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Hallelujah Chorus

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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

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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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