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Press Release: Tower Songs – A Song Cycle for Ballymun

Fri 06 Feb 2009 by Athena Media

A one hour arts and music radio documentary for RTÉ Lyric FM, Saturday February 14th, 5:30pm

An Athena Media production for RTÉ Lyric FM supported by the BCI Sound and Vision Fund www.athenamedia.ie

‘I want to stand tall like the towers
With all their strength and power.
To be myself and no one else
It’s easier said than done.
Whether you fall or wake from a good or bad dream
A new day comes along.’

Ron Cooney is a Dublin music teacher with a mission and a big ambition. A mission to bring music to children and the ambition to see them play to the best of their ability. For the last twelve years Ron has led the Ballymun Music Programme, which sees children in primary and secondary schools learning and playing music and which has brought some of the talented young musicians to DIT’s music conservatory on scholarship. Ron set himself an ambitious task. To work with a professional composer to see if the young people of Ballymun could create their own song cycle which would celebrate the transformation of Ballymun and honour the passing of the Ballymun Towers. As part of the Tower Songs project under City Arts, Ron and composer Daragh O’Toole worked with local teenagers, eighteen-year-old Daire and sixteen-year-old Darren, to create a big sound for Ballymun called ‘A New Day’. On Tuesday February 3rd over two hundred young people filled the stage in the Helix at DCU where the school choirs of Ballymun and Ron’s brass, wind and string groups were joined by RTÉ’s Cór na nÓg and professional musicians like David Agnew and Leslie Bishop. Led by David Brophy, RTÉ’s charismatic lead conductor who grew up in Santry just a stone throw from the Towers, the young singers and players performed the four parts of the cycle to a packed house, despite the snow and hail. ‘Music is a drug, we should be pushing it to the young,’ says David Brophy who worked with the local children after school on Wednesday nights to get them ready for the show. For the children the experience will stay with them forever. ‘I still can’t believe hearing all those voices singing my words back to me’ says Daire, while Darren’s line ‘I want to stand tall like the towers’ is the one that echoes with all the children.

Tower Songs – A Song Cycle for Ballymun follows the journey of Ron’s idea and ambition from September to the final performance in the Helix and this documentary captures the creation of an extraordinary community music project which grew to involve every school in Ballymun and brought in some of the best music talent in Ireland in the shape of conductor David Brophy, the RTÉ performing groups and composer Daragh O’Toole.

‘Well, it’s saying goodbye to old Ballymun, like Ballymun as we know it is changing,’ says Daire, while Darren adds ‘but you’re sort of saying hello to new Ballymun – it depends on what way you look at it’.

For Ron Cooney, the rewards are not just the Helix performance but the number of children and young people who are growing up and into music, like fourteen-year-old Tara O’Brien who is on a DIT music scholarship and already plays grade six flute. ‘Sometimes I lie awake at night and think about if music had not come into my life,’ Tara says. She dreams of becoming a music teacher just like Ron Cooney. ‘I’d like to give back to the community what I got,’ she says simply.

Tower Songs is a City Arts initiative which has already worked with communities in Fatima Mansions and Rialto. An earlier Tower Songs project in Ballymun with older people’s groups led to the song Leaving Ballymun which shares the memories of those who came to Ballymun in the sixties when it was an award-winning new urban development. ‘I thought it was like Manhattan,’ Paddy Kavanagh says. Leaving Ballymun shares their dreams and hopes of the then new Ballymun, a dream which changed through the years with the social troubles which marked the Towers, although they all still love the area because of the people and the community there.

Tower Songs – A Song Cycle brings out the stories and voices of the people, particularly the young people, living in Ballymun and their dreams and hopes, once again, for a new beginning – ‘a new day’.

Tower Songs – A Song Cycle for Ballymun is produced by Helen Shaw and researched by Niamh Kinane.

Please contact Athena Media at +35314885851 or email chris@athenamedia.ie for more details.

Link: DIT Community Links - Ballymun Music website Programme

Listen to RTE radio 1 Morning Ireland's report about Tower Songs here

To read City Arts press release regarding "A New Day" project click here

Listen to the programme by clicking here

Or through the Lyric Fm site here

Photo: Tower Songs Ballymun Music Programme rehearsing at the RTE Radio Centre for their concert at The Helix. Pictured at the rehearsal is David Brophy, Principle Conductor of the RTE Concert Orchestra, with St. Joseph's School, Ballymun, students Robyn Staines (11), left, and Robyn Coleman (9).
Photo. Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland.