Artist: Jackie Nickerson
More about this work:
The launch of the publication was part of Ardee Baroque 2009, which is an annual celebration of music in the castles and churches of mid-Louth.
Arts Officer for Louth, Brian Harten, wrote in his introduction to the book:
Concert Band is the name given to the series of photographs made by Jackie Nickerson, the subject matter of which is Ardee Concert Band. With musical antecedents going back as far as the nineteenth century, Ardee Concert Band can boast of a rich heritage of music- making. Having won a range of regional and national titles in recent years, the Band can properly lay claim to being one of the pre-eminent concert bands in Ireland, and has given innumerable well-received performances, both at home and abroad.
Like many of the more successful voluntary initiatives, Ardee Concert Band is invisibly stitched into the fabric of its own community. Through the passage of time, the Band, like the GAA or a well-supported local charity, actually becomes part of the community, as opposed to an add-on or a luxury feature. Having long ago lost its novelty value, the Band, for many Ardonians, is a matter-of-fact part of growing up and growing older. Indeed, family trees can be gleaned from the past and present register of members.
The outside eye invariably brings a sharper focus, and Jackie Nickerson, through her photographs, describes both the people and the place of Ardee Concert Band. The band members pose in their civvies, their instruments at the ready or in repose, reminding us that the Band has two incarnations; that of jeans, t-shirts and jumpers for rehearsals, and the blazered, almost military rank and file of the performance.
Nickerson’s images also make us aware of the wide age range of the band members, a hall-mark of a deeply embedded community institution. The younger musicians have the energy of the yet-to-happen, and the older members have seen it all, many times before. Together, they coalesce to make music, and during that time, differences in age, gender, experience, background, personality, politics and religion become insignificant, as the discipline of the sheet music imposes harmony.
Hands are a give-away. They provide unprompted evidence of a life lived outside, or spent within. Pockets or gloves can disguise the proof, but neither subterfuge makes for successful playing of a musical instrument. Despite the efforts of many, a musical education is still too often the preserve of those who can afford to pay for it outside the formal school system. A boy from a less well-off family is still many times less likely to benefit from musical tuition than others. And yet the faces and hands of many of Nickerson’s subjects assure the viewer of the egalitarian nature of music-learning and music-making within the band. Here, music is an everyday occurrence, and Nickerson makes us realise that the band has succeeded in elevating music to the day-to-day.
Nickerson’s images succeed in showing us the individuality of each band member depicted, an individuality which is submerged for the greater good of the entity which is the Band. She is also aware that the environment of the Ardee Concert Band shapes and forms the members and the Band. Once a cinema, the Bohemian Centre is now the band room, concert hall, and home of Ardee Concert Band. It is the backdrop for its existence. Nickerson shows us its differing facets; studio, games room, warehouse, rehearsal room, performance venue. She introduces us to the duality of the place, a place where music is prepared and where music is presented. Curtains in a performance space act as a border between the mundane, the jeans, and the countless hours of practice on one side, and the adrenaline, the uniform and, occasionally, the magic, on the other. One cannot exist without the other, and Nickerson’s shots of curtains and drapes foreground the duality of perspiration and inspiration.
Concert Band contrasts the hubbub of children with the calmness of playing, the informality of rehearsal with the discipline of performance, and the noise of people being in a space with the silence of an empty room. Nickerson succeeds in giving the viewer an oblique insight into a quietly remarkable group of people and the institution they create.