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Unique opportunity to train with ConTempo Ensemble



Date Published: {J}

It’s fair to say that in their seven years living in Galway, Romanian musicians Ingrid Nicola, Bogdan Sofei, Andreea Banciu and Adrian Mantu have visited more parts of the county than most local people ever will.

As members of the ConTempo String Quartet, which has been Galway’s Ensemble in Residence since January 2003, their remit is to perform live classical music in places where it wouldn’t normally be performed. ConTempo visits schools all around Galway, as well as performing free concerts in venues countywide.


The group is made up of Bogdan Sofei on first violin, his wife Ingrid Nicola on second violin, Andreea Banciu on viola and her husband Adrian Mantu on cello.

In addition to performing, the four also teach music and nurture aspiring professional musicians, explains Ingrid. As part of this, they have been running an Apprentice Ensemble Project since 2006 and are currently seeking applications for the coming year.

Auditions will be held in early March and the selected musicians will receive lessons from ConTempo members from April. The winners will also be given practice space and resources to improve their playing skills, both individually and as part of an ensemble. And they will also be given the opportunity to perform in a professional capacity, both with Con Tempo and separately.

This is a fine opportunity to train with one of the finest string quartets worldwide. ConTempo began in 1995 when four students at the Music University in Bucharest, Romania joined forces. They were subsequently awarded a three-year residency at the Royal Academy of Music in London, teaching and studying during their time there. After three years in London they moved to Madrid, to work with musical master Rainer Schmidt who had played with the Hagen Quartet.

“We were in Madrid when we heard about this international position in Galway for a musical residency and we came here and did an audition,” says Ingrid.

A few years previously they had taken part in a music competition in London, winning a trip to Galway where they played a concert as part of the Music for Galway season. That visit was a happy one, although they had no idea then that they would ever be settling here, under a partnership now funded by bodies such as NUIG, the Arts Council, Galway City Council, GMIT, Galway City and County Council.

Coming here was a good move, says Ingrid. Because Irish people are Mediterranean in temperament, the four feel right at home.

“People are so lovely. They are more Latin in spirit that Saxon.”

And although Ireland doesn’t have a tradition of classical music, the ConTempo project has received a warm response.

Ingrid believes that is due to the rich seam of Irish music that can be found throughout Galway.

“Because there is a large tradition of Irish music, even people who don’t know much about classical music have an ear that is open to it.

“And the response is pretty much the same everywhere. For students to have instruments performed so close to them . . . they are amazed.”

The Ensemble in Residence work is fascinating and rewarding, she says. And they are continually broadening their remit.

Since last Autumn they have been involved in a new programme to help make the Leaving Cert music course more accessible.

“The Leaving Cert in Ireland is such a huge thing – more than in Romania, so at least this will take the pressure off one subject,” says Ingrid. “There are some pieces in the music curriculum that are difficult to understand, so we go in and explain about the lives of composers and their work, and that helps.”

But right now, she wants to highlight the benefits of the Apprentice Ensemble Project.

“The aim of the project is to have a quartet in residence and we would make chamber music accessible to them. They will take part in concerts and have tuition with Con Tempo,” she explains.

Their first Apprentice Ensemble in residence was a string quartet called Carousel which worked with Con Tempo from 2006/7. That was composed of two sets of siblings from Loughrea, so there was a real family vibe to the project that year, laughs Ingrid. The second group, SoundPost consisted of music teachers from the city’s Galway Technical Institute (GTI) and Gort Community School

“Up to now it’s been a very successful project, and for the next stage, we want to have two apprentice quartets,” says Ingrid.

For more, read page 31 of this week’s Connacht 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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