In 2018 the collective voice of Irish women in music started singing in harmony in public spheres. Karen Casey (founder member of Solas) noted onstage in Dublin’s Liberty Hall theatre she was the only female artist at a recent Armagh Pipers concert, Pauline Scanlon spoke to The Irish Times about gender representation on international folk stages and in response, Fair Plé produced a number of events to raise further awareness for gender balance and representation in Irish music. I was invited to work at one of the Fair Plé concerts in Belfast as sound engineer and I was proud to be part of the positive collective movement. Yes, there’s a gender imbalance in music globally (particularly in music production and live sound) but that doesn’t mean there are no women working in these circles at all. However the celebrated women are few. This blog will highlight some of the recent female trailblazers of Irish music.
In June of this year, Irish Women in Harmony released a cover of The Cranberries Dreams with all proceeds going to Safe Ireland, the national social change agency working to end domestic abuse and coercive control in Ireland. The project was set up by RuthAnne Cunningham as a response to the rise of domestic abuse during the Irish lockdown. When you flip the vinyl to inspect the credits, the list of Irish female artists who worked on the single is downright impressive: Ailbhe Reddy, Aimée, Áine Cahill, Allie Sherlock, Caroline Corr, Elaine Mai, Emma Langford, Erica Cody, Eve Belle, Faye O’Rourke (Soda Blonde), Fia Moon, Imelda May, Laoise, Lilla Vargen, Lisa Hannigan, Loah, Lyra, Melina Malone, Moya Brennan, Niamh Farrell, Orla Gartland, Pillow Queens, Roe, Róisín O, RuthAnne, Saint Sister, Sibéal, Soulé, Stephanie Rainey, Tolü Makay, Una Healy, Wyvern Lingo, Aoife Dennedy, Louize Carroll, Lucia McPartlin, Maria O’Connor, Maria Ryan, Sarah Lynch and Theodora Byrne.
And of course, how lovely to see “Produced by RuthAnne Cunningham” on the back. Her credits are vast and include smash singles Too Little Too Late (JoJo 2006), Work Bitch (Britney Spears 2013), In the Name of Love (Martin Garrix and Bebe Rexha 2016), Slow Hands (Niall Horan 2017) Pray (JRY 2017) from the Fifty Shades Darker movie, and a number of tracks by Westlife and One Direction. RuthAnne is also an artist in her own right.
The Corrs’ international army of fans have responded particularly well to the Irish Women in Harmony single. The sense of pride for the “quiet Corr” saturated Instagram and fans congratulated and thanked Caroline for making a difference through music and for standing with Irish (and by default, all) women. The Corrs’ fans know this is not the first instance that RuthAnne and The Corrs have creatively worked together. In 2015 The Corrs released White Light, their first studio album since their near 10-year hiatus and one of the album tracks is Unconditional which features a writing credit by RuthAnne. I asked RuthAnne about this collaboration at her 2018 music production seminar in IMRO Dublin and today I was asked by a Corrs’ superfan what RuthAnne’s response was. Below is the transcript of what she said:
For the record I wasn’t disappointed RuthAnne wasn’t in the same room as The Corrs while writing Unconditional, in fact I wasn’t even surprised. This is the perfect example of modern songwriting and music production, where people can’t physically meet and end up working remotely. This practice is becoming more and more normal due to lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions. But that’s another school of thought altogether. It was lovely to listen to RuthAnne recount her experience of writing with The Corrs in mind. As an Irish female sound engineer, music producer, musician and academic, the Irish Women in Harmony project and creative endeavours of RuthAnne Cunningham fill me with so much pride for the women of Ireland. As a longtime Corrs’ fan, I too am inspired by the creativity, success and many charity projects of The Corrs.