Armagh-born singer and flautist Rioghnach Connolly has been named as the new Musician-in-Residence at the Nerve Centre, where she will work on a number of exciting projects and collaborations in the community over the next year.
Following jazz artists Neil Cowley and David Lyttle, and most recently multi-instrumentalist Marty Coyle, Connolly will be the first Nerve Centre Musician-in-Residence who is primarily a vocal talent.
The ‘irrepressible, inimitable’ singer grew up as part of the Armagh Pipers Club where she had her eyes opened to the world of folk music and how it travelled into other countries and cultures. This would shape Connolly’s time studying and working as a community musician in Manchester, a vibrant city she would be actively involved with, broadening her horizons and helping others at a grassroots level. It was there where Connolly formed Honeyfeet, a ‘folk-hop’ collective who have played countless festivals over the last 12 years and have recently finished recording their third album.
Never restricted to one sound, Connolly has worked both in studio and live spanning across Irish traditional, folk, blues, jazz, electronica and more. Her formidable voice has been used to front a ream of musical projects, including her own 2012 album Black Lung which was recorded before her headline appearance at the Manchester Jazz Festival and adopts traditional Irish sean-nós singing. She is also part of collaboration-based project Beware Soul Brother, spawned from a previous residency in Brazil, regularly features with Afro Celt Sound System and is one half of The Breath with Stuart McCallum, which has released two albums to date.
The residency is supported by funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland Lottery Fund.
Joanne Wright, Arts Development Officer for Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented, 'Congratulations to Ríoghnach on this terrific opportunity with the Nerve Centre. We are delighted to once again support the Nerve Centre’s Musician-In-Residence initiative with National Lottery funding and we look forward to seeing the many positive outcomes from the project as Rioghnach engages creatively with musicians, of all ages, from Derry and beyond.'
Having delivered a workshop and performed with Honeyfeet at the Nerve Centre in 2016, Connolly said she is ‘very proud and humbled at being invited back’ as Musician-in-Residence, adding that ‘it feels really exciting to be getting the opportunity to really dig into the communities here and help facilitate creatively in any way I can!’
Connolly will be tasked with producing new, original music during her tenure and using her diverse talents and experience to help educate and take young aspiring artists to the next stage in their learning.
Pearse Moore, Chief Executive of Nerve Centre, said ‘We’re delighted to welcome such an accomplished artist and presence to the Musician-in Residence role as Ríoghnach. Her talents, experience and enthusiasm will bring a new energy to our music initiatives this year and we can’t wait to see what she produces.’
Looking ahead to getting started, Connolly said ‘I intend to learn as much as I am going to pass on, and that is how I go into every musical situation.
‘In my opinion, so much is passed on through the oral traditions of a culture that cannot be written down that, it is important to attempt to document as much as possible. I just want to help investigate and musically capture that moment in time for everyone involved. It’s about investing in people with enough honesty that they can represent a bit of themselves musically in a safe space - and to show how liberating and fun that can be when you can really get your teeth into a project!’