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Hallelujah Chorus

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 20-Nov-2009

A BOSTON Scientific worker is on a one-woman mission to get Galway clapping and singing Allelulia to the energetic strains of gospel music.

And to kick-start this conversion, Keara Sheeran is holding four concerts in aid of local charities Christmas week, with no fewer than 130 singers in this specially convened community gospel choir.

"The Gift" is the name of the concert, which is an hour-long gospel interpretation of the nativity written by Graham Kendrick, which was last performed in the city 21 years ago. Keara’s father, Peter Sheeran, was the male adult soloist and Keara, at just eight years old, was the child soloist.

“I’ve never got over it. The experience enriched our relationship and gave us something special. Ever since, when I come to that final note in the concert, it always makes me cry,” Keara enthuses.

Peter Sheeran directed the folk mass at 5.30pm on Sundays in the Jesuit Church on Sea Road for 20 years until 1998. When Keara moved back to Galway, she returned to what she calls her spiritual home in the Jes Church but found it an empty quiet place, with not a folk singer in sight. She started the Jes Gospel Choir a year ago and also a children’s choir in St Joseph’s Church on Presentation Road, which was named the Kings Kids Gospel Choir.

To perform The Gift, more singers were needed. So she spread the word through church newsletters, local notes in the Galway City Tribune, newspaper classifieds and via Facebook and online notice boards.

Answering the call were mums and daughters, fathers and sons, indeed whole families; there were newly married couples, school children and city people from all walks of life. Ranging in ages from six to nearly 80, those who turned up for the first rehearsal on

October 18 were not even subjected to an audition.

“A note in your head is what I asked for – that’s how I pitched it. Ok, if you’re tone deaf I’ll pull you aside and ask you to do a reading, but everyone can get involved. It’s a community choir,” she said.

“The response has been phenomenal. I think with the recession, people were looking to get involved in something that gives a proper meaning to Christmas. It gives people the concept of what their faith was born of.”

Five years ago when the concert was performed in Tuam, where she also set up a youth gospel choir, the reaction was overwhelming.

“The priest got up after the concert, he wasn’t quite sure what it was I was doing but he trusted my unbridled enthusiasm, and he was pleasantly surprised by it. I had lit the church up with candles and disco lights, well more like coloured box lights – the church is dark except for this – and it created such a Christmassy atmosphere and an expectation of the visitation of Santa.”

Keara, who has worked on a production line in Boston Scientific for over four years, has nominated Abalta as one her charities, which is also one of charities the company has earmarked for its annual fundraising campaign. Abalta is involved in educating children with autism, a charity close to her heart, as is the Galway Hospice, where her grandfather was cared for until his death. The third charity is Slí Eile, an Irish Jesuit Outreach organisation involving faith and justice activities for 18-35 year olds.

The latter appeals to her own strong sense of religion. “I love spirituality, if I can bring any joy into spirituality and into people’s relationships with God and the Church, I love doing it. Music brings a whole other dimension into Mass,” she reflects.

If the concerts sell out, up to €20,000 could be raised. Any free time Keara has is also taken up by this passion for music. She plays keyboards and guitar in Renmore Church, sings for weddings and is also part of a five-piece jazz band called Soul Monkeys.

“It’s a lifestyle more than a passion. I wouldn’t be who I am unless I could express myself like this. I’d explode otherwise,” she says.

The concerts take place on December 18 at St Joseph’s Church, Presentation Road; December 20 and 21 at the Jes Church on Sea Road and a gala concert in the Salthill Hotell on December 22, which includes a mulled wine reception and special guest gospel

choirs. Tickets cost €10. Contact Keara on 087 900 7003 or email on sheerank@bsci.com

 

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past

Judy Murphy

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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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Galway girls make a splash on Irish U-15 water polo side

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 18-Feb-2013

The Irish U-15 girls’ water polo team, which was backboned by eight Galway players, made history in Birmingham made history last weekend when they reached the final of the British Regional Water Polo Championships.

All the girls are members of Galway’s Tribes Water Polo Club, formed only two years ago by Deborah Heery and Amanda Mooney. To get eight members from one club onto a National squad of 13 was an achievement in itself for this new club, but to be part of an Irish team – which was captained by Galway’s Róisín Cunningham, Smyth – to reach a final at such a high International level exceeded all expectations.

Competing against Scotland and Wales, Ireland made it out of their group to a semi-final place against the much fancied North West A England team. The semi-final proved to be the game of the tournament with nothing to separate the teams.

After goals from Carmel Heery, Aisling Dempsey, Eleanor O’Byrne, Roisin Cunningham Smyth and a dramatic penalty save by goalie Ailbhe Colleran, the Irish girls ran out 7-6 winners to become the first Irish side to make a final.

In the final on Sunday afternoon, they met tournament favourites, London, who they had previously beaten in the Group stages. With excellent performances from Eva Dill, Ailbhe Keady and Laoise Smyth, Ireland held the experienced English team to a 4-4 scoreline at half-time, but the English team, with their stronger and more experienced panel pulled away to win the tournament in the second half.

The success of the Irish team in reaching their first ever British Regional Finals was enhanced even further when Tribes member, Carmel Heery, was nominated Most Valuable Player of the Irish Team

In addition to their recent International success these girls were also members of the Tribes Water Polo team that won the U-14 & U-16 National Water Polo Cups this year and the Grads invitational U-15 tournament.

The success of this young Galway Water Polo Club nationally and internationally is in no small way due to the exceptional ability of their talented coaches, Padraig Smyth, Amanda Mooney, Jeremy Pagden, Carol O’Neill, Roisin Sweeney, Cathal Treacy.

The Irish team was coached by Aideen Conway (IWPA) and managed by Tribes founder, Deborah Heery.

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Feast of folk at An Taibhdhearc

Bernie Ni Fhlatharta

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Date Published: 21-Feb-2013

Galway group We Banjo 3, comprising Enda and Fergal Scahill with Martin and David Howley, will team up with Dublin band I Draw Slow for a unique concert at An Taibhdhearc, on Thursday next, February 28, 8pm.

Featuring banjos, fiddle, mandolins, guitars, banjolin and vocals We Banjo 3 combine Irish music with old-time American, ragtime and bluegrass influences, revealing the banjo’s rich legacy from its roots in African and minstrel music through to the Irish traditional sound pioneered by Barney McKenna.

Their début album, Roots of the Banjo Tree, was voted best trad album in The Irish Times in December 2012.

The roots band I Draw Slow perform a blend of old time Appalachian and Irish traditional material that has been described as a fully natural evolution of American and Irish traditional styles.

Their top 10-selling second album, Redhills was named RTÉ’s album of the week in 2011 and it frequently features on playlists of stations in Ireland, the UK and the US.

Next Thursday’s concert in An Taibhdhearc is presented by Music Network and An Taibhdhearc and starts at 8pm. Tickets are €15. Booking at 091-562024.

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