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History - 21 years of music and prayer..

It all began when members of the Young Dominican Laity (YDL) at St. Mary’s, Popes Quay, Cork, undertook a summer project to help young people involved in the Music Ministry to learn good church music and to better understand what the Liturgy was all about. Knockadoon, a summer camp in East Cork, under the care of the Irish Dominicans since 1924 was chosen as the venue. Fr. Robert Talty OP the Camp director agreed to make the facilities of Knockadoon available for a four-day course on Liturgy from Saturday August 28th to Tuesday August 31st 1982. Months of planning, preparation and hard work by a dedicated committee ensured a registration of one hundred and twenty three people for the first Folk Liturgy Course. Twenty-one years later we can look back with immense pride and deep gratitude for the vision and dedication of all those who sowed the seeds and laid the foundations for this unique annual festival of liturgy and music, celebration and Christian community at Knockadoon.

We salute those who formed the organising committee for that first course. From the outset it was decided that the input, teaching, tutorials and celebration would be of a very high standard. All participants were encouraged and expected to commit themselves fully to the course. Fr. Dermot Brennan OP, Prior of St. Mary’s, opened the weekend. Input was given by a number of Dominican friars and sisters. Tutors volunteered their time and talents. Joe Dineen OP was the sacristan. Vincent Mercer OP was the Liturgical Director and Fiontán Ó’Múrchú was the Course Director – a task that he undertook for the first fourteen courses.

The music by the St. Louis Jesuits, Tomas O’Canainn, The Mass of St. Dominic by Fiontán Ó’Múrchú and some Taize chants filled the air during those memorable days. Gathering for Morning and Evening Prayer, for the Celebration of the Eucharist and for a late night Vigil of Light created an atmosphere of prayer and Christian Community that has been the hallmark of the Folk Liturgy Course ever since. It was unanimously agreed that this YDL project was a resounding success and should continue and be lengthened to a full week. And so it was.

One of the most striking aspects of the Folk Liturgy Course from the beginning is the generosity, commitment and professionalism of the tutors and speakers who have given of their time, talent and expertise voluntarily. The cost of the course was kept as low as possible so that no one would be excluded from participating. Dominican Provincials and communities have always been generous in their financial support of this annual event. In a particular way the giftedness and musicality of members of St. Mary’s Folk Group and Choir provided a bank of tutors for guitar, flute, harp, keyboard, violin, percussion, sight-reading, voice, art, liturgical movement and planning. The outstanding teaching skills of the director guaranteed the highest standards of musicianship that evoked an enthusiastic response and wholehearted involvement from the course participants.

Encouraging participants to compose their own liturgical music has been a special feature of Knockadoon. Feargal King, John Casey, Hilda Leader, Geraldine Flanagan, Ian Callanan, Gavin Byrne are some of the composers who have given us wonderful songs that continue to enrich the repertoire of good liturgical music. Perhaps the most famous of these is ‘The Dominican Magnificat’ composed by Feargal King and commissioned by Vincent Mercer OP to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the opening of St. Mary’s, Popes Quay, Cork in 1839. Who can ever forget the atmosphere at the 12.15 p.m. Mass in St. Mary’s on Sunday, July 8th 1990, when 130 singers and musicians who had just completed the 9th Annual Folk Liturgy Course electrified the celebration with the first public performance of ‘The Dominican Magnificat’. Fr. Damian Byrne OP, Master of the Dominican Order was the principal celebrant.

As well as music and song the importance and power of the visual in the liturgy has been explored and researched at Knockadoon. The creativity and skill of so many participants over the years has enriched souls, moved hearts, and opened minds to the richness of the Liturgy and to the Presence of God in many different ways. At the forefront of these wonderful workshops, demonstrations, inputs and hands on experience was Sr. Evangelist (Bina) Hogan R.S.M., who was on the staff of the Dominican Pastoral Centre in Cork. The visual and environmental preparation of the chapel for daily liturgies helped course participants to pray and celebrate with ease and openness. Wednesday night’s ‘Prayer Around the Cross’ with the music of Taize attracted many people from the area and from further afield to drink from the wells of the Knockadoon Folk Liturgy Course and to experience the presence of Jesus among His people. Priests who made themselves available for the Sacrament of Reconciliation often speak of the profound effect the celebration had on them.

The welcome, interest and support of the people in Knockadoon and Ballymacoda is very special. Over the years a bond of friendship has been created between the ‘locals’ and the ‘campers’ that has been enriching and sustaining. This bond was especially deepened on Friday, July 10th 1987, when newly ordained Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee D.D. visited Knockadoon. The excitement and anticipation of the local people was palpable for weeks beforehand. Houses were painted, gardens were tended, lawns were cut, hedges were trimmed and new clothes were bought. Families who had emigrated, children and grandchildren who had moved away from the area, campers of former years, friends and supporters of Knockadoon turned up in huge numbers. One of the oldest residents remarked that in living memory the Diocesan Bishop had not come beyond Ballymacoda.

The sun shone, the sky was blue and the background of Youghal Bay was resplendent for the open air Mass. Several Dominicans together with the parish priest and curate concelebrated with Bishop Magee. What energy, enthusiasm and joy the course participants gave to such pieces as Behold the Lamb Of God, All Shall Be Well, How Glorious Your Name, I Found The Treasure, Sing All The Earth, and With Drums And Dancing. After the Mass everyone processed down to the pier for the Blessing of the Boats by Bishop Magee. This particular part of the celebration touched the local people deeply. Tears of joy and appreciation were shed. The banquet in the dining hall afterwards was wonderful, thanks to Mary Cahill and the superb kitchen staff. The Bishop spent most of the day on camp, where he addressed the course participants and returned to Cobh in the evening with a plentiful supply of fresh salmon!!

Over the years groups from Cork, Newbridge, Sligo, Tallaght, Derry, Kilkenny, Galway, Tralee, Naas, Limerick, Ballincollig, Fermoy, Tuam, Athy, Waterford and many other locations have contributed enormously to the success of the Annual Folk Liturgy Week. The talent contests, the Friday night concerts, the walks to Ballymacoda, the trips to the Castle, the cliff walks, the excursions to Youghal, the games and fun on the top field, the ghost stories, the many impromptu sing songs and music sessions, the good humour, the companionship, all contributed to the unique experience of Knockadoon and The Folk Liturgy Week. The enormous contribution of so many Dominican brothers over the years has given a particular edge and flavour to bringing the Church alive for so many.

During the past twenty-one years hundreds of young people have immersed themselves in the legacy of St. Dominic on the shores of Knockadoon. They have discovered how To Praise, To Bless, To Preach through the Ministry of Music in the Liturgy. The Spirit of the Living God has been ever present nurturing the gifts and harvesting the fruits of dedication, commitment, generosity, faith and conviction of those whose time and talent has made music, liturgy and celebration accessible to so many. Recognition of the immeasurable contribution of the kitchen and maintenance staffs must also be recorded. We remember with fondness Jimmy Hogan from St. Aengus’ parish in Tallaght (guitar tutor), Fr. Bob Harrison from The Cork and Ross diocese (flute tutor), and Karen Delaney from Cork City (cook), who died so young and so untimely. I liontaibh De go gcastar sinn.

So many unnamed people have given so much to Knockadoon. Without them these special weeks could never have happened.

Our 21st anniversary is an occasion for celebration and rejoicing, a time for looking back with pride and gratitude and an opportunity to look to the future with confidence and trust. Carpe Diem!

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