Northern Ireland news

Belfast primary schools embrace traditional Irish music in diverse showcase event

Pupils from St Malachy's Primary School, in the Market area of Belfast, during the Glengormley Traditional Music Primary School performance at 2 Royal Avenue. Picture Mal McCann
John Breslin

Traditional Irish music is being embraced by children from all backgrounds, particularly in the most diverse areas of the north.

Of the 17 children in the trad music group from St Malachy's Primary School in the Market area of Belfast, 16 are from backgrounds other than Irish, largely from India. 

It does reflect the overall demographic of the city centre school with many of the parents recent immigrants working for BT or other large companies based in Belfast, said Sinead Rafferty, the school's music co-ordinator.


St. Bernard's Primary School student plays Irish banjo as peers observe, Video Mal Mccann


"The parents are really keen for their children to have their children involved in these after school groups," said Ms Rafferty.
The group was among primary school musicians and singers from across the greater Belfast area taking part in a two-day live stage event organised  by Glengormley School of Traditional Music, based within Edmund Rice College on the Hightown Road.


St Patricks Primary School, Antrim Road, at 2 Royal Avenue where over 200 children took part in the two day event. Picture Mal McCann

Ten schools, 200 pupils, took part in the event at 2 Royal Avenue, the city centre arts space. But five or six told the organisers they were not quite ready to perform after the disruption caused by the Covid pandemic, said Ray Morgan, chair of the music school.

Mr Morgan added:  "Young trad musicians taking part got a real buzz out of the experience and there was a fantastic supportive atmosphere among all the primary schools."
St Bernard's PS, Glengormley, pupils at 2 Royal Avenue Picture Mal McCann


Rebuilding after Covid is happening at St Malachy's s as the group only started in February this year, said Ms Rafferty. Prior to the pandemic, bodhrans and guitars were part of the mix but the group decided to go with tin whistles for this performance, the teacher said.


St Bernards Primary School pupils. Picture Mal McCann


At St Malachy's, there is also an African drums ensemble that plays with the traditional musicians, with the first gig this year on St Patrick's Day. "We do encourage and celebrate all the cultures," said Ms Rafferty.

The very large number from diverse backgrounds is somewhat unique to a number of Belfast city centre schools, including Botanic in the Holyland area and Blythefield off Sandy Row.

Soloists, choirs, groups and other musical ensembles showcased how traditional Irish music is used across the curriculum of the primary schools, the organisers of the event said..
St Malachy's pupils at the Glengormley School of Traditional Music primary school performance at 2 Royal Avenue. Picture Mal McCann
The event is part of the Glengormley school's mission to promote and encourage the teaching of traditional music in primary schools and to facilitate the playing by providing spaces and organising events, the music school said.


Holy Cross Girls, Ardoyne, pupils at 2 Royal Avenue. Picture Mal McCann


The Glengormley school of music "will definitely be facilitating another performance opportunity next year," said Mr Morgan.


Northern Ireland news