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Community course is hitting right note with unemployed musicians

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Date Published: {J}

The Access Music Project (AMP) is a year-long course that runs in St Patrick’s Band Hall, in the city’s Fairgreen.

“AMP is a Community Employment Scheme that works through FÁS to help unemployed musicians in Galway garner more skills,” explains Páraic Joyce, one of the 13 students enrolled in the 2010/11 course.

Participants in the scheme (who must be over 25) take 20 hours of classes a week. These include music theory, piano classes and vocal training. Monday mornings can be a slog, but AMP students start their week off with a bang – literally. Cormac Dunne, who drums with The Stunning, leads the class through a full-on percussion class.

“He’s unbelievable,” says Peter Kelehan, a singer who regularly plays at sessions in The Crane. “You could sound like a bunch of monkeys and he’ll come along and go ‘you’re brilliant’.”

“No matter what kind of shape you’re in on Monday morning, you’re sorted after that class!” laughs Páraic.

“We’re all very, very lucky,” adds Peter. “The standard of tuition is incredible. It’s across the board, in the sense that they’re catering for all levels. It starts very basic and works its way up. Music theory – none of us would have had much of that when we came in. Our vocal ranges changed in such a short space of time.”

“We’re very privileged to be on this course,” says Stephen Mc Ginley, and he has a point. With unemployment queues getting ever longer, demand for a place on the course was very high. “There were 85 applications, 45 interviews and there are only 13 of us here,” says Valentina L’Abbate, who originally hails from Italy.

“I think people’s ability to interact with others is clearly high on their agenda when they’re interviewing people,” says Páraic. “There’s a good group ethic. It’s day in and day out – if you had any fallings-out it’d be a long aul year!”

Peter Kelehan is keen to point out that AMP plays is an important part of Galway’s cultural and commercial, landscape.

“Galway is based on its music and its tourism; on any given night there are so many gigs going all over town,” he says. “If something benefits us [as musicians], it also benefits the tourist industry. Tourists are going to keep coming back if they get that experience of enjoying great sessions in Galway.”

There’s a vast range of experience in the AMP course. Some musicians have been playing sessions for over two decades, while some are just beginning to step into the public arena.

“You’re constantly challenged so no matter where you are, there’s loads to learn,” says Stephen Gorman, a young, emerging songwriter. “We were all beginners at something,” adds Vale. “There were people who never sang, never played guitar, never played piano or had never done music theory.”

Páraic Joyce is finding that the class in music theory is changing how he approaches his craft.

“It’s the context of the chords – that’s what I’m picking up,” he explains. “A lot of the stuff you’d know, it’s just concentrating on it and making it make sense. Before, you just did it because it was written on the paper – you weren’t sure exactly why you were doing it. Which I found embarrassing because I’d be playing with better musicians around town and just hanging on by my fingernails. Once you start to understand a bit more, hopefully, it’ll make a life a lot easier.”

“Every day you learn something new,” adds Peter. “One new chord or one new piece I didn’t know about on the piano, or a vocal cord. Every day is part of a learning curve.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

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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

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr

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Date Published: 23-Jan-2013

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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup

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Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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