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Ceol Phádraig

Music at St Patrick’s College Drumcondra, 1875-2016


Edited By John Buckley and John O'Flynn

Since its foundation in 1875, the activities of St Patrick’s College Drumcondra and its graduates have been closely woven into the educational and cultural fabric of Irish society. This volume charts how music and music education have fulfilled a major role throughout the history of the Dublin-based establishment that began as a teacher training college and later evolved into a college of education and liberal arts. Graduates of St Patrick’s College have taught hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pupils across the country, have made significant contributions to various facets of professional and amateur music activity, and have had an invaluable influence on the wellbeing of individuals, the development of communities and the advancement of the nation as a whole.

The book records and interprets key musical developments, appraises the work of major contributors, and captures the activities of students, staff and visiting musicians at St Patrick’s College up to its incorporation into Dublin City University in 2016. It represents a major scholarly work that details the progress of music at a university college in Ireland, and it is envisaged that its varied chapters and themes will evoke further memories and discussions among graduates of the College and others.

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Chapter Four: Composition and the College (Rhona Clarke)


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Chapter Four: Composition and the College

Rhona Clarke


Composition in its various guises, be it improvisation workshops, technical exercises or contemporary composition, formed an element of music courses at St Patrick’s College since the mid-1960s. This chapter explores the various course components, teaching methods and modes of assessment for composition that featured in undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes in Education and in Humanities over this time. Discussion of the latter includes mention of the internal and intercollegiate workshops set up by the College’s music department to enable students to interact with live musicians and to hear their own work as well as the work of fellow students. The chapter follows changes in the content of music and curriculum music courses at the College over the last fifty or so years of its history, including those resulting from the inclusion of composition in the revised primary curriculum of 1999.1

As with many third-level institutions offering specialist music courses, composition at St Patrick’s College began with applied techniques in common-practice harmony and counterpoint as a compulsory element.2 In more recent decades, when some university music departments began to offer alternative modules to ‘traditional’ harmony and counterpoint, this element remained a core component of music courses at St Patrick’s. The applied techniques courses explored harmony and counterpoint through writing for instrumental and vocal forces up to four parts. Technical skills were progressively developed throughout the two-year diploma and later, the...

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