Hand Ball Alley reverberates with the sound of music

We have what promises to be a truly unique concert taking place as part of our New Spaces for Musicprogramme on Sunday 31st May here in Sligo.

A Sligo Handball Alley, at Summerhill College, is being used by traditional musician and composer Emer Mayock for a contemporary take on a traditional artform.

Emer approached us last year about creating a performance as part of our New Spaces series and we’re delighted the ideal will finally be coming to life over the Bank Holiday Weekend. On the Sunday evening of that weekend, at 5pm, Emer will bring traditional music and her own compositions to the handball alley at Summerhill College, Sligo. The music will reverberate around the acoustically challenging, stark, domineering and yet strangely welcoming structure that is the Hand Ball Alley.

When she approached us initially Emer explained how she had a great admiration for HandBall alleys and possessed a sustained inquisitiveness about the outdoor handball alley for some time. For Emer it possesses an inherent architectural, sculptural and aesthetic beauty, embodying a striking form unarticulated or adorned in any decorative sense.

Outdoor Hand Ball Alleys were once an extremely visible part of the fabric of Ireland’s rural landscape, particularly so in the West and North West. Although the game is still played, and is one of the GAA’s 4 official sports. it’s popularity has declined in recent decades and as a result many of the outdoor alleys have fallen into disrepair.

As we researched the spaces for Emer we discovered a great blog that seeks to track and compile a comprehensive overview of the “big alleys” in Ireland, their pictures and their stories. Part of a research project into the architectural and cultural history of the 30’x60′ or ‘big alley’ indigenous to Ireland, the collects information on the whereabouts and histories of these alleys and makes for surprisingly fascinating reading.

With a repertoire chosen especially for this performance and this unique space, Emer will play solo flute, whistle, pipes and fiddle, seeking to create an acoustic interplay between her instruments and the high walls of this very specific environment into which she has brought them. As well as solo playing, Emer will be joined by special guests Nick Roth and Donal Siggins. Gradually the musicians will become part of the reciprocal exploration of acoustic instruments in this unconventional setting.

We hope you’ll come and join us for this truly unique experience on Sun 31st May, and that you’ll bring the fine weather with you! Tickets are just €5 and can be purchased in advance from The Model, or on the gate from 4.30pm. This is an outdoor concert so please wrap up warm and wear comfy shoes as you will most likely be standing. The concert is just an hour in length and promises to be something truely spectacular.

Emer began to play traditional music during her childhood on a range of instruments including the Flute, Low Whistles, Fiddle and Uilleann Pipes. She has produced two CDs: ‘Merry Bits of Timber’ in 1996 and ‘Playground’ in 2001- the latter continuing her interest in writing new music and containing mostly her own compositions. Emer’s love of the Flute in particular has lead her to bring it to centre stage on her recordings and at live concerts.

Emer continues to perform, compose and explore music from other traditions and genres. At present she is involved in a new ensemble Tarab with jazz musicians Francesco Turrisi, Nick Roth and percussionist Robbie Harris. In December 2008 Tarab completed a series of 21 concerts at The Ark, Dublin, IMC’s Pendulum series at JJ Smyth’s and Bray Jazz Festival. Further performances and a studio recording are planned in 2009.

New Spaces for Music began in April 2008 with a performance from Canadian act Milosh in the extremely intimate surrounds of the Radisson SAS Hotel and Spa’s Coney Island Bedroom Suite and has continued in more unusual spaces such as Churches, Old Pharmacies Exhibition spaces and empty shops throughout Sligo.