Music activist Don O’Connor is still going strong

Eugene Phelan

Reporter:

Eugene Phelan

Don O'Connor with his famous washboard at Limerick's Peoples Park. Picture: Adrian Butler
AT 65 years of age, many people are looking at retirement and taking it easy, but for well known Limerick musician, Don O’Connor life is busier then ever travelling the world, as a “music activist.”

AT 65 years of age, many people are looking at retirement and taking it easy, but for well known Limerick musician, Don O’Connor life is busier then ever travelling the world, as a “music activist.”

It was back in 1978 when Don came to national prominence as his composition You Gotta Get Up featured in the National Song Contest and became a hit record for his group Reform.

After a highly successful career, on their disbandment he formed his current group Don O’Connor’s Celtic Fusion which continues to tour the world. They have just returned from a trip to Switzerland where they appeared at a major open air festival and Don conducted some percussion workshops.

Energy, enthusiasm and a love of music ensures a hectic schedule for Don who grew up in South Circular Road, Limerick, and who now lives in Tipperary. While in Switzerland he conducted workshops and launched their new recording Mozart at the Crossroads.

Don was also recently involved in a European project in Germany where an African group of musicians from Botswana performed many of his new compositions which are on release in Europe and Africa titled Kalahari Roses.

Don graduated from UL in 2002 with a masters degree in music and has taught in several countries including Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and Africa. He works in Ireland as a community music/therapist specialising in the area of intellectual disability for various organisations such as the Brothers of Charity, the Daughters of Charity and Rehab Care.

His latest innovative project involves empowering people’s lives through a series of self penned mini musical morality plays in the course of which life issues are addressed by participants through a combination of performance arts and positive psychology coaching. These programmes will be available through various training and educational organisations. “I do coaching in singing, percussion and performance and dance. In these musicals we take on life issues, like bullying and the problem of social inclusion,” he explains.

Don is into positive psychology and positive attitude to overcome these problems. He has worked for 11 years in Bawnmore using music to enhance the lives of those with intellectual disabilities. In 2010 he was invited to Botswana as part of an Afro Celtic concert tour. As well as concerts Don conducted a project at a centre for intellectually disabled.

The success of both led to follow up visits to Botswana in 2011 and 2012 culminating in the recording in Africa of the CD Kalahari Rose.

The material on this CD was composed by Don and in conjunction with the German and African musicians and the songs are linked to another project - mini musical morality stories with titles such as Everyone Can Do Something and Bridging the Divide which are designed as confidence and competence building vehicles using a combination of performance arts and positive psychology coaching to empower people’s lives.