On Tuesday 11 February, an ensemble of five young traditional Irish musicians from the north-east region of Ireland represented Music Generation at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York City as Mary Robinson (Chair of The Elders), António Guterres (UN Secretary General) and Bono (co-founder of the ONE Campaign) took part in the Irish Government’s launch of ‘Drive For Five’, a global call to action for the education of adolescent girls.
The five young musicians who took part in the event originally came together through their membership of ‘Nós Nua – Louth Youth Folk Orchestra’, a collaborative initiative between Music Generation Louth and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann in Ireland’s north-east region (based at The Oriel Centre, Dundalk). Together with members of the UN Choir and the Pihcintu Multicultural Chorus – a choir of immigrant and refugee girls based in Portland, Maine – their performance rounded out this high profile launch event, which was hosted by the Permanent Mission of Ireland. Already the response to The Drive For Five campaign has been significant, receiving support from nations worldwide.
Irish Ambassador to the UN, Geraldine Byrne Nason, introduced the young musicians before an audience of some 500 guests in the Trusteeship Council Chamber, including UN Secretary General António Guterres and UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. Together with both choirs the Music Generation ‘Young Ambassadors’ performed a rendition of Seothín Seó, a traditional Irish lullaby arranged by Music Generation National Director Rosaleen Molloy, followed by the well-known ballad You Raise Me Up, the lyrics of which were written by Irish songwriter Brendan Graham. The event was also live-streamed on UN Web TV.
The five young musicians are: Kerrianne McCardle (Flute); Evelyn McCaul (Harp); Saoirse McGahern (Bodhrán); Iarla McMahon (Uilleann Pipes); and Kim Poole (Fiddle).
Commenting on their experience after the event, the young musicians said: ‘We had the most amazing experience yesterday at the United Nations. It was an honour for us to represent Ireland and the young people of the world in advocating for every child and young person to have access to education. We are very grateful to everyone who made this possible for us, we will never forget it.’
Kerrianne spoke to RTÉ's Brian O'Donovan on the evening, sharing her views on the importance of equal access to education:
The importance of education for girls has been highlighted at an event at the United Nations in New York. Irish teenagers were there, alongside Bono, the lead singer of U2, and the former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson. @BrianOD_News has the story... pic.twitter.com/v2YbWeepaK— RTÉ news2day (@news2dayRTE) February 12, 2020
Each of the five young people, ranging in age from 15-17, has previously been involved in various music programmes and initiatives led by Music Generation Louth and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann at The Oriel Centre, including Nós Nua. Established in 2017, the 57-member Nós Nua Youth Folk Orchestra has previously performed at the IAYO Festival of Youth Orchestras in the National Concert Hall and at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann. The Orchestra has been featured on Fleadh TV and later this year it will perform brand new music commissioned for them by previous BBC Radio 2 Musician of the Year, Mohsen Amini, funded by the Arts Council Young Ensembles Scheme.
In addition to the live finale performance, music from Music Generation Laois was played at the outset of the event as delegates entered the Chamber. The recording, ‘Visions and Voices’, is a suite of traditional Irish music originally commissioned to mark the 2016 centenary programme, composed by Martin Tourish in collaboration with the Music Generation Laois Trad Orchestra.
Music Generation is Ireland’s national music education programme, initiated by Music Network and co-funded by U2, The Ireland Funds, the Department of Education and Skills and Local Music Education Partnerships. Currently the programme reaches 25 areas of Ireland, creating some 42,500 opportunities annually for children and young people to engage in high quality, subsidised vocal and instrumental tuition with 350+ professional musician educators. In Louth, Music Generation is led by Louth and Meath Education and Training Board with support from Create Louth and Dundalk IT.
The Drive For Five campaign calls for governments to commit to five transformative actions to get all adolescent girls into schools. The campaign was launched on Tuesday with partners including the ONE Campaign, the Global Partnership for Education and UN Women. Its aim is to put a spotlight on adolescent girls’ education and to launch a movement that will provide them with quality, relevant education in supportive, safe and healthy environments.