Never Too Old To Folk-Rock

The Barn Ensemble’s ringleader Uta on how this unique band of first-timer old-timers came together.

With the delivery of an instrument by Music Network to our homes in January 2021 our journey
started. Sixteen people were accepted on to the pilot project for people over the age of 55 to learn and instrument and make music together. Each participant could choose one of four instruments – piano, guitar, tin whistle or cello. We were tutored and guided on our way by Wicklow group Sonamus .

Due to Covid we had lessons over Zoom and the final ensemble lesson were held in person in the outdoors. On our last get together a suggestion was made to continue. And we all jumped at the idea as we felt we were only getting started and it was such fun.

The Challenges, The Breakthroughs

The problem was where could we practice in a socially distancing way. We were blessed by one member offering their barn as a possible rehearsal venue. That was fun with the smell of horses, a dog, and chicken clucking around curiously examining our instruments. We had delicious cakes and coffee as our just reward at the end of our rehearsals. This also provided much needed time for connection in those strange isolating times.

With the onset of winter we needed a warmer venue for rehearsal in order to avoid frostbite and Rathnew Women’s Shed came to the rescue. We needed to come up with a name and after many suggestions we went back to our roots and The Barn Ensemble was born.

Once the Music Network program came to an end we were not ready to stand on our own feet yet.

We were delighted to have received funding and a teacher in residence from Wicklow County Council, Wicklow Arts Office and Creative Ireland. We are so lucky to have harpist Aisling Ennis on board to encourage and guide us with her expertise, positivity and practicality. The funds also helped to purchase much needed amplification to balance out the louder and the quieter instruments – which brought its own challenges to those who liked to stay in the background. However we got over that. The grant also helped with finding our new rehearsal venue in Ashford Community and Heritage Centre.

Rehearsing in Ashford: The Communal Power of Music

Bringing older people together through music has wonderful benefits. It brings people out of
loneliness into togetherness. It provides a base, a place, somewhere to reignite life and gives a personal sense of still belonging and achieving an interest and sense of achievement in all aspects of this word. Music has a way of enhancing us in a way nothing else can. It stimulates the whole brain.

It fills us with good emotions, lets us forget pains and toughness in many members’ lives.
Each member feels empowered and enthusiastic about taking on any new challenge presented to us. we have been cossetted and looked after and encouraged to keep trying since our inception. This encouragement has taken shape in the excellent and tireless commitment of our Ensemble leader, Uta. We have also been treated to the expertise of professional musicians who have given us invaluable advice and tips on how to improve our performances. followed by a little about the show itself, and how that came into being.

Uta, who put herself forward to lead our group going forward, signed up for a Diploma in community and group music teaching at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. As part of her diploma Uta needed to deliver a project, which involved a concert. She invited the Ensemble to take part in that. Many agreed that a goal and a challenge will focus our attention.

The concert we are bringing to you is a family friendly event which will include some activities for children. We will play a variety of music such as early music, classical and arranged traditional music. And we have some surprises for the audience. I just say Uta’s great experiment! We can but hope it will work out!

The concert in the Whale theatre will showcase the progress we have made – and you won’t believe it – and neither do we! And if you have ever dreamt of taking up a musical instrument or reviving those skills from years ago, we hope this will inspire you.

We are looking forward to seeing you there!


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