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Dr. Helen Phelan



Helen Phelan is Professor of Arts Practice at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick, Ireland. A singer and ritual studies scholar, she is an Irish Research Council recipient for her work on singing and new migrant communities in Ireland. Her most recent book, Singing the Rite to Belong: Music, Ritual and the New Irish, was published by Oxford University Press in 2017. As a singer, she specializes in chant from religious ritual traditions and is the co-founder of the female vocal group Cantoral who released the much acclaimed CD recording Let the Joyous Irish Sing Aloud! Chant from Medieval Ireland in 2014. She serves on the editorial boards of a number of academic journals including Frontiers in Psychology, The International Journal of Community Music and Experiments and Intensities: A Journal for Performance-as-Research. Since coming to the University of Limerick, she has served as Academic Coordinator and Associate Director of the Irish World Academy, as well as Assistant Dean, Academic Affairs to the Faculty of Arts, Humanities an Social Sciences. She has also held prestigious visiting international positions including the Herbert Allen and Donald R. Keough Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Notre Dame, USA. She is founder of the Singing and Social Inclusion research group. Her most recent funding from the Health Research Institute is for the use of singing and other arts-based methods in migrant health research.

Research Interests

music and ritual; migration, music and new ritual communities in Ireland; music and the Second Vatican Council in Ireland; ritual studies; performance studies; music and education; music and community, music education philosophy.

Teaching Interests

My teaching is primarily linked to the PhD Arts Practice programme where I teach theory and method modules in arts practice research.

At the Masters level, I teach modules in ritual studies as well as writing and the documentation of arts practice to programmes in ethnomusicology, ethnochoreology, festive arts, ritual chant and song, Irish traditional music, Irish traditional dance, contemporary dance classical strings and songwriting,

I have designed a suite of modules in performance studies for the undergraduate programme as well as a broadening module in arts, activism and awareness.