The late Sister Concepta Murphy
One woman’s journey from Cork to Donegal around 1960 proved to be a life-changing one for hundreds of young people here, according to the ETB’s director of schools, Dr Martin Gormley.
He said that journey brought a young Sister Concepta Murphy from her home town of Kinsale to begin a new life in Ballyshannon and led to a transformation in music education in Donegal.
“Generations of young Donegal people have benefitted from what she achieved. She lobbied tirelessly for the setting up of music classes around the county, and the development of a youth orchestra. She was focused on giving young people the chance to take up music and make the most of whatever talent they had.”
Dr Gormley was speaking at a meeting of the advisory committee of the Donegal Music Education Partnership, which Sr Concepta helped to set up. It was the first meeting of the committee since Sr Concepta’s death in September.
MAIN PICTURE: The late Sister Concepta Murphy pictured at a concert of the Donegal Youth Orchestra in An Grianán Theatre in Letterkenny in May 2019. Also in the photo is the DYO conductor Vincent Kennedy, Dublin, and DYO harpist Aisling McLaughlin Picture: John Soffe Photography
The DMEP organises one-to-one lessons for more than 400 children and young people, and has around 200 young people in its ten performing groups. It is part of the Donegal Education and Training Board.
A minute’s silence was observed at the advisory committee meeting, which is chaired by Dr Gormley.
Other committee members also paid tribute to Sr Concepta and her work both in Donegal and nationally. She helped to set up the Irish Association of Youth Orchestras, based in Cork, and encouraged the development of its annual Festival of Youth Orchestras in February at the National Concert Hall in Dublin.
In 2015 Sr Concepta was given the prestigious Agnes O’Kane award by the IAYO for her work with youth orchestras across Ireland.
Mary Armitage, Creeslough, who was a close friend of Sr Concepta, said: “Sr Concepta felt that we in Donegal were the ‘poor cousins’ in terms of classical music and orchestras compared to the rest of the country. She was determined that this was going to change, and it is many ways a tribute to her that it did change. We must now carry on the legacy.”
Traolach Ó’Fionnáin, the County Arts Officer, said Sr Concepta was one of the first people he met when he took up the job.
“She was on my case very early. At that time it was about the Donegal School of Music and the youth orchestra, getting sponsorship and things like that. It led on to the DMEP. She was such a worker, indefatigable. She’s a huge loss but she leaves a massive legacy.”
Caoimhin MacAoidh, former chief executive of the Donegal Local Development Company and chairperson of the Donegal fiddle organisation Cairdeas na bhFidléiirí, said that living in the Ballyshannon area he got to know Sister Concepta well.
“When she was talking about music she was very focused and intensely passionate and full of energy. She had her vocation, and music was her other vocation. She was a brilliant woman who also had a great sense of humour, and you could really enjoy her company.”
Dr Gormley said Sister Concepta was a great ambassador for music in Donegal, and she was to the fore in many meetings aimed at getting funding for what became the DMEP.
Now it was the responsibility of everyone involved in the DMEP to continue her work. This was especially challenging at this time.
It was agreed to send letters of condolence from the DMEP to Sr Concepta’s cousin Sr Mary, also based in County Donegal; to the Sisters of Mercy in Ballyshannon; and to her family in Kinsale.
DMEP classes in music and voice are continuing in schools and centres around the county. Our thanks to everyone for supporting our efforts to make the tuition as safe for everyone as we can. Co-operation has been excellent all round. Please keep it up.
It's a challenging time, and there will most likely be more challenges along the way. Good to hear the music and singing again, even if it's mostly at an individual level. We're monitoring the situation in terms of our performing groups. Please contact us if you have any queries or concerns.
Keep playing and singing!
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