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Saolta Arts and Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture in partnership with Galway University Hospitals and Saolta University Health Care Group brings intimate vocal performances to patients’ bedsides.

By 4 March 2020No Comments

Saolta Arts and Galway 2020 are pleased to present Viriditas by Ceara Conway as part of The Deepest Shade of Green, an Arts and Health programme for Galway’s European Capital of Culture 2020.

Viriditas by Ceara Conway as part of The Deepest Shade of Green Photo Credit Julia Monard

Viriditas is an album composed by acclaimed Irish artist and singer Ceara Conway in response to an extended process of engagement at Galway University Hospitals. Available online at, Viriditas takes the listener on a journey through songs inspired by conversations with staff and patients, melding sound recordings of hospital equipment, plants, and the tools of sound healers. Last week, songs from the album were previewed as a series of intimate performances for patients and their families in the wards of Galway University Hospitals.

Ceara, accompanied by Anna Mullarkey, sang to patients in 8 units across University Hospital Galway and Merlin Park University Hospital including Stroke, Rehabilitation, Critical Care, Haemodialysis, and Care for the Elderly. Singing to busy day rooms and individual bedsides, their performances introduced birdsong and the sound of bees to the healthcare setting and audiences were gifted a limited edition CD of Viriditas after each performance. During visiting hours at Hospital Ground one relative said, “Music is something familiar to Mum, something from home, and that is really important whilst she is in hospital. It can be such a long day here, initiatives like this are brilliant for lifting the spirits. It was wonderful to see her smiling”.

Reflecting on her experience of performing in the clinical setting, Ceara said, “I am always drawn to performing in specific sites and the experience of singing healing songs for patients, family and staff in the hospitals, for me, takes the intentionality of my work to a whole other level. It allows me to connect with people in a very real and intimate way. The practise of singing to sooth and heal is ancient, and whilst Viriditas is a contemporary work, it is rooted in tradition, and performing it in a hospital feels like it belongs in the space. The songs and voice in this space are offered up for the purposes of creating moments of joy, fun and poignancy and to bring patients and staff together in new ways, outside their normal daily routines and patterns.”

In her research for Viriditas, Ceara travelled to Georgia in September 2018 to learn traditional healing songs which she then shared with staff at Galway University Hospitals in participative singing workshops. Further workshops are planned for staff at Portiuncula University Hospital and Roscommon University Hospital in March 2020. The artist also consulted patients and staff from diverse disciplines encompassing nurses, doctors, porters, engineers, choir members, and bereavement and pastoral support.

Margaret Flannery, Arts Director of Saolta Arts said, “Viriditas is an excellent example of the work we do towards enhancing the hospital experience for patients, staff and visitors and in bringing cultural experiences to people who otherwise aren’t able to access them through ill health. The project also illustrates our work in addressing the Staff Health and Wellbeing agenda whilst also supporting artists to make experimental works for new audiences.”

Named after the Latin term meaning greening power and life force, Viriditas opens with How are you?, a mesmerizing embodiment of the voice of care. Guiding listeners through the Kartvelian, Irish, and English languages, the album explores practices of healing and wellbeing, interweaving European healing songs and rhythms with songs in Irish that celebrate the medicinal properties of plants and lament on the current threat to their extinction. Set against nature, Viriditas also considers the effects of hospital noise on healing and growth, incorporating samples of hospital tea trolleys, a Doppler fetal monitor, and hazard bins in the rhythmical White Noise. The artist’s playful arrangements continue with the cycle’s up-tempo finale An Damhan Alla agus an Mhíoltóg, where she blends the traditional Irish folk song with the tarantella style of Italian folk music historically used to heal the bite of a spider.

Viriditas is part of Saolta Arts’ wider programme The Deepest Shade of Green where nature and familiar landscapes of the West are brought into the wards, corridors, and waiting rooms of Saolta’s hospitals and used to imaginatively escape the clinical environment.

Speaking about the Saolta Arts and Galway 2020 programme, Galway 2020 Producer Kate Howard said, “Ireland is a leader in understanding the benefits of art in healthcare settings.  The work of Saolta Arts and artists commissioned for The Deepest Shade of Green as part of the programme for Galway 2020 reflects this and the importance of connecting our hospitals and patients with the natural world outside, transforming experiences for those who need it the most.”

About Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture

Galway is European Capital of Culture in 2020. As one of the largest cultural events in the world the programme comprises over 1,900 events across 154 projects with local national, European and international artists and cultural organisations. From theatre, music and sport, to poetry, film, visual art and much more Galway 2020 promises to deliver a year of thrilling, life-enhancing experiences through culture and the arts.  The ambitious programme takes place across the villages, towns, islands and the city of Galway, and in recognition of Ireland’s historic traditions, is based around the four fire seasons of Ireland’s ancient Celtic calendar; Imbolc, Bealtaine, Lughnasa and Samhain.

About Saolta Arts

Saolta Arts runs the West of Ireland’s leading Arts and Health programme as a means of promoting wellbeing and improving the hospital experience for patients, staff and visitors. Our multi-disciplinary programme of events and activities includes exhibitions, music, theatre, poetry and public art to improve the physical environment for everyone. Supported by professional artists, our participative arts workshops allow people of all ages to explore their creative potential. For some, the creative process promotes autonomy otherwise limited by ill health, whilst their creative achievements help them to re-evaluate their abilities in the face of change. Participants find a more positive, productive use of their time in hospital, engaged in a way that distracts from worries and “makes time fly”. Whether journeys of the imagination or a change of scene from the ward, a new way of working or a pastime rekindled, our activities spark conversations with new friends and fresh dialogue with old ones – making the clinical environment feel more human. Initiated in 2003 and working as Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust in Galway’s public hospitals for ten years, we relaunched as Saolta Arts in 2019. Our expanded programme for Saolta University Health Care Group extends our services to Letterkenny University Hospital, Mayo University Hospital, Merlin Park University Hospital, Portiuncula University Hospital, Roscommon University Hospital, Sligo University Hospital and University Hospital Galway.

About Ceara Conway

Ceara Conway is an Irish artist and singer working in performance, song and traditional folk practices.  She has a track record in producing innovative experiential performance works that utilise live singing, appropriated texts , testimonies and visual art to explore social and cultural experiences of power and loss in response to issues such as cultural colonialism, exile, migration and feminist concerns. Select commissions and performances include, fair is foul & foul is fair, Aideen Barry and Alice Maher, Katzen Museum, Washington  DC ( 2019),  Dóchas/Hope , Oireachtas  na Gaeilge & Waterways Ireland ( 2018),  Thin Places, Kings College, UK (2015) , Vicissitudes (2013), Derry City of Culture ,The Barbican with Poetry Ireland, UK ( 2018), National Gallery of Ireland ( 2018) , Making Visible, Irish Museum of Modern Art (2014). Ceara has undertaken residencies with institutes such as RTE, RnG, Taigh Chearsabhaigh Museum, UK, OTIS College of Art/Suzanne Lacy, LA, USA , Limerick City Arts Office and Ormston House, Limerick ( 2015-2018). Ceara has a BA in Glass and Architectural Glass, Edinburgh College of Art, a Post Grad in Community Arts Education, NCAD and has studied Glass & Photography at Alfred University, USA.  She is a recipient of multiple awards and bursaries from the Arts Council of Ireland, Ealaíon na Gaeltachta, Galway and Limerick City/County Councils. In 2013 she received a Paul Brady scholarship from the Irish World Academy of Music at UL. 2020 projects include : Vocal Commission for Saolta Arts and Galway 2020 in partnership with Galway University Hospitals and Saolta University Health Care Group for Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture, Feb 2020. Pocahontas Opera House, West Virginia, March 2020 ‘Weathering’ with dancer, choreographer Mary Wycherly and composer Jurgen Simpson, The Feminist Supermarket, commissioned by Ormston House Cultural Centre, Sept, 2020. Ceara works with the Arts Council as a Creative Associate Artist and as an Arts Coordinator for the Embrace Art & Disability programme and the Artists in Schools programme with the Clare County Arts Office.


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