Singing the Rite to Belong: Ritual, Music, and the New Irish

ISBN : 9780190672232

Helen Phelan
336 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Jun 2017
Oxford Ritual Studies
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This book explores the way in which singing can foster experiences of belonging through ritual performance. Based on more than two decades of ethnographic, pedagogical and musical research, it is set against the backdrop of "the new Ireland" of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Charting Ireland's growing multiculturalism, changing patterns of migration, the diminished influence of Catholicism, and synergies between indigenous and global forms of cultural expression, it explores rights and rites of belonging in contemporary Ireland. Helen Phelan examines a range of religious, educational, civic and community-based rituals including religious rituals of new migrant communities in "borrowed" rituals spaces; baptismal rituals in the context of the Irish citizenship referendum; rituals that mythologize the core values of an educational institution; a ritual laboratory for students of singing; and community-based festivals and performances. Her investigation peels back the physiological, emotional and cultural layers of singing to illuminate how it functions as a potential agent of belonging. Each chapter engages theoretically with one of five core characteristic of singing (resonance, somatics, performance, temporality, and tacitness) in the context of particular performed rituals. Phelan offers a persuasive proposal for ritually-framed singing as a valuable and potent tool in the creation of inclusive, creative and integrated communities of belonging.


Becoming a Ritual Singer
Singing and Belonging
Book Structure
Laus Perennis
Religious Rituals
Chapter One
Borrowed Belonging: Singing and Resounding in the Wrong Ritual Space
Migration and the New Irish
The Limerick Experience
The Russian Orthodox Community in the Augustinian Church, Limerick
The New Revelation Pentecostal Church in St. Michael's Church of Ireland, Limerick
Resonance as a Key Element of Sung Belonging
Spheres of Resonance
A Pilgrim People
Pilgrimage and Music
Sonic authority
Chapter Two
Repertoires of Belonging: Embodying Bothness through Musical Repertoires
St. John's Catholic Cathedral and St. Augustine's Church, Limerick
Embodying Bothness
Somatics as a Key Element of Sung Belonging
Singing and Ideology
Gregorian Chant and the Modern Liturgical Movement
A Modern and Medieval Enchantment
The Pastoral Turn
The Irish Story
II Educational Rituals
Chapter Three
Finding Your Own Voice: Mythologizing and Ritualizing Belonging at the Irish World Academy
The Irish World Academy
The Quest for Imbas
The Ritual Pit
Performance as a Key Element of Sung Belonging
Performing the Academy
Chapter Four
Singing Belonging in the Ritual Lab
Entering the Ritual Lab
Ritual Leaps of Faith
Ritual Lab and Singing
Ritual Criticism, Memory and Ethical Soundings
Temporality as a Key Element of Sung Belonging
Ritual, Time and Space
III Civic and Community-Based Rituals
Chapter Five
Singing Hospitality in Community-based Ritual
Anail De / The Breath of God
Tacitness as a Key Element of Sung Belonging
Comhcheol Women's Community Choir
World Carnival
Chapter Six
Singing the Rite to Belong: Baptismal Rituals and the Irish Citizenship Referendum
Backdrop to the Citizenship Referendum
The Limerick Story
Baptizing, Singing and Belonging
Somatic Community
Sonic Community
The Power of Singing
Singing the Rite to Belong
The Weakness of Singing the Rite to Belong

About the author: 

Helen Phelan is Professor of Arts Practice at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick. A singer and ritual studies scholar, she is an Irish Research Council recipient for her work on singing and sustained social integration with new migrant communities in Ireland over the last two decades. Her singing interests span medieval chant to contemporary ritual vocal song while her publications are primarily in the areas of ritual studies, music education philosophy and arts practice research.

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