Film Fleadh with common touch weaves a magic spell
Lifestyle – Ciaran Tierney hears how new talent mingles with the stars during a uniquely Galway event
In theory, it probably should not even work. A city with a population of just over 75,000 people, which has yet to see the completion of its own art house cinema, somehow manages to transform itself into a major hub of European and world cinema for six days each July.
Professionals attending bigger, glitzier festivals in Cannes and Berlin talk with bated breath about the delights on offer at the Galway Film Fleadh, which celebrates its 25th birthday next month. There are no red carpet premieres, but Hollywood professionals love the way they can rub shoulders with amateur enthusiasts and ordinary film fans over a few drinks at the famed Festival Club at the Galway Rowing Club.
For six days and nights, the Town Hall Theatre is packed with people attending screenings of documentaries, features, and shorts from all over the world. Every year the festival manages to unearth a few new gems while established global stars enjoy the informal atmosphere around an event which has grown enormously, but still manages to retain an intimate feel.
“The Fleadh has maintained its ethos over the last 25 years, which is that we want to be small, not in terms of the scale of the event, but we want to be intimate and informal. The Rowing Club is the festival club. There isn’t an ‘us and them’. Everybody is mixing and mingling. It’s so informal and relaxed, I think that kind of reflects the city of Galway itself,” says Managing Director Miriam Allen.
She believes it’s a huge bonus for the festival not to have a red carpet or glittering, champagne-fuelled launches. Film people from all over Europe and North America love to contrast the six days of mayhem in Galway with the glitz and glamour of Cannes.
Last year, there seemed to be one standing ovation after another at the Town Hall. Programmer Gar O’Brien gave world premieres to Pilgrim Hill, set in rural Kerry; Good Vibrations, a celebration of the Belfast punk scene during The Troubles; another Northern Irish film called Jump, and King of the Travellers. Each of them delighted capacity audiences as the Film Fleadh became a launch pad to greater things.
Irish film-makers now aim to finish their work in time for the Fleadh. It was the festival which gave Dublin film Once its first screening before it went on to win an Academy Award, the place where Garage featuring Pat Shortt was first shown to an audience, and where The Guard (starring Brendan Gleeson) received a rapturous reception after being filmed in the West of Ireland.
There have also been premieres for some brilliant documentaries down through the years. Richie O Domhnaill’s The Pipe (about the ‘Shell to Sea’ protests in Mayo) and the Oscar nominated Five Broken Cameras, set in an occupied Palestinian village, were both screened to Irish audiences for the first time at the Town Hall and both received standing ovations at the Fleadh.
Since its humble beginnings back in 1988, the Fleadh has always aimed to encourage new Irish talent. There was no Irish Film Board back then, the screenings took place in the ramshackle Claddagh Palace on the way to Salthill, and the Festival club was in a tent nearby. It just seemed to ‘click’ perfectly into place and the Galway bash became an annual pilgrimage for hundreds of committed film fans.
“The thing I like about the atmosphere around the Town Hall is that if you want to dress up, you can do that,” says Gar. “There’s such a great buzz and atmosphere outside, the whole thing is so informal, with all walks of life there. It’s a huge draw for us. Cannes is one thing, but people come here knowing it’s going to be so much more relaxed and informal, and that they can get some business done.”
Miriam and Gar both went to Dublin for a private screening of Pilgrim Hill with young Kerry director Ger Barrett last year. Barrett borrowed money from his local credit union to complete the film. There were only six people at the screening, including Ger’s parents and the local parish priest, and they were all in tears afterwards. It has given Miriam and Gar a huge lift to see Barrett’s career take off since the first public screening in Galway last year.
“We’ve always had a kind of punk rock or DIY ethos,” says Gar. “I think Pilgrim Hill was really satisfying for us, to see it not only getting a general release across Ireland, but the progress Ger has made, the people he has met. The way he’s been picked up internationally. That’s something we picked out. It all came from the Fleadh. For it to just to explode and his talent to be recognised since that first screening, that’s just an amazing part of the job!”
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
Marian Choral Society to bring Evita to life in Tuam
After more than four decades of performing on stage, the Tuam-based Marian Choral Society are embarking on their latest challenge, with plans to stage Evita in the autumn.
While they have announced details of the new production, they have yet to ringfence a cast for the epic. Auditions will take place over the coming weeks.
Chairperson Stuart Barrows told The Tribune that it was an exciting challenge for the group and expressed his delight that so many new members had joined the society.
The Marian Choral Society welcome back Ronan Lardner as Director for Evita, as well as Shane Farrell as Musical Director. And Jay Molyneux is on board for the first time as Choreographer for this production.
The musical will run from Tuesday, October 31, to Saturday, November 4, and will be staged in St Jarlath’s College Hall, Tuam.
The Marian Choral Society had never missed an annual production since their formation back in 1977 – until Covid struck. The pandemic meant that they had to abandon their plans for a couple of years – similar to other artistic groups.
Covid brought to an end a proud record of 43 consecutive productions, during which time they never missed a year. In fact, in 2013, they embarked on two shows to mark Tuam’s 400 celebrations.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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‘Bring a cushion’ and enjoy Bach’s masterpiece at Galway Cathedral
Galway Cathedral is the venue this Saturday evening, March 25, for a performance of Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion from the Irish Baroque Orchestra (IBO). It will start at 7.30pm.
Conductor Peter Whelan will direct the IBO and the vocal ensemble Sestina Music, with the solo parts being performed by members of the choir and the role of the Evangelist taken on by tenor James Way. This concert of sacred music is being presented by Music for Galway as part of its Bach Season.
The renowned baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach wrote hundreds of sacred pieces while he was director of church music at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig from 1723 until his death in 1750. The St Matthew Passion, which was first performed there on April 11, 1727, is his most elaborate work, with big parts for four soloists.
Its story was drawn mostly from St Matthew’s Gospel but the pieces that Bach put to music were written by various contemporary poets.
This epic work was performed on several occasions during the composer’s lifetime but was then forgotten for nearly 80 years, until Felix Mendelssohn discovered it in the 1820s and performed an abbreviated version in Berlin in 1829.
Mendelssohn would later perform it in Leipzig, with much of the original score restored and it’s now an integral part of the sacred canon. For this Saturday, the advice from Music for Galway is to “bring a cushion and experience this exceptional work performed by outstanding cast”.
Tickets are available from Music for Galway’s website www.musicforgalway.ie or by phone on 091 705962 and cost €30/€27 and €12 for full-time students of all ages. There’s a concession rate of €25 for Music for Galway Friends. To learn more about becoming Friend, visit the website or phone the office.
Sunshine feeling as Raines launch debut album ‘Reverie’
Reverie, the debut album from Galway folk-Americana group the Raines is being officially launched this Friday, March 24 following a musical celebration Galway City on Tuesday evening to mark its release.
The Raines, comprising Ruth Dillon, Yvonne Tiernan and Juliana Erkkonen, have been making waves on the music scene since 2019 and their last five singles have reached Number One in the iTunes charts.
Although they only joined forces four years ago – just before Covid – all three have a long track record in the business.
Ruth (vocals, guitar, ukulele) toured and recorded with singer Dolores Keane, is a former member of the roots group, The Molly Hicks, and has released three solo albums. Yvonne (vocals/ukulele/percussion) has toured internationally with numerous bands, most notably as lead singer with The Chieftains while Juliana (fiddle and vocals) has long been at the forefront of Ireland’s Americana music scene and has released eight albums with a diverse range of acts.
Reverie, with its terrific songs and beautiful harmonies, demonstrates the deep connection between the three women and showcases their unique blend of music.
As Ruth explained: “We worked hard to bring an album that is full of connection, [that is] textured and melodic but that would also honour our own individual voices and styles.”
Guest musicians on Reverie include Cesar Benzoni (mandolin), Sam Wright (bass and bodhrán), John O’Dwyer (bass), Wil Merrigan (bass), Cormac Dunne (drums), Tom Portman (slide guitar and dobro), Justin McCarthy (slide guitar) and Liam Bradley (drums).
The album was recorded by Ivan O’Shea, with additional recording by Cesar Benzoni, Liam King and Justin McCarthy. Except that is for Juliana’s playing and singing, which she recorded in her own studio.
“It has been a such a rewarding experience, as I composed and recorded all my violin/strings and vocals in my own studio which I have been developing over the last few years,” she said. “I am incredibly proud of how it turned out”.
Award-winning producer Brian Masterson, who has worked with The Chieftains, Van Morrison, Willie Nelson and The Bothy Band, among others, mixed and mastered the album.
For Yvonne, who has worked in the music industry since she was 17, Reverie has been “a lifetime in the making.
“It a joy to be part of a band that works so well together and to have created this collection of music we love is enough”, she said.
Ruth agreed, saying that, for her, what was most special about Reverie, “is the beautiful musical union and friendship built between myself, Yvonne and Juliana”.
The album is available on https://theraines.bandcamp.com from this Friday, March 24, and from selected retailers nationwide.
The Raines will be playing in Monroe’s in Galway City on June 17 for the Galway Folk Festival. On July 29, they will be in Áras Éanna, Inis Oírr, and on September 21, they will be playing at Clifden Arts Festival.
More information and tickets fortheir concerts is available at theraines.ie.