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Thirty years hitting right note with audiences



Date Published: {J}

Music is magic when it’s live. It’s as fragile as a sports match when you don’t know what’s going to happen next,” says Jane O’Leary, who has been responsible for bringing some of the best classical performers in the world to Galway in the last 30 years.

American-born Jane and German-born Erika Casey were the driving force behind the group Music for Galway, set up in 1980, which aimed to create new opportunities for people in Galway to enjoy live music performances.

Both came to Galway via the then UCG – Erika’s husband Tim was German professor at the university, while Jane’s husband Pat, whom she had met in America, had also secured a job lecturing there.

Since the 1970s Jane has been a major part of the West’s cultural life. Indeed, her influence extends further afield as she has also served on the Arts Council, the board of the National Concert Hall, Ireland’s Cultural Relations Committee and the country’s Contemporary Music Centre.

Jane also founded the modern music group Concorde and has been awarded for her work throughout the years by being nominated to Aosdána, the body set up by the Arts Council in 1981 to recognise artists whose work has made an outstanding contribution to the arts in Ireland, and to help these people focus on their arts.

And for 30 years, she has been at the artistic helm of Music for Galway which has seen international figures including Yehudi Menuhin, Nigel Kennedy and Emma Kirkby perform in Galway, as well as rising Irish talent such as pianist Finghin Collins, who is returning for the 30th celebrations.

From the beginning UCG had a major role to play in the development of Music for Galway with the university’s Buildings Officer Gerry Lee being on its board.

“The first thing we did was buy the piano,” says Jane, casting her mind back to the group’s early days. She is referring to the Steinway grand piano which has been used by performers since the beginning.

“We said that we couldn’t run concerts unless we had a good piano, a piano that any musician in the world would be happy to play. Gerry Lee asked me what was the best piano available and I said ‘a Steinway’. Erika said ‘from Hamburg’.”

For Jane a Steinway from Hamburg would have been the perfect instrument, but she felt it was way outside the budget of this fledgling society. However, her concerns were groundless.

“Gerry said ‘that’s what we are going to get’, and within six months we had raised the money locally. It cost £15,000 and is worth €80,000 now.”

That was 1981. The Aula Maxima in UCG’s Quadrangle had just been done up and was an ideal location. Because of the strong connection between UCG and the Music for Galway founders, it became the natural home for this grand piano. The instrument was lifted in there by six strong men and that’s where it still sits.

Shortly after that, Music for Galway formed a company and as it enters its fourth decade the group is still going strong, although life is not without its challenges.

“The audiences were bigger in the first year than they are now,” says Jane. “It’s actually harder now [to get audiences], maybe because there’s too much going on and maybe people are too comfortable.”

Galway was a very different place in the mid 1970s, she says, and while the city wasn’t as developed as it is now, it was an ideal environment in which to set up a new group promoting classical music.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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