School of Traditional Music celebrates 20 years of talent and community in the heart of Glengormley

What started as a small whistle band at a local GAA club has grown into one of Northern Ireland’s most influential traditional music schools over the past two decades.

The Glengormley School of Traditional Music was founded by Ray Morgan as a cross-community space for those wishing to learn traditional Irish music and instruments.

As they celebrate their 20th anniversary this week, Ray told Belfast Live about the impact the school has had on the local music scene and across the country.

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He said: “I was the culture manager for the GAA club St Enda and we had a little whistle course around the corner and basically that’s where it all grew from when we realized that there was a demand for people to learn traditional music.

“Everything has gone well since then – over the past 20 years we have taught thousands of pupils and would be seen in the wider community of Glengormley and West Belfast as very successful ever since. the beginning.”

Funded by the Arts Council, the school operates out of Edmund Rice College in Newtownabbey and recently won TG4’s Gradam Comaoine, an award for outstanding contribution to traditional music reflecting the hard work it has put into the course of the past 20 years.

“We really are a community with a lot of families and volunteers involved in the race. We consider ourselves a family of traditional music families and I would say that we are a very important community artistic resource for the region,” Ray continued.

“Before Covid we would have had monthly visits to the children’s hospice to play for staff and patients and we would also have played in care homes as well as social events and weddings.

“Belfast is a fantastic city for traditional music and you only have to walk into a number of our pubs to see it and I think we’ve contributed to that as well – overall we’ve played our part for the traditional scene music and are always looking for ways to promote it in Newtownabbey, Belfast and the north.”

Ray and his team are excited to create the next generation of musicians who can love and appreciate traditional music culture and share it with others.

Later this year, GSoTM will host a school traditional music competition sponsored by Belfast Movie House and Matchetts Music to get more people involved in the love of the game.

Young people performing as part of the Glengormley School of Traditional Music

Ray continued: “Traditional music is about playing together. It’s not about sitting at home playing alone, but about getting together with other people.

“We see ourselves as a cross-community organization enabling people of all backgrounds, ages and genders to enjoy traditional music.

“We have produced some fantastic young musicians and are very grateful for the large number of volunteers who have kept us going and we simply couldn’t do it without them.”

To mark their anniversary, they organized a Glengormley Trad Fest supported by Antrim and Newtownabbey Council to celebrate the community they have created in Newtownabbey and their involvement in Northern Ireland’s traditional music scene.

“On Sunday we are having a family fun day at Edmund Rice College so all of our families can get together and celebrate our 20th birthday – lots of music, events, arts and crafts,” Ray said.

“There will be a session hall and a bodhran circle so there will be lots and lots of music because we have lots and lots of students.”

He added: “School is a fantastic outlet for young people and anyone who wants to get involved and I think participating in any artistic activity is worth it – especially these days with what everyone has. had to endure over the past two years.”

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