Keeping the Trinity music scene alive

Heather Bruton interviews Trinity’s music societies on how they are getting creative amidst social restrictions

The music scene at Trinity is rich, colourful and plays a central role in the lives of many students. In the midst of Level 5 restrictions, we need music more than ever. We are lucky as students to be surrounded by a myriad of spaces to explore our particular music interests. DU Music, Jazz Society, Trinity College Singers, Trinity Belles and Trinitones are just a few of the music societies and choirs that students at Trinity can get involved in. All of these societies are doing their best to adapt to Covid-19 restrictions by getting creative during an undoubtedly difficult time for the arts. 


The impact of the pandemic on performing arts has been devastating. Speaking to Trinity News, Niamh Howley, Chairperson of Trinity College Singers (Singers) discusses how the lack of in-person choir rehearsals has been “a great loss for singers from a musical and social point of view.” So much of acapella and choral singing is about connection on an individual and group level and Singers have had to try to recreate this experience online. Howley attributes this commitment to “a fantastic committee” who have worked hard to maintain a high standard of music, but she does acknowledge that “nothing can replace the feeling of singing with others, hearing the blend of voices around you”. Yet, moving everything online has given Singers the chance to be “innovative and imaginative” in the ways they make music. 


“…this pandemic has highlighted how truly adaptive and creative those involved in the arts can be.”

Similarly, Aoibhín Powell, Co-Director of Trinity Belles, highlights the difficulties of moving rehearsals, auditions and events online. Online rehearsals were “a bit of trial and error”, but they found their way using Zoom. The disadvantage of this of course is they can’t hear themselves singing. However, Powell was quick to point out that having “a platform where [they] can actually rehearse and it is almost normal is such a blessing”. She was also really pleased with how well online auditions went, particularly impressed by “how quickly everyone was able to understand the new instructions and adapt accordingly.” Certainly, this pandemic has highlighted how truly adaptive and creative those involved in the arts can be. 


Patrick Kennedy, Co-Director of the Trinitones, found their auditions to be just as successful, citing them “as competitive as ever with auditionees adapting quickly to the additional challenge of singing into a computer screen.” In general, online rehearsals for the acapella group have taken some getting used to; they are “still figuring out the winning formula, but [their] experimentation with breakout rooms, games and learning lines have all been useful and productive.” Like many Trinity performing groups, they are “disappointed by the loss of [their] in person gig line up”. Powell also commented on how live performances were Belles’ “main source of income”, touching on a significant problem for the whole music industry at the moment. 

[/pullquote]“Conroy emphasises the importance of creating ‘a space for [artists] to talk about their influences, what they’re listening to at the moment, and of course, plug a few of their own songs.’”[/pullquote]


DU Music has been trying to help with this particular issue by providing a platform for student artists. Bronagh Conroy, Public Relations Officer for the society, called attention to their weekly playlist, “curated by the bigger Trinity-affiliated acts”. The DU Music committee realises that without gigs, there is less chance for artists to promote their work. Conroy emphasises the importance of creating “a space for [artists] to talk about their influences…and plug a few of their own songs.” DU Music’s most recent project was The Song Project, an online cover version of Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now by 30 members of the society. Conroy says it was fun arranging the piece for “whatever instruments signed up”, pointing out that there was even “a tuba in there somewhere”. Just like Belles and Singers, DU Music have moved their open mics and recitals online. Instead of asking members to show up to a pub and perform, Conroy says they are asking members to “submit home videos in advance, which [they] edit into a live stream.” Conroy adds that this can be “easier for a lot of people, because you don’t have to be nervous about getting on stage”.


Hannah-Kate Ní Shioradáin, Chairperson of Jazz Society (Jazz Soc), also acknowledges that, in many ways, online performances are “definitely less work for the committee, to just log onto Zoom to host an event”. That being said, Ní Shioradáin would “give anything to be running around campus at the last minute trying to find a kettle lead for a gig.” Not having a big band this year has been a blow for the society as “it’s pretty much impossible to play music over Zoom as a group with the lag and the delay”. Instead, Jazz Soc has decided to run weekly competitions. Every week they announce a theme and then all you have to do is send in a video of you playing something that relates to the theme. Ní Shioradáin emphasises the great prizes they have up for grabs such as “Splice memberships and Bandcamp credits”. They also “showcase all the entrances on [their] Instagram and discord so that at least people can meet some other cool musicians through seeing their entries.” 


Social connection is a big concern for all of the music societies at Trinity, but they have been incredibly impressed by the amount of first years who have been eager to get involved. Most have gotten the usual number of sign ups, if not more. During a time where connection has become all the more difficult, perhaps students are more eager to find ways to bond with like-minded people. Powell was “over the moon with how many people showed interest in joining Belles” and Howley added that “the dedication and community spirit that characterises [their] choirs has meant that [they’ve] had a great return rate”. Similarly, Ní Shioradáin has found that freshers “are really taking online events in their stride” and that it is sophisters who have been less engaged in Jazz Soc, most likely because “they know what they’re missing” out on. Conroy points out that for first years “societies are really one of their only options” of finding friends this year, hence why so many have involved themselves in DU Music. Kennedy has found it “a challenge to make online rehearsal and events sound appealing” as Trinitones “cannot hide the fact that it is not the same as being in the same room together.” However, Kennedy says they are “eager to turn [their] attention to producing new online content through [their] social media pages”.


 [/pullquote]“Howley promises that the choirs are planning more virtual performances this term, seeing it as a ‘great privilege’ to draw attention to ‘the hard work of [the] choirs’ and to participate in a worldwide ‘outpour of musical and artistic virtual performances’.”[/pullquote]

Shifting music societies online has impacted group interactions, but Howley points out that, as individual singers, this has been a wonderful “opportunity to work on individual tuning, sight singing and general musicianship”. In many ways, moving so much online has allowed Trinity societies to reach new, virtual audiences. Many of the societies feel that Covid-19 has forced them to expand their social media presence. Powell cites Belles’ recent release of a Queen medley on their social media, which they enjoyed working on during the last lockdown, to “have a bit of distraction from the chaos.” Howley promises that the choirs are planning more virtual performances this term, seeing it as a “great privilege” to participate in a worldwide “outpour of musical and artistic virtual performances”. To stay up-to-date with exciting events and opportunities follow their four social media pages: Trinity College Singers, Boydell Singers, Trinity Belles and Trinitones. 


Get stuck in and join some of the wonderful music societies Trinity has to offer. DU Music have a host of projects and competitions in the pipeline which Conroy feels “should keep all those musically-minded folks ticking over until Christmas”. Or, if jazz is your thing, enter one of Jazz Soc’s weekly, themed competitions. Of course, all of the societies lament the loss of in-person gigs and they are eager for a return to normality, but it is clear that through hard work and some out-of-the-box thinking, students are keeping the Trinity music scene alive and flourishing throughout this pandemic, albeit virtually. 

Heather Bruton

Heather Bruton is the Life Editor for Trinity News, and is completing a master's degree in Modern and Contemporary Literary Studies.