Case Study – The Waking of Brian Boru – a community spectacle in St Patrick’s Cathedral Armagh

Armagh Public Library instigated the drive to find a way for the community to be actively involved in the 2014 All-Ireland commemoration of 1000 years since the death of Brian Boru at the Battle of Clontarf 1014. SoundMór worked with the Public Library, the Armagh Observatory and Armagh County Museum to create a series of collaborative workshops where members of the local community had a chance to discover the real story of Brian Boru in the context of his time.

Music performance workshops gave this community group a chance to develop their newly acquired knowledge through improvisation into dramatic soundscapes.This soundscape example here opens Act 4 in which Brian Boru is visited by the Banshee and his death is foretold. The lyrics used come from a 12th Icelandic saga and describe the weaving of the web of fate by the Valkyries.

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Soundscape opening Act 4

SoundMór worked at the same time with all the local primary schools, the drama department of  a local secondary school, a drumming group from the local Special School, the ArtsCare choir and local musicians and 3 soloists to create a musical drama in which the ghost of Brian Boru is able to tell his true account of what happened 1000 years ago. This duet is an example of the success of collaborative improvisation in creating artistic pieces of work. This song comes in Act 3 and signifies the marriage between Brian and Gormlaith. Its style and lyrics indicate how different they are and how conflicting loyalties can not be set aside.

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Duet Brian boru and Gormlaith

The performance in St Patrick’s Cathedral Church of Ireland offered a unique and wonderful performance space. This short clip shows the ghost coming to life in the Prologue, with an intensity and menace that is unsettling.