15 December 2017

Slemish

“find favour with the people”

1) Who is involved in ‘Slemish’ and how would you describe your musical style?

Paul McComiskey was originally asked to pull together a group of musicians to take part in a night of Irish music in March 2005. That night inspired the formation of ‘Slemish’, and six years on we have 7 musicians involved, who play a range of instruments including Bodhran, whistle, mandolin, fiddle and even Uillean pipes. The music we play is therefore very much in the Celtic style, ranging from folk ballads and traditional street songs to jigs, reels and polkas, but also including songs with a more spiritual focus.

3 other guys regularly help us out with sound and vision, so our team can consist of up to 10 people:- Paul McComiskey, Albert Smylie, Davy Montgomery, Andrew Heron, Nigel Cameron, Kevin Burns, Andrew Hull, Ivan Adair, Jonathan Smith, Jonny Sanlon.

2) I am aware that ‘Slemish’ is about more than just entertainment, rather you have a heart for sharing God beyond Northern Irish borders. Could you tell our readers about the ministry side of your music?

Well, actually we do hope our music is entertaining, and that our enjoyment of the music we love to play comes across. We also try to captivate the audience with the great beauty of our island (if not the beauty of the band!) by using video and photographic images from Ireland along with the music. Sometimes we are asked to explain different aspects of our shared culture or history, particularly in our concerts abroad.

So, yes, this is more than just ‘entertainment!’ But our primary motivation is that our Christian faith would be clearly communicated, whether this be through the inclusion of worship and/or ministry type songs in our set; by reference to the life of St Patrick, the use of multi-media presentations, personal testimonies or any combination of the above!

The impact of ‘Slemish’, however, is most effective when in partnership with a church or mission organisation who are committed to outreach and prayer, can strategically plan, publicise and run a concert type event and also provide follow-up after the band have left the building! Perhaps sadly, we have found this works best in any country other than NI, because here the music we play can be seen as divisive, ‘not my cup of tea’ or just ’old hat’ and therefore not the most effective way to get people through the doors, except maybe on or around St Patrick’s Day! It’s not that we don’t do events in NI, but it never ceases to amaze us how much more interest and excitement is generated by the music we play on our trips to other parts of Europe where we consistently play to packed concert halls and church buildings full of unbelievers. This has happened many times in France, but also in Spain, Switzerland, and most recently, Portugal.

3)Yes, I believe you recently travelled to Lisbon to share some of your musical talents. Are there any highlights from this trip you would like to share with us?

Indeed, in March this year we travelled ‘from Lisburn to Lisbon’ and embarked upon a packed itinerary planned by SLEMISH “find favour with the people” our missionary friend Peter Crawford including concerts in a shopping centre, two churches and two schools (who incidentally were presented with plaques from the City of Lisburn).

However, who would have thought that ‘Slemish’, a folk group whose average age must be well over 45, could ever have an effective ministry to pre-school children? None of us were sure what we were letting ourselves in for as we headed out with the mission workers on Saturday morning to ‘Lusitos’, an open-air kids club where we would play our music and interact with the children (3-5 yrs) and their parents, and also talk about our unusual instruments to a classroom of very curious young students as part of their English lesson. Just to see the expression on the faces of these boys and girls and their delight in listening to our music and then being let loose on Nigel’s percussion instruments, was a sight and sound to behold. The adults present were so appreciative and must have wondered why these 8 guys came all the way from Ireland to play for their toddlers!

In the shadow of Vasca de Gamma Bridge that morning there were bridges being built for the small number of Christians living in that community who are committed to this work of relationship building every Saturday morning. As one of the group said “It’s ok to build a bridge, but someone has to walk across it,” so our prayer is that Christ who went before us, was with us and beneath us in all would continue behind us in following up all the links that were made and strengthening the relationships with others for the cause of His Kingdom.

God is always achieving through us so much more than we could possibly expect: In a small church service on the Sunday morning we were joined by a gifted Portuguese singer called Diamene, who told me afterwards it was the first time she had ever known people to clap along with the singing and she felt it was the breakthrough in worship she had been praying for!

4) Have you had any opportunity to play your traditional Irish music within Ireland? If so, what is the impact and how are you received?

Bringing a bunch of NI Protestants to play Irish music in ‘real Ireland’ wouldn’t seem to be such a good idea in theory but surprisingly in practice we have always found our music is well received south of the border. We have enjoyed several visits to the Cork area, in support of church planting work there, including features on local radio, and in Mullingar we helped an evangelical church group with a charity fundraiser for a drugs rehabilitation work they have pioneered.

Most recently though in April we spent a weekend with Carlow Bible Church, helping their efforts to reach out to the community in which their new building is situated. Several people who came to our concert had never been in the church before and some were so moved by the music that they came back for the Sunday morning service. In a change of plan, Paddy Grant, the Pastor decided not to preach a sermon that morning and instead encouraged ‘Slemish’ just to, “Go for it – we all need loosened up a bit!” We experienced such unity and freedom in worship that morning – God showed up in a powerful way! This often happens when we have the privilege of uniting with fellow believers (and sometimes musicians and singers) in cross-cultural worship. We get a taste of what heaven might be like!

5) So, looking ahead, what is coming up for ‘Slemish’ in the near future?

On 29th September we are headed for the sunny Algarve for five days to do a number of concerts planned in association with International Evangelical Church (Pastor Mark Loney).

On 22nd October we have been invited to Tralee by UFM missionary, Shaun Abrams.

In March 2012, Slemish make their first trip to Germany for some concerts in partnership with ECM missionary, Victor Watson.

Also tbc in 2012 are trips to France and Slovenia.

6) ‘Slemish’ is such an exciting ministry. How can our readers stand with you and offer support?

It would be great to have more people support us regularly through prayer. You can keep in touch with us via Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Slemish/116088114553

God has blessed ‘Slemish’ so much in recent years that our desire would be to develop the ministry more strategically not only so we can respond positively to existing invitations but also to enable us to ‘offer’ our services to other mission agencies and pioneering church groups. However, with work and family commitments and being self-financing it is not currently feasible to do any more than two or three foreign trips per year, however the invitations continue to come. So we need much wisdom in making the right decisions for the future ministry of ‘Slemish’, including when and where to record our new CD!

If you’d like to hear a little bit of ‘Slemish’ our first album is on itunes at http://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/slemish/id414984583 and many other online outlets including Tesco, Amazon etc.

If you’d like to find out more about ‘Slemish’ or feel you can support our ministry in any further ways please get in touch through our Facebook page or email nigel@scenesofwonder.com

You may be interested in developing this type of ministry yourself, and we would encourage you to just go for it, the opportunities are out there! Let us know if we can be of any help.

THE FINAL WORD

As a group, it is not always possible to gauge the impact we are having. Therefore, let’s give the final word to the full time Christian workers we have supported this year:-

‘’The recent visit of ‘Slemish’ to Carlow Bible Church left many people on a real spiritual high after a wonderful weekend of Celtic music and worship. Many had never heard of ‘Slemish’ and had no idea what to expect but were treated to a memorable weekend. After a quiet first night word of mouth meant a full house for Sunday morning worship. We were delighted that the visit of the band drew the attention of a number of trad lovers from the community and all are looking forward with great excitement to the next visit which is scheduled for April 2012.’’

Paddy Grant – Pastor, Carlow Bible Church

“So, is St Patricks Day a religious day in Ireland, or is it just a celebration of Irish culture and music?” Just one of several questions that the ‘Slemish’ guys fielded from a crowded auditorium full of Portuguese students. It gave band member Andrew Heron a good opportunity to explain the distinction between organised religion and a real living faith in Jesus Christ

This was one of two times the band were able to play and interact with secondary school students during their time with us here in Lisbon. We are ECM missionaries, working with a young church plant in an upwardly mobile area of the city called Park of the Nations. It’s been going for about four years now, and God is gradually creating something new and different in this area.

Our Portuguese neighbours, coming from a predominantly Roman Catholic background, tend to look upon evangelical Christians with some suspicion, so it was really good to have ‘Slemish’ with us. They performed 8 times in 4 days, in settings ranging from an Irish pub, to an open air event for children! Irish music and culture is very popular here, so the concerts were very much a hit, and also helped open lots of doors, and give us opportunities to share about the difference Jesus can make in a person’s life. Church members were able to bring friends, who wouldn’t otherwise come near a Christian church, to the performances.

Friends, like Katia, a young doctor who continues to meet with Anna on a regular basis, “They helped our new little Christian community find favour with the people.”

Peter and Anna Crawford – European Christian Mission, Lisbon, Portugal