Harmony is the BHP Insurances AR Programme, taking place in Limerick city. Following an open call process, concert pianist Máire Carroll was selected to work with families living in the Mid West Simon Community Family Hub. Máire is also working with BHP Insurances staff, facilitating performance-based and education-based activities and workshops, which are designed to develop appreciation of music among all participants.
What Máire Carroll says:
Since October 2019 I have taken part in a project called ‘Harmony’ under the Business to Arts AR programme. I have been lucky to have had wonderful support from Siobháin and Áine from BHP Insurances who joined me for the first four workshops. Their positive and friendly presence helped the group to gel from the beginning.
When I was selected last year for this residency programme l was absolutely thrilled. Previously l have worked on some exciting and challenging projects in the community including: the Docklands Arts Fund programme and the ‘Raise Your Voice’ Choir in association with Glyndebourne Opera. Working in any community can be a rewarding experience and so far my residency in Limerick has been eye-opening and inspiring. It is always meaningful to have the opportunity as an artist to meet and work with new participants to the residency and consider how best to share music with them.
It is a privilege to be able to share the joy of music with others and as a pianist it is exciting to showcase the piano to a new audience. With a Kawai upright piano installed in the family hub in Limerick, we have been able to bring music to families. I love explaining to children how the piano keys work, demonstrating why you need to press a pedal with your foot while you play. There is always so much curiosity and so many questions! For some of the families in Limerick, this was their first time experiencing live music, seeing a piano up close and learning how it works.
I remember fondly our very first session where l performed piano pieces ranging from Bach, a hymn, a nursery rhyme, a Disney song etc. The scope of music and possibilities the piano presents are endless. At one point during the first session one of the parents asked to hear a piece of music by Beethoven. It was a special moment to be able to play a piece they had remembered fondly growing up.
A few of the parents were familiar with the piano and it was a joy for them to have another opportunity to learn to play some pieces again. Some parents were able to share this moment with their child and both could learn the same piece while watching the other. That has been a special, unexpected aspect of the programme.
After the first few sessions we introduced some new instruments to the mix. The families were introduced to the violin and the French horn as well as countless percussion instruments from xylophones to cymbals and African drums which were a big, albeit noisy, hit! I remember the laughter from the children watching the horn player playing Happy Birthday through a hose pipe. You couldn’t contain their excitement. And of course they all begged him for a go and to see what sound they could make!
Introducing the families and teaching them to play the piano was the main goal of this programme however we have also focused on several group building exercises. Over the past few sessions we have created a Baby Shark (chosen by the participants themselves) musical extravaganza including clapping and singing. This helps families build confidence and learn to musically rely on each other. Rhythm games helped us create a sense of bonding. As the numbers in the group can vary from session to session we have had to be flexible and adapt to different situations.
Before COVID-19 struck, I had planned to continue these workshops, sharing music while developing the families’ piano repertoire. I am very much looking forward to the upcoming workshops l will be doing with the families in BHP Insurance and sharing our Limerick experiences to date with them. I can’t wait to return to Limerick later this year and continue with the Harmony residency programme.
Máire held three workshops with families in the Mid West Simon Community Family Hub between October – November 2019, with two more workshops so far in 2020. In addition to families who live in the Family Hub, community clients (families who have since moved out of the Hub but retain a connection with the staff) have also participated in the workshops.
Máire uses a combination of musical games, singing, and playing the piano and instruments to help the children to become involved and work together. Máire asks the group to pick a familiar or well-known song, which she uses to build workshop content, as the familiarity helps the children get used to playing the piano and the accompanying instruments.
The remaining workshops with Mid West Simon Community Family Hub and BHP Insurances will take place later in 2020.