9th century bells to ring out in Limerick

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21.07.22 Official opening of The Artefacts Project, by Lorcan Walshe at the Hunt Museum which runs until 11 September. Picture: Alan Place

FOUR Irish 9th century bronze handbells from the permanent collection of the Hunt Museum have been removed from their cases so their sounds can ring out as part of the latest exhibition to feature at the museum.

Reflecting on the themes of The Artefacts Project, an exhibition showcasing the work of Lorcan Walshe’s study of Irish Medieval artefacts, the bells are on open display with an interactive installation inviting the visitor to enhance their experience through the sense of hearing.

The medieval handbells ring on the hour, with distinctive sounds of Limerick played through the sounds formed by each bell. Each day different sounds will be played. A visitor may also create their own personal soundscape by recording their voices and playing them back as they would be heard through the bells.

The bells work in parallel to The Artefacts Project, highlighting the richness and beauty of medieval Irish arts and culture, reminding us that the past is always present.

Dr Eoin Callery, Course Director, Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, created the installation in conjunction with The Hunt Museum.

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Dr Callery explains the approach, “Part of a bell’s identity is the singular sound it makes. Hundreds of years ago the sounds of these handbells would have been heard across the landscape, calling people to prayer, announcing news of joy or sorrow, or giving a warning. Instead of just recording what each bell sounds like, we went a step further to create a soundscape – which is a combination of different sounds that help to create a sense of place, but also creates a new sound, much in the same way as mixing two colours can give you a third colour. We recorded sounds from different parts of Limerick and passed them through the spectrum of the bells to create a unique soundscape of Limerick. It’s intriguing to hear how the bells react to a jackhammer in the background or how a person’s voice or clap literally becomes the clappers within a bell.”

Jill Cousins, Director, The Hunt Museum, said: “As with all our exhibitions, we like to have a strong link to the artefacts in the museum but we also want to be disruptive and make the visitor look at something anew. The concept for the soundscape was inspired by Lorcan Walshe’s work in The Artefacts Project and his search for artistic roots, finding them in the art and craftsmanship of Ancient Ireland. Many of his paintings and drawings feature ancient bells. We have four handbells in the Hunt Museum’s collection, all of which are exemplary of Irish medieval craft. Eoin Callery’s interactive sound installation allows visitors to experience the past and bring it to life in a similar manner to Lorcan Walshe’s artworks where his way of seeing and translating takes us into the richness, texture, and subtle colours that make‘walk-past’ museum objects come alive. The bells become alive and we are hugely grateful to Eoin Callery and the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance for helping us do this.”

In advance of Heritage Week, visitors are being encouraged to make their mark and record their voice for posterity. A selection of the recordings will form a special soundscape that will be broadcast during Heritage Week, which takes place from August 13 to 21.

The exhibition, entitled: Lorcan Walshe – The Artefacts Project, takes place in the Hunt Museum from now until September 11. Entry is free of charge and a selection of works are available for sale. For more information, see www.huntmuseum.com