Simon O’Dwyer and Maria Cullen O’Dwyer are Ancient Music Ireland. Our work is the culmination of twenty-five years reproducing and musically exploring Irish instruments from prehistory. This research has been published in our book entitled ‘Ancient Music and Instruments of Ireland and Britain www.amazon.co.uk/Ancient-Music-Instruments-Ireland-Britain-x/dp/1514175371/ref=sr_1_1’. The instruments range from late Bronze Age horns to the great Celtic trumpets of the middle Iron Age and wood wind instruments from early Christianity. As no written or oral music survives from these times we can never be sure what was played by the musicians or the circumstances in which instruments were used. Our research has taken us all over the World. Our work has however indicated strong possibilities as to the reasons why horns and trumpets were designed and how they may have been played. We have established beyond doubt that these instruments were made as a result of a hitherto unrealized level of expertise and sophistication. It is remarkable that a bronze horn cast 3,000 years ago retains its integrity as a professional instrument and continues to function as a means to evoke the human emotions which are the essence of the universal timeless language that is music. It is interesting to note that musical instruments, which have their origins in prehistory, can evoke such live excitement today.
In the latter half of the 20th Century worldwide interest in pre-historic musical instruments has steadily increased. Surviving instruments are seen as a way to enlarge our knowledge of early peoples who made and played them. Insights can be had into ancient ways of life and living. Ireland’s extensive collection of surviving pre-historic trumpets, horns, bells and others make us unique in the world. These instruments span at least 3,000 years from 2,000 B.C. to 1,000 A.D. and are the product of several distinct cultural ages. Until the mid-1980s only strictly archaeological studies had been carried out on the Bronze Age horns and Iron Age trumpets. Then in 1986 Prehistoric Music Ireland was set up and the first accurate reproductions were made of a pair of bronze horns from Co. Antrim. Almost immediately new and exciting discoveries came to light about how to make and play these instruments. It became clear that a very high level of craftsmanship and intellect would have been required to develop them. Since then Ancient Music Ireland has been reproducing and studying Bronze Age horns and Iron Age trumpas including An Trumpa Créda, (Loughnashade original), the Ard Brinn (trumpa fada), crothalls (Bronze Age bells), the Mayophone (Early Medieval free reed horn) from Co. Mayo the Wicklow Pipes (4,000 year old wooden pipes), stone and bone flutes and instruments from abroad including English and Scottish horns and the silver pipes of Ur (Mesopotamia).
Concerts, lecture presentations, festivals
Ballymoney Musem, Co. Antrim. November 2014.
Bunratty Castle, October 2014.
ISGMA Conference, Berlin, Germany, September 2014.
Annaclone Historical Society, Co. Down, September 2014.
Cahirciveen Music and Arts Festival, Co. Kerry, August 2014.
Organological Congress Uni of Evora,Portugal, July 2014.
Munster Fleadh, Killarney, Co. Kerry, July 2014.
Samba Festival Drogheda, June 2014.
Spitalfields Festival, London, June 2014.
Galway Early Music Festival, May 2014.
Arts Festival, NUIG, February, 2014.
Irish World Academy of Music and Dance February 2014.
Presentation at Bunratty Castle, October 2013.
Heritage in Schools visits throughout Ireland, Sep to Dec, 2013.
Archaeology of Gatherings Conference, Sligo IT, Co. Sligo, Oct 2013.
Irish Studies Department, University of Montana, USA, Sep 2013.
Tara, High Kings Festival, Hill of Tara, Co. Meath, Sep 2013.
Kerry County Museum, August, 2013.
Carlow 800 Festival, Carlow Castle, August 2013.
All Ireland Fleadh, City of Culture, Derry, August 2013.
Down County Museum, Bangor, Co. Down, August 2013.
Roundwood Historical Society Lecture, July 2013.
Samba Festival, Drogheda, Co. Louth, June 2013
Filming for ITV television for the ‘Secret’s of Britain’, June 2013.
Galway Early Music Festival, May 2013.
Heritage in Schools visits throughout Ireland, Feburay to June, 2013.
Society of Recorder Players Festival and Conference, May 2013.
Organological Congress Uni of Evora,Portugal, April 2013.
Presentation of Ancient Music Ireland at ISGMA, Shanghai and Beijing, China, Oct 2012
Heritage in Schools visits, Ireland, October/November 2012.
Perth & Kinross Council, Scotland, Presentation/Lecture, November, 2012.
ORIEL YNYS MÔN, Wales, Presentation/Lecture, September, 2012.
Heritage Week, Kerry County Council, August, 2012.
The cluster of excellence 'Topoi' (Berlin) Exhibition, July 12, 2012.
On-going visits to National Schools as Heritage Specialist, Feb-June, 2012.
Galway Early Music Festival, May 2012.
Nearest the South Pole (Shakleton), National Concert Hall< February 2012.
Presentation/Research trip to University of Katmandu, Nepal, October 2011.
Clifden Arts Festival, September 2011.
Drogheda Arts Festival, August 2011.
Athenry Walled Towns Festival August 2011.
Shannobridge Festival, June 2011.
Nearest the South Pole, National Concert Hall, May 2011.
On-going visits to National Schools as Heritage Specialist with INTO.
Nearest the South Pole, Drogheda Arts Centre, February 2011.
Nearest the South Pole, Pillar Room, Rotunda, Dublin. February 2011.
Opening of New Building in the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, Feb 2011.
BBC Scotland, Live Radio performance for Celtic Connections Festival.
Celtic Connections Festival, Glasgow, January 2011.
Nearest the South Pole, Athy Arts Centre, October 2010.
Culture Night, Galway, September 2010.
Athenry Walled Towns Festival August 2010.
Festival Interceltique de Lorient August 2010.
Shannobridge Festival, June 2010.
Thomond Park Football Stadium, playing Great Iron Age Trumpa, June 2010.
Galway Early Music Festival, May 2010.
South Kildare Medieval Festival, April 2010.
Sound Track recording for movie, ‘Eagle of the Ninth’, February 2010.
National Concert Hall, Shakelton 100 years celebration. December 2009.
‘Ovetone’ , Concert to launch our new cd –Nicholas' Collegiate Church Galway on the 13th of November 2009.
Athenry Walled Towns Festival, August 2009.
Festival Interceltique de Lorient August 2009.
Music Archaeology Conference Berlin, July 2009.
Galway Civic Trust, May/August 2009.
Volvo, Round the World Yacht Race, welcoming ceremony. May 2009.
Early Music Festival, Galway, May 2009.
Coole Park, Gort, Co. Galway, 8 .pm. 29th January 2009.
Old Kilfarboy Historical Society, December 2008.
National Museum of Ireland, Samhain Festival, October 2008.
Kilkenny Arts Festival, Kilkenny Castle, September 2008.
Galway Civic Trust, Heritage Week, Galway, August 2008.
Athenry Walled Town Festival, Heritage Week, August 2008.
National Museum of Ireland, August, 2008
Galway Museum, August 2008.
World Archaeology Congress, UCD, July, 2008.
Early Music Festival, Galway City. May 2008.
Ennis Museum, Ennis, Co. Clare. April 2008.
Black Box Theatre, Galway. Performance with Sean Keane. March 2008.
Sabhal Mòr Oastig, University, Isle of Skye, Scotland. March 2008.
Miltown Secondary School, Miltown, Co. Kerry. November 2007.
National Museum of Ireland, Heritage Week, September 2007.
Westport Arts Festival, September 2007.
Monaghan Library, August 2007.
Monaghan Museum, August 2007.
Feakle Arts Festival, August 2007.
Fermanagh County Museum, August 2007.
Presentation locally for 25 American visitors, July 2007.
Silbury Hill, Wiltshire, acoustic testing, July 2007.
Craiceann Festival, Inish Oir, Aran Islands, June 2007.
Shannonbridge Summer Music Festival, June 2007.
Bealtine Festival, Dingle, Co. Kerry, May 2007.
Wicklow Arts Festival, May 2007.
Roscarbery Arts Festival, May 2007.
Castlebar GMIT, Arts Week, March 2007.
National Concert Hall, Michael Holohan Retrospective – November 2006
Cork Institute of Technology, Cork – November 2006
Institute of Technology Sligo, Science Week – November 2006
International Conference on Music Archaeology, Berlin – September 2006
Clifden Arts Week, Clifden, Co. Galway – September 2006
Boyle Arts Festival, Boyle, Co. Roscommon – August 2006
Festival of World Cultures Dun Laoghaire – August 2006
Milwaukee Irish Festival, U.S.A. – August 2006
Cahirciveen Celtic Festival – August 2006
Ballina Street Festival - July 2006
Ballinasloe Arts Festival – July 2006
Galway Early Music Festival – May 2006
Samhlaíocht, Tralee – April 2006.
GMIT Castlebar – March 2006.
University of Limerick, World Music Centre, February 2005.
Municipal University of Newfounland, Canada – 1994, 2002.
University of Warsaw, Poland – 2002.
University College Cork – 1998, 2005.
University of California at Berkeley, U.S.A. – 2001.
University of New South Wales, Australia - 1992.
University of New England, N.S.W. Australia – 1992.
University of Western Australia, Perth – 1992.
The Flinders University of South Australia – 1992.
The Australia National University, Canberra, Australia – 1992.
Trinity College Dublin, Ireland – 1994.
National University of Ireland – Galway – 1997.
Celtic Studies Dept. Kevin St. Dublin Ireland – 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004.
National Museum of Ireland for Heritage Week - several appearances over the past 10 years.
Simon has been employed as a heritage specialist by the INTO and The Heritage Council for the past 15 years. This work involves visits to National schools around the country presenting the prehistoric instruments of Ireland. Since his membership began he has visited over 1000 schools.