Roughly 1% of the world’s population stutters (source: National Stuttering Association) but how often do you hear about it? Irish musician, stuttering advocate and secondary school teacher Emily Magner Hurley has long been driven by a strong interest in issues surrounding mental health and wellbeing. In her work as a classroom teacher and in her previous role as education officer at the Association of Irish Choirs (now Sing Ireland) she has seen first-hand the positive impacts music can have on the wellbeing of others.
Stuttering Awareness Mental Wellbeing Ireland (SAMWI) was established in 2019 with the aim of giving hope and support to those who live with a stutter. Emily has been part of the team from the start and the energy and care with which the team has set about their task is mirrored in Magner Hurley’s own work. In recent years Emily has used her compositional prowess to provide a musical backdrop for many of the messages of hope and support that SAMWI have released.
Long driven by a strong interest in issues surrounding mental health and wellbeing, Emily, in her work as a classroom teacher and in her previous role as education officer at the Association of Irish Choirs administration, (now Sing Ireland) has seen first-hand the positive impacts music can have on the wellbeing of others.
The album – Orainn (Us) – releases 16/10/23 is a collection of original and traditional Irish folk songs performed by Emily Magner Hurley. Combining acapella, jazz fusion, and classical styles, the album’s sound focuses on the spiritual, mindful, and meditative. That focus was intentional. As each piece evolved and its intricate harmonies and motifs took shape, Emily was at all times mindful of the soundscapes she was creating, atmospheres that would be simultaneously uplifting, inspiring and entirely in fitting with the messages of hope that the team at SAMWI constantly promote.
“A lot of the album is from a style of singing called Sean-Nós, meaning ‘old way’,” says Magner Hurley, “but I have given it my own particular twist.”
That twist involved adding layers of harmonies to each piece, creating motifs inspired by each set of lyrics, employing compositional and choral techniques more commonly found in jazz or classical music of the romantic era. The results are fresh and imaginative arrangements, ones that are respectful of the spirit of each piece while ensuring that people new to the traditional Irish songbook encounter a sense of the music’s true depth and intensity.
One of the tracks is dedicated to deputy White House Chief of Staff Jen O’Malley-Dillon who has been an ardent supporter of the SAMWI campaign. Their campaign has found strong support in the United States where US President Joe Biden has flourished while living with a stutter. SAMWI’s messages have reached the Oval Office and with them, Emily’s music. A Bhríd Óg Ní Mháille is a song about one ‘O’Malley’ who made an impression, Jen O’Malley-Dillon is another such individual and has shown kindness and appreciation for the work SAMWI undertake.
Emily Magner Hurley, a coloratura soprano, is a proud graduate of University College Cork, holding a master’s in composition. She was trained by the world-renowned soprano, Majella Cullagh. Each piece from this album and her debut album Airs & Graces are composed on a 1970’s Petrof Baby Grand gifted to her by her husband, one which has, in the past, played host renowned pianists John O’Conor and Charles Lynch.
Emily’s 2020 debut album Airs & Graces was released to strong reviews from the local media outlets in her native Cork, Lyric FM and 96fm’s The Arts House. More importantly it helped sooth fans through an incredibly difficult period. With Orainn (Us), Emily hopes to continue that mission and help even more to find a place of escape from the troubles of the turbulent times in which we live.
Orainn (Us) will be available across all platforms 16/10/23.
“Lovely, evocative music… If you are looking for some gorgeous music with lots of heart and flair… thought and warmth… then Cork’s own Emily Magner Hurley might just be the woman you are searching for.”
Avant Music Port, Dublin