West Cork lifted by the power of song

feel-good-fest-gamelan

Posted on: 10th October, 2016

Category: Features

Contributor: Mary O'Brien

ABOVE: Clinical Nurse Specialist Kevin O’Shanahan pictured with the Gamelan. Pic: Tomasz Madajczak

Depression affects one in ten people in Ireland at any one time and there are many aspects of mental health that can leave people feeling helpless and isolated in the community. This is why an all-inclusive event such as the West Cork Feel Good festival has become such an important date on the West Cork calendar says Mary O’Brien.

Running primarily in Bantry and Skibbereen from October 10 to 15 during World Mental Health Week and promoting a variety of community-based activities that contribute to wellbeing, with music at the forefront, the Feel Good festival invites participation from everyone in West Cork.

Singing priest Liam Lawton, broadcaster Evelyn Grant and world-renowned musician Mel Mercier will headline the programme of events, which will also see the launch of an exciting new initiative – The West Cork Gamelan Ensemble.

The West Cork Gamelan Ensemble was commissioned by MusicAlive and West Cork Mental Services, with specialist advice from Dr, Mel Mercier, who will also officially launch the project in Skibbereen on World Mental Health Day, October 10.

This ensemble aims to facilitate a range of inclusive workshops, performances and other encounters with a special set of musical instruments (such as cymbals, chimes and gongs), known collectively as a gamelan orchestra. The Gamelan has been proven to increase self-confidence and motivation in participants, as well as teamworking and communication skills.

A performance-based ensemble will begin weekly rehearsals in Skibbereen from Wednesday, October 19, from 7-8pm, and is open to all adults over the age of 18. Gamelan specialist, Kevin McNally from the University College Cork Gamelan and West Cork Ukulele Orchestra will lead the weekly rehearsals, which promise an engaging, educational and enjoyable musical adventure!

This exciting initiative could not have happened without the additional support from Cork Arts and Health programme, Music Dept at UCC, The Cope Foundation, Cork Education and Training Board and the Arts Office at Cork County Council.

Singing has also been proven to generate a sense of positive mood, happiness and enjoyment. Such positive feelings also counteract feelings of stress or anxiety and help to distract people from internal negative thoughts and feelings.

Singing in a group encourages social inclusion and creates an opportunity for communities to come together.

Nora Edgeworth from Bantry, whose struggle with depression began with the bereavement of her partner 18 years ago, found her way out of the dark through music and her community. She now works in her local community using music to communicate, uplift and encourage. “I discovered I had capabilities and concentrated on what I could do,” she explains. “Working with music and the link with mental health is so important. I feel needed again. I’m 63 now and have a lot of dreams and hopes. Every day is innovative and creative. I have given up saying I can’t or won’t do something.”

2016 marks the first of the Feel Good parades, with over 30 community groups confirmed, from GAA clubs and Garda to walking and animal lovers groups. Other groups interested in participating can get in touch via the festival’s facebook page.

This year’s festival is also a first for Susan McManamon from Clonakilty, the new musical director of Bantry Community Choir. Susan, a pianist with the Vespertine Quintet, is delighted to have the opportunity to carry on the dedicated work of outgoing musical director Norman Collins.

The festival features a wide variety of events including open door music sessions, face painting, dance groups, fitness sessions and a ‘come and try’ sports session. For the Saturday Feelgood Parade, people are invited to dress however they like in the theme colours of blue and orange. Kids can even show off their Halloween costumes.

Liam Lawton will perform with the Bantry Community Choir and the award-winning Seoda Chamber Choir at a ‘Live Life and Sing’ concert, hosted by Lyric FM’s Evelyn Grant at Bantry’s Maritime Hotel on Friday, October 14.

West Cork Big Sing, whose motto is ‘singing for community well-being,’ will host public workshops in Bantry, Mealagh Valley, Glengarrif, Durrus and Castletownbere in the weeks leading up to The Big Sing event in Bantry Square on the Saturday. “The aim is to provide participants with the opportunity to learn songs in advance, meet others in their locality, bring awareness to the benefits of singing and to encourage community participation in The Big Sing,” said organiser Caz Jeffreys.

“There are many aspects of mental health that can leave people feeling helpless and isolated. We are here to help and we know that little things matter,” said Kevin O’Shanahan, a clinical nurse specialising in mental health and the arts for West Cork Mental Health Services.

He explains that research indicates medication is but one part of helping people feel better about themselves, and just about anything a person is interested in can also help, from sharing a cup of tea with others to getting out gardening, singing and dancing, especially with others or picking up a paintbrush. That’s why this year’s festival is a shop window of events for people to try, experience and maybe take further.

For full programme details find WestCorkFeelGood on facebook, or enquire at your local library.

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