Carrie Dike: Engendering and safeguarding the social life of Irish traditional singing

Social singing and traditional song have long been a vital aspect of Irish musical life. Today, much singing occurs in singing sessions and singing weekends, in environments that promote social singing of traditional song. This phenomenon is well worth examining because it shows one response to the crisis around sustaining Ireland’s intangible cultural heritage.

My research investigates how traditional singing is being brought into the 21st century, particularly through the singing session. I ask, for example, what are the characteristics and distinctive features of the singing session, and what forms does it take? To address these questions, I conduct case studies on singing events in Ireland. Through a participant-observer approach to field research, interviews, and direct involvement in the events, I hope to answer how the Irish model for engendering and safeguarding can apply to the broader world of sustaining intangible cultural heritage, even outside Ireland.

I love my research because of the reactions of Irish traditional singers to my work; the hearty laughs (“The Social life of singing?! You can study that? We have the best social life!”); the honest words of encouragement; the gratitude from singers and enthusiasts for bringing academic recognition to the singing; and their genuine desire to volunteer advice and information, and have conversations about the social life of Irish traditional singing.