Percussion

JIM HIGGINS

Jim hails from Renmore in Galway. Born into a musical family, he went on to study music in University College Cork under Micheal O Suilleabhain amongst others. While in Cork, Jim caught ‘the bodhran bug’, playing alongside players such as Mel Mercier, Colm Murphy and Frank Torpey. During this period Jim was an active member of ‘The Stunning’ rock band playing trumpet and keyboards as well as percussion. He went on to play drums with fellow Galwegians ‘The Sawdoctors’ following a four year stint with ‘The Riverdance Show’ which took him around the world.

He is an honorary member of the Donegal based traditional group ‘Altan’ having recorded and toured extensively with them for the last fifteen years from the Hollywood Bowl to the Sydney Opera House. He has recorded and performed with such luminaries as Paul Brady, Christy Moore, Liam O’Flynn, Donal Lunny, Bill Whelan, Martin O’Connor and Lunasa. Jim also specializes in ethnic percussion encompassing the djembe, the darabukkas, the dumbeq and the mbira.

 

 

Mel MercierPROFESSOR MEL MERCIER

Mel is the Chair of Performing Arts at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. Mel completed a BMus at UCC in 1989, and a Master of Fine Arts in World Music at the California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles, in 1991, and was awarded a PhD from the University of Limerick in 2011. Mel has an outstanding record of creative output as a composer and performer, and an excellent record of academic leadership and engagement in scholarly activity. He has an international reputation as a composer for theatre, having composed music for many critically acclaimed, award-winning productions and installations, and an international profile as a performer of Irish traditional music, and as a collaborator across a range of music genres. He has twenty-five years experience of teaching and mentoring at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, alongside initiating and directing academic projects, conferences and symposia, and curating festivals, concert series, and community outreach initiatives.

Current Projects

Mel is currently working on several collaborative projects, including publication of My Name is Lancelot, a CD of his original compositions for theatre and dance; How it Is, a production of Beckett’s epic prose piece with Gare St. Lazare Ireland; CONCERT a new dance show with Colin Dunne; and PULSUS, the first Irish traditional music percussion ensemble.

Recent Projects

King Lear (Shakespeare) Produced by the Old Vic, London, in November 2016. Original Music and Sound Design by Mel Mercier. Directed by Deborah Warner, with Glenda Jackson in the role of King Lear.

Sacrifice at Easter Co-devised by Pat McCabe, Pat Kiernan Mel Mercier. Produced by Corcadorca Theatre Company and created as part of Ireland 1916 Centenary Celebrations. Presented at Elizabeth Fort, Barrack Street, Cork from 17 June to 2 July 2016. Corcadorca celebrated the company’s 25th year with this staging of an ambitious, outdoor, site-specific production, which featured a score of original music and a soundscape that included the iconic voices of Éamon De Valera, Dana and John McCormack.

The Tempest (Shakespeare) Produced by the Salzburg Festival in July/August 2016. Directed by Deborah Warner, Shakespeare’s The Tempest (Der Sturm) was played in a German translation with original music and sound design by Mel Mercier. With the exception of the British lip-sync artist Dickie Beau (the role of Ariel) the play was performed by an all-German and Austrian cast.

RTÉ Documentary on One: Peadar Mercier Radio documentary written and narrated by Mel Mercier. Produced by Mel Mercier and Liam O’Brien, and first broadcast on 10 September 2016. Peadar Mercier was a member of the Chieftains and Seán Ó Riada’s Ceoltóirí Cualann, and the first-ever professional bodhrán and bones player. 25 years after his death, his son Mel has produced a radio documentary that gathers together the traces of his father’s life, creating a memory space filled with his voice and music, and the reflections of his family and friends. http://www.rte.ie/radio1/doconone/2016/0826/812103-peadar-mercier/

Academic Background

Over the last two decades, before he was appointed to the Chair of Performing Arts at UL, Mel played a pioneering role in the strategic development and delivery of University College Cork’s cross-cultural music curricula, and the cultivation of its progressive ethos and creative educational environment. During that period he led the development of Irish traditional music, ethnomusicology and performance studies at UCC, developing and delivering courses in Irish traditional music, ethnomusicology, music education, Indian classical music, West African traditional and popular musics, Javanese gamelan and performance theory. He played a leading role in the development of a vibrant interdiscipinary research environment at the Department of Music at UCC, working with his colleagues there to create a research culture that integrates scholarship and creative practice, embracing practice-based research – including composition and performance – alongside musicological, ethnomusicological, and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of an inclusive range of music genres, from art and popular music, to traditional and experimental music. In 2010, he oversaw the formation, and was appointed as the first Head of the newly established UCC School of Music and Theatre. In 2016 he was appointed as the Chair of Performing Arts at the University of Limerick.

Research

Mel’s own research encompasses creative practice, in composition and performance, as well as more traditional, academic scholarship, most often within the disciplinary frameworks of ethnography and performance studies. Mel has a record of sustained, award-winning, creative output as a composer, and has built an international reputation as a composer of music for theatre. Over the last two decades has composed the music for many critically acclaimed, award-winning theatre productions and installations that have been presented in Ireland, the UK, Europe and America.

Music Composition for Theatre

Since 2000, he has collaborated with some of the world’s most respected theatre practitioners, including director Deborah Warner, actor/director Fiona Shaw and director Phyllida Lloyd. In 2013, he won the New York Drama Desk Award and was nominated for a Tony Award for his score for the Broadway production of The Testament of Mary. In 2002, he was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for the Abbey Theatre/Broadway production of Medea, and, in 2012, he received a nomination for an Irish Times Theatre Award for the Abbey Theatre/Fibín production of Sétanta. In addition to commissions from the Abbey Theatre (Dublin), he has received commissions from the Royal Court (London, UK), The Barbican (London, UK), The National Theatre of Great Britain (London, UK) and Theatre National De Chaillot (Paris, France).

Art Installations

In addition to composing for theatre, Mel has played a leading role in the creation of several, large-scale art installation projects in recent years, including From the Sources (2010) and Peace Camp: A Coastal Installation (2012). In 2010, he created the multi-media installation, From the Sources, to celebrate the Centenary of Professor Aloys Fleischmann. From the Sources featured audio and film recordings of 840 tunes, compiled by Fleischmann in his Sources of Irish Traditional Music, performed by 96 traditional musicians, all of whom are students, tutors and graduates of UCC. In 2012, he created the poetryscape and soundscape for Peace Camp with director Deborah Warner and actor Fiona Shaw. The piece was commissioned by London 2012: Cultural Olympiad. Celebrating love poetry and landscape, Peace Camp took place over four nights between 19 and 22 July, 2012, at eight coastal locations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Performance

Mel also has an international reputation as an innovative performer, rooted in Irish traditional music, and committed to collaborating across music genres and across art forms. In a performance career that spans four decades he has collaborated with a wide range of traditional, classical, jazz, and non-western musicians and ensembles, and has performed in hundreds of concerts and recitals throughout Ireland, the UK, Europe, North America, India and China.

For almosts four decades he has performed extensively in Ireland and internationally as a traditional percussionist with Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, and has played on 11 of his album/CD recordings. Throughout the 1980s, with his father Peadar Mercier, Liam O’Flynn, Paddy Glackin, Joe Heaney and Seamus Tansey, he performed Amercian composer John Cage’s experimental composition Roaratorio: An Irish Circus on Finnegan’s Wake and Inlets, in Europe and the USA, with John Cage the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. In 1999-2000, he represented Ireland as a member of the cross-cultural, European Percussion Ensemble On the Outer Edges of Europe, which featured some of the leading percussionists from several European countries, performing self-composed, pan-European, trad-jazz fusion music.

Gamelan

Mel has been performing Javanese Karawitan (traditional music) and composing new music for gamelan since the mid 1990s. As Director of the Cork Javanese Gamelan, he has led the ensemble in a pioneering series of recitals of traditional and new music in Cork, Limerick, Galway, Dublin and London. Under his direction, the ensemble has collaborated with leading Javanese musicians and dancers, and, in more recent years, in a unique series of collaborations, with Irish and international artists, including actor Fiona Shaw, cellist Kate Ellis, dancer Colin Dunne, singer Iarla Ó Lionáird, saxophonists Ken Edge and Nick Roth, singer-songwriter Duke Special, and poets Matthew Sweeney and Leanne O’Sullivan. The ensemble presented its 20-year anniverary concert series in March 2014, and launched its debut CD of new compositions (The Three Forges, Diatribe Records) in 2015 at Kilkenny Arts Festival.

TRASNA

In 2009, in response to the developing intercultural soundscape of Cork and Ireland, Mel established the intercultural music ensemble TRASNA. The ensemblerepresented UCC, Cork and Ireland at the Shanghai World Expo in September 2010. In Shanghai, TRASNA performed with the renowned musician, Ma Xiaohui, one of the leading Chinese erhu players and the featured soloist on the soundtrack of the movie, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. This collaboration was recognized as a “unique cultural experience” by the United Nations.

 Recording

Mel has extensive experience as a recording artist, both as a performer and composer, and as a producer and music arranger. Since the mid-1970s he has been professionally engaged to play on more than fifty recordings, with many Irish and international musicians, composers and ensembles, including Donal Lunny, Bill Whelan, Alan Stivell, Bobby Gardiner, Dúlra, Stockton’s Wing, Palle Mikkleborg, Helen Davies, Mary Black and eX Ensemble.  

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Colm Phelan

COLM PHELAN

“Colm Phelan Encompasses Innovation & Tradition with every beat’” – Junior Davey (Five Time All Ireland Champion)

“Colm Phelan is one of Ireland’s leading young percussionists, and an exceptional Bodhrán player, providing new dimensions to the voice instrument” – Niall Keegan, Course Director, BA Irish Music and Dance.

Portlaoise-born Colm has been playing bodhrán and CeiliBand drums since childhood and has been a prominent contender in the All Ireland competition since his earliest year of playing both Bodhran and Drums; in fact Colm qualified for the All-Ireland finals in his very first year of playing. Colm is a winner of numerous medals down through the years with his proudest achievements being the first ever World Bodhrán Champion, in Miltown, Co Kerry in 2006 ,and in the same year winning the All Ireland in Letterkenny for the second year in succession. This back-to-back achievement was closely echoed in his unique multiple Ceili Band drum competition successes. An All Ireland winner on both Bodhrán and Ceili Band drums is no mean feat.

Colm is one of the most sought after Bodhrán tutors in Irish Music. He has given workshops in France, Germany, Finland, Holland, Italy, USA, at the International summer school Craiceann on Inis Oirr and for the past few years he has been leading the advanced and master class at Junior Daveys Bodhrán School in Sligo.

He graduated with a BA in Irish Music and Dance at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick in 2011. The University experience has quickened his pride in his Irish heritage and reinforced his desire to ground himself firmly within that tradition. To further this approach Colm has become involved in the design and development of the instrument to advance his expertise.

 

 

 

Dermot SheedyDERMOT SHEEDY

‘….the kind of percussionist that will create the future groove of Irish Traditional Music.’ Mel Mercier (Lorg Lunny, 2010)

Dermot is a percussionist from County Clare specialising in the bodhran and drums. He is self taught, and has won an impressive total of seven All-Ireland titles.

Currently he tours with his band Hermitage Green where to date they have released two top 5 albums ‘Save Your Soul’ & ‘Live at Whelans’ and continue to tour around the world winning over legions of fans and selling out shows across Ireland, the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, the Middle East &South Africa,

Prior to his work with Hermitage Green he built a reputation as a popular session musician performing nationally and worldwide with various groups such as Éalú, The Raparees, Beoga, Ciorras, The Kilfenora Ceili Band, The Irish Harp Orchestra and Celtic Legends.

In 2010 Dermot was handpicked by Dónal Lunny, to be a member of trad band Ciorras. The selection process and the formation of the new group was filmed as an 8 Part series called ‘Lorg Lunny’, broadcasted on TG4.*

 

 

 

 

 

*Please note all teachers are subject to change.