The Longest River event a success in Brussels

(L-R): Dr Brendan O’Connor, Director Cois Cladaigh, Professor John Delaney of the University of Washington, Maria Damanaki, EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, and Dr Peter Heffernan, Chief Executive of the Marine Institute  The Marine Institute and Galway based choir Cois Cladaigh who are responsible for the creation of The Longest River, recently showcased the marine science literacy and communication event to an audience of over 200 people as part of the celebration of Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of European Union, at Eglise du Saint – Sacrement in Brussels. The event was sponsored by Culture Ireland and Tourism Ireland.

The Longest River event was also under the patronage of both Ms Maria Damanaki and Ms Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Members of the European Commission.

Commissioner Damanaki commented, “Our Atlantic Ocean is the bridge between all Atlantic States. I am delighted to be associated with The Longest River as it demonstrates the importance of international collaborations on ocean research – as such research will be central to the success of the Action Plan for the implementation of the Maritime Strategy proposed by the European Commission in order to deliver smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in the Atlantic Ocean area”.

The concept of The Longest River was initiated by Dr Brendan O’Connor, managing director of AQUAFACT and Director of the choir Cois Cladaigh, Professor John Delaney of the University of Washington and Dr Peter Heffernan, Chief Executive of the Marine Institute. 

Dr Peter Heffernan, Chief Executive of the Marine Institute


The unique collaboration has created an innovative means of engaging new audiences and raising the awareness of the science of our oceans and the importance of the deep seas that support our life on earth.

Multidisciplinary research and international cooperation is essential in achieving healthy marine ecosystems – which is a key goal of the Irish Government’s Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland - Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth. With an aim to double Ireland’s marine sectors contribution to GDP by 2020, having a better understanding of the oceans is key to generating social, cultural and economic benefits. “Communicating how research and innovation deliver societal benefits is important to the mission of the Marine Institute,” according to Dr. Peter Heffernan, CEO of the Marine Institute.

Professor John Delaney, University of Washington


Orator of the event, Professor John Delaney of the University of Washington, presented marine science and geology through high definition graphic presentations and video footage demonstrating how the seas support our life on earth.  “Poets and scientists alike are powerfully drawn to the sea for inspiration and resolution.  It is in their nature to ask questions, to seek answers and to explore through research and development, poetry, music and photography in order to illuminate some piece of the great mystery of our oceans and share its beauty,” he said.

Cois Cladaigh with Dr Brendan O’Connor


Unique photography of marine scenes, species and video footage of extreme environments under the deep ocean were also shown during the performances of Cois Cladaigh.  The choir sang a  selection of Latin, English choral music and a repertoire of traditional Irish music spanning the 9th - 21st  centuries.

Uilleanne piper Eugene Lambe and harpist Kathleen Loughnane


Instrumental pieces were also played by Uilleanne piper Eugene Lambe and harpist Kathleen Loughnane.

The Longest River workshop:

A workshop entitled The Longest River - Our World, Our Oceans was also presented to over 100 primary school students at the Ecole Europeenne de Brussels IV in Brussels, by Professor John Delaney and Dr Brendan O'Connor.  The students were also introduced to Irish musicians Eugene Lambe and Kathleen Loughnane who spoke about the history of their instruments and played pieces from The Longest River performance on the Uillean pipe and Irish harp. 

Dr Brendan O’Connor, Director of Cois Cladaigh directs the school children


Dr Brendan O’Connor, Director of Cois Cladaigh also taught the students how to perform the Rondes by Folke Rabe.  "The workshop with the pupils demonstrated  that their voices can be used in many ways to produce a variety of sounds which are not exclusively notes. The outcome of the performance produced an experimental piece that createed a rich, primal soundscape that allowed individual voices to select from a broad range of vocal techniques - hopefully inspiring students about the sounds from deep within the ocean," Dr O'Connor explained.

Supporting the Marine Institute and the development of The Longest River,  Dr. O’Connor said “this event has enabled Cois Cladaigh to raise its profile amongst a wider audience as well as contribute to the ethos of evoking innovative arts and science literacy, offering better communication to a broader audience”.