Book launched on the value of singing for “new Irish”

Thursday, 2nd November 2017

A book based on two decades of research by a University of Limerick (UL) professor into singing and its role in developing experiences of belonging, was recently launched at the Royal Irish Academy.

'Singing the Rite to Belong: Music, Ritual and the New Irish' by Professor Helen Phelan, programme director of the PhD Arts Practice at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance (IWAMD), was published by Oxford University Press in October.

The book details Professor Phelan’s twenty-year research into the act of singing and its ability to foster experiences of belonging through ritual performance.

Set against the backdrop of “the new Ireland” of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the book outlines Ireland’s growing multiculturalism, changing patterns of migration, the diminishing influence of Catholicism, and synergies between local and global forms of cultural expression.

Graham Welch, Professor of Music Education, University College, London, said: “This is an important and timely contribution to our understanding of the place of singing in people’s lives. Although focused on the context of ritual, it speaks to the human power of singing for all individuals and groups, including singing’s facility as a social glue to create a sense of collective identity and belonging. Helen Phelan is an outstanding scholar and we are in her debt for this wonderful text”.

With an academic background in ritual studies and a special interest in medieval song and ritual song traditions of new migrant communities in Ireland, Professor Phelan served as course director of the MA Ritual Chant and Song programme for nine years and is co-founder of the female chant ensemble Cantoral, which specialises is Irish and Irish-related chant and medieval music.

Professor Phelan is director of the HEA funded Sanctuary initiative, which coordinates cultural projects between UL and new migrant communities. She is also director of the Irish Research Council funded Singing and Sustainable Social Integration Research Cluster.

Other publications by Professor Phelan have appeared in the Journal of Ritual Studies, Public Voices, Orientalia and Occidentalia and The International Journal of Community Music.  She has also contributed invited chapters in both the Oxford Handbook of Music Education and the Oxford Handbook of Music Education Philosophy.