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A Newry mother and son are part of a new studio album from Dundalk musician Emer Kenny that is inspired by six people giving their  first-hand accounts of The Troubles. The album will have a live launch in The Spirit Store, George's Quay, Dundalk at a free event on Thursday November 14 at 7.30pm.

Mary Cunningham and son David were caught up in the Clarke’s Bar bombing in Monaghan Street, Newry on Christmas Eve 1973. Other participants include Stephen Travers, Margaret English, Will Glendinning and Rev Gary Hastings.

The album, entitled Ghosts, is presented by The Playhouse Theatre & Peacebuilding Academy and is a unique endeavour centred on the composition and interpretation of music and songs driven and inspired by first-hand accounts of specific events and tragedies connected to the conflict in Northern Ireland and the Border Counties.

Emer is an internationally critically acclaimed composer, musician, and vocalist living in Dundalk. Her compositions have been used in Hollywood films and major US TV series. As a recording artist, Emer’s first album Emer Kenny was released worldwide by Polygram and sold in excess of 75000. She released two other solo albums in 2000 and 2004 with Gold Circle (Los Angeles) and Artemis (New York) respectively.

Theatre and Peacebuilding Academy artist Emer Kenny, and survivor of the Miami Showband massacre Stephen Travers recording in Probeat Studios.
Theatre and Peacebuilding Academy artist Emer Kenny, and Stephen Travers recording in Probeat Studios.

In the production and recording of 'Ghosts' with producer and engineer John Murphy, Emer has interviewed and worked with six individuals severely impacted by The Troubles – these include Stephen Travers, a survivor of the Miami Showband massacre, July 1975, who plays bass on the album in addition to reading an excerpt from his book. Giving spoken word testimonies are Margaret English whose father, Hugh Watters, was killed by a car bomb left outside Kay’s Tavern in Crowe Street, Dundalk, Christmas 1975; David Cunningham and his mother Mary, who were caught up in Clarke’s Bar bombing Monaghan Street, Newry on Christmas Eve 1973; and Will Glendinning, who was an Alliance Party Councillor and Assembly Member for West Belfast 1977-1986 and served in the UDR in Armagh in the early 1970s. Also performing on the album is the Rev Gary Hastings, Rector of Holy Trinity, Killiney, a respected traditional musician and academic who has performed with the Chieftains. He is as an expert on Ulster's two- hundred- year- old fife and drum tradition and has been involved with peacebuilding for many years.

This album launch event will include live musical performances from the album, as well as spoken word contributions from those whose stories fed the work.

This event is free to the public as the desire is peacebuilding and the work is centred on the heartfelt stories and lived experiences of those severely impacted by the conflict. It is the intention also that everyone in attendance would be given a free copy of the finished album on CD.

“For most people in Ireland, whether identifying as Irish or British, consciously or subconsciously, there is a subtext of political bias when it comes to the appreciation of music or art from 'the other side'” Emer Kenny said. ''As a musician, up to this point I have only had to interpret classical or traditional music or when writing I felt I only had responsibility for myself. However with this project I was responsible to serve and emotionally interpret the participants stories musically''

The Playhouse is working in partnership with Holywell Trust, Thomas D’Arcy McGee Foundation and Queens University Belfast to deliver The Playhouse Theatre Peace Building Academy.

The PEACE IV Programme is an EU funded Programme designed to support peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and the border region.  It is managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

Match-funding for the project has been provided by the Executive Office and the Department for Rural and Community Development.

More information about the project is available from WWW.DERRYPLAYHOUSE.CO.UK 

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