An epic soundscape for a stunning landscape
The Donegal’s Hallowed Sites tour was designed for National Heritage Week 2021. It serves as bold statement of intent – trying to match the breath-taking scenery of Donegal with an epic soundscape via Spotify that combines accompanying audio clips from experts, relevant music, explanatory text and GPS coordinates.
On top of the 25 sites listed, a further 25 bonus tracks and Donegal-related tunes to the Spotify playlist bring it up to over seven and half hours and this is the best way to enjoy the tour by far. Our advice is to go to the dedicated page on the Donegal App on how to get the Geotour GPS tour that guides you to the 25 sites of this playlist. Alternatively, simply cut and paste the location details for each into Google Maps and off you go.
A cultural compass for the county
Donegal’s Hallowed Sites on Spotify serves to legally combine the rich musical heritage of the county with local voices telling you about the various places when you get to them. For each place listed, there is an accompanying tune. This idea sort of works for Sunday Miscellany on RTÉ Radio One, but it comes into its own for a grand project like this. And while some may regard the starting tune of ‘The Homes of Donegal’ as hackneyed, we say it would be rude not to use such an iconic song with its plaintive opening bars setting the tone for such an epic voyage. The same goes for Las Vegas (in the hills of Donegal) or Jimmy’s winning Matches. Like the changeable weather up there, there’s simply no getting away from their lashing!
It helps to aim big and get a few breaks. When starting out with the project, I could only have dreamt of interviewing Rory Gallagher’s brother, Donal, or Moya Brennan or the great Michael Murphy. Yet they were more than obliging with their time and knowledge and along with a whole host of local experts, they bring a special place’s greatness to life because they know exactly what makes it great and often are the very cause of that greatness. Be it Easkey Britton, Sorcha O’Donnell or Nikki Bradley, we managed to speak to the very best people for the job required and are delighted with the results. A big debt of gratitude is due to them for making the finished soundscape such a useful cultural compass for the county. Jacqui Sharkey and Noel Carr were extremely helpful – thanks folks!
A mobile documentary of many styles
There is a wide range of styles and takes from the audio clips – we believe this ‘zoo style’ adds to the overall effect and yes, many were recorded via Zoom in a global pandemic, so bear with that and the occasional wobble in bandwidth. Some of it is indeed ancient archive material that may get the odd gust of wind appearing, but we issue the disclaimer that the wind is part and parcel of the Donegal experience, so deal with it! From a technical point of view, the loudness setting has been set at -14 LUFS to go with Spotify standards.
The bonus hallowed sites were added as gathering places that should also be savoured and will in time become part of the proper list, as will others hopefully. The additional audio material was alluded to in either the earlier audio clips, the text that came with those clips or because it gives an added flavour of Donegal wit or occasions. We’ve ensured that folklore has been included as these beliefs would have formed an important part of the culture of the county, if going back a fair bit to their heyday!
Our choices for Donegal's Hallowed sites
So why did we choose these 25 places in such a vast county? They have all been special places where people have gathered for an event of some description over the centuries. This is a chance to retrace the steps of those early ‘pilgrims’ and perhaps capture some of the magic these places offer.
I first came up with the idea in 2012 when it was called ‘Donegal’s Greatest Shrines’, but as you’ll see it, is a tour that does not take itself too seriously, so a softening of the name to ‘Donegal’s Hallowed Site’s was made. I’d been putting together a lot of Spotify playlists from my archive in 2021 and thought that my favourite of the eight tours from the Donegal App deserved an upgrade for National Heritage Week 2021.
Ensure you familiarise yourself with the route beforehand. There are some breath-taking scenes along the way with plenty of stops required. As you are covering the full county, it would be best to do this drive over a few days, with plenty of sightseeing along the way. Come back revitalised.
If you enjoyed it, please pass on the word and let folk know via social media.
26th August 2021