The past few weeks have been beautifully packed with melody, from the power of the Irish tradition of sing along to the energy of music from home(s), the company sounds can keep in everyday life, the experiences that can center around music. December has been a divertimento of sorts, a lively instrumental piece made up of several short movements.
The sing along is a quintessential development of a warm Dublin family gathering. Over the holidays, I had the pleasure of spending the most wonderful time in my Irish host family’s home, and it is difficult to describe just how warm a Dublin Christmas is, it’s as warm as a delicious Sunday roast, prepared by a selfless host mom and dad who took me in over holidays away from home and have always made me feel like family, even amidst one of the busiest times in the place where the family always gathers at the O’Reilly’s, it’s as warm as the family gift of laughter to Tommy Tiernan in Vicar Street or a Pantomime at the National Stadium, as warm as a stocking with your name on it on Christmas morning. Nothing can beat the warmth of watching a dad-little daughter duet of Christy Moore’s Beeswing or a wonderful rendition of Olivia Newton-John’s Hopelessly Devoted To You. The power of music’s ability to bring families together, even when the MC (me) hogs the mic for too long sometimes and insists on singing a song possibly a bit too sad for St. Stephen’s Day.
After a wonderful day with Irish friends who welcomingly included me in a gathering for a fella celebrating the big 5-0, attempting to understand the world of horse racing in Leopardstown, another Dublin tradition in the time between Christmas and New Years, where you see crowds collectively shouting “go on” to the horse they bet on, whether it be the underdog, or the predicted winner, and the pints of porter just perfectly settled. That evening, surrounded by the warmth of the crowd in the International Bar, we sang Jim McCan’s Grace, a beautiful and painful ode to a love interrupted by the struggle for independence. Days later, I rang in the New Year singing among family and friends that have made me feel so supported and loved during this year in Dublin.
Most of our Michealmas term assignments for global health were due shortly before Christmas, I used the prompts in all the different classes to explore a community that has been meaningful to me along my journey – I wrote on how war and global disenfranchisement impacted Syria’s ability to confront COVID-19, on the social determinants of Pre-Eclampsia in my medical school’s community of East Harlem, and a comparison with Lebanon’s healthcare sector’s plight to continue to function effectively within the limits of repeated tragedies and economic crisis. Background to all these heavy yet rewarding stories was the music in my room, often overlapped with the sound of tours of trinity’s campus that persist despite the gusty winter winds. Whether it was recents from Taylor Swift’s Midnights, with a shoutout to Ireland’s Wicklow on Track 12, or tracks more reminiscent of very similar time(s) in undergrad that involved weeklong races to a deadline at the end of term, with The Carters’ EVERYTHING IS LOVE, or Troye Sivan’s Bloom, music brought me great solace and motivation.
At Trinity, I crossed paths with a “trinité” of engineers from Nantes’s Centrale, whose journey brought them together to pursue environmental engineering at Trinity. At the start of the new year, I had another “how am I here” moment visiting the college community they belonged to in Nantes, ironically and unironically singing Charles Aznavour’s La Bohème at a small gathering of friends and humming the beats of Gazo along the Loire. Also in Nantes, I got to connect with a peace of home in the diaspora, listening to tunes by Fairouz that brought me back to a primary school morning on the bus, while eating Lah’m B’aajin at a small Syrian restaurant in Nantes – it was, as the restaurant’s name proudly announced, a nostalgic “Voyage à Damas”.
I could continue writing on and on, moments wrapped with music were aplenty, they carried me through the years time and time again, and this past month, those moments continued to shape my experience in Ireland and beyond. Whether it was harmonizing to Daniel Caesar and H.E.R’s The Best Part with a fellow Mitchell on the southern coast of Portugal, or connecting with a New York anchor over SZA’s SOS on shared Spotify sessions over ever fleeting FaceTimes.
I’ll keep listening.