall of Fame: Open 10am to 6.00pm 7 days a week all year except Christmas day. Adults £6.00. Student/Under 16/O.A.P. £4.00 Family: 2 adults, 2 Children £18.00. Group rates are negotiable. They have a website at www.irishmusichof.com

Ceol: Open 9.30am to 6.00pm Monday to Saturday. 10.30 am to 6.00pm Sunday. Closed Christmas Day and Good Friday. Adults £3.95. Student/O.A.P. £3.50. Children £3.00. Family: 2 Adults 2 children £12.00. You can also visit their website at http://www.ceol.ie

If you are interested in Irish Music and want to keep up to date you could send for a copy of Irish Music Magazine, 11 Clare Street, Dublin 2. It lists upcoming concerts or sessions in Ireland, England, Europe and in a small way the US as well as carrying articles and information on the traditional Irish scene. It costs $45.00 (including postage) for a year to America. Don’t forget to let them know you heard about them through INSIDE IRELAND!

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