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Kaeshammer returns with Big Easy brand of rhythm and blues



Date Published: 10-Aug-2012

 HOT on the heels of two sell-out shows at this year’s Arts Festival, Michael Kaeshammer returns to Róisín Dubh on Tuesday next, August 14.

Kaeshammer plays an irresistible brand of New Orleans-flavoured boogie-woogie and rhythm and blues. Speaking from Vancouver, Canada, Michael is looking forward to coming back to Galway.

“People are really what make a difference, to me at least,” he says. “When you go somewhere and you start meeting people and you start making friends, and you actually start looking forward to coming back – that’s a really good thing when you travel that much.”

Michael and his band play off the crowd at their shows, and the reaction to their Arts Festival gigs took him by surprise. “In Canada, it takes people a little longer to get out of their shell,” he says.

“That’s the one thing I’ve noticed with Irish audiences – they’re right there from the beginning. They were responsive right away. I didn’t know how people would react to my music, but it’s been fantastic.”

Michael grew up in Offenburg, Germany before the Kaeshammer family moved to the Canadian west coast when he was a teenager. But both of those places are a long way from Louisiana – where did he find his love for New Orleans’ music?

“You know, that’s been around forever for me,” he says. “When I was a little kid, I got it through my dad. As far back as I can remember – he plays a little bit of ragtime and blues piano – he would show me things as a kid. That’s all I heard as kid, it just seemed the most natural thing to play.”

Michael Kaeshammer lived in New Orleans two years before the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and still returns to the city on a regular basis. “Everything that I value in life is important to that city,” he says.

“Music not just being a background thing, but an integral part of the mentality. And food is a very important thing. Just the whole lifestyle of living life.”

Though parts of the city may still be reeling from Katrina, does Michael feel that New Orleans retains its inimitable spirit?

“I think so,” he says. “You still find areas like Treme and the Ninth Ward where it’s still a ghost town. That’s because people have moved and they didn’t money for insurance for their house. But when you go in the French Quarter, it feels like nothing happened.”

“People in New Orleans are so proud of their city and their heritage; I don’t think they’ll let that die. And rightly so. I always find it crazy that it’s one of the poorest cities in the US.”

Amongst other influences, Michael’s love for boogie-woogie music can be heard on his latest album Kaeshammer. Does he find it hard to replicate the feeling of a live show in the studio?

“It’s hard to capture, but I honestly don’t try to capture exactly what’s happening live,” he says. “I feel you have to at least be aware that you’re in a different place; you’re in a studio, there’s no audience. You have to take all those things into consideration.”

“But one thing I’m always conscious of is that everyone records live off the floor. I think the whole interplay of the band if you start overdubbing, at least for the music I do, it will take away some of that life. You react to each other when you play.”

Michael Kaeshammer plays Roisin Dubh on Tue Aug 14.

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

Call for poets to enter new competition



Date Published: 24-Jan-2013

Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust is seeking entries for a new poetry competition.

The winner will have her or his poem published and displayed on the Arts Corridor of University Hospital Galway as part of the 2013 Poems for Patience. This is a long-running series which has previously featured work by leading Irish and international poets including Seamus Heaney, Philip Schultz, Michael Longley, Vona Groarke, Jane Hirschfield and Tess Gallagher.

The winner will be invited to read her or his winning poem in April, at the launch of the Poems for Patience during the Cúirt International Festival. Prizes also include accommodation in Galway for one night during Cúirt.

Poems should be less than 30 lines long and must be the entrant’s original work. The entry fee for one poem is €10. For two or more, the entry fee is €7.50 per poem. Payment should be made by cheque or postal order to Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust. The closing date is Friday, March 1.

The judge is Kevin Higgins author of several books of poetry and Writer-in-Residence with Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust.

Entries should be posted to Margaret Flannery, Arts Director, Galway University Hospitals Arts Trust, Galway University Hospitals, University Hospital, Newcastle Road, Galway. Entrants should put their names and contact details on a separate sheet.

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Archive News

The true story of the saint that the church wanted to airbrush



Date Published: 30-Jan-2013

Italian saint, Francis of Assisi will get a new lease of life in Francis, the Holy Jester, a free one-man show being performed at Muscailt Arts Festival on February 5.

The play about the renowned saint, who died in 1226 was written by Italian Nobel prize-winner Dario Fo, and this performance is by Mario Pirovano, a long-time collaborator with Fo, who translated the piece into English.

It embraces papal history, biblical stories, and controversial Italian politics while exploring the life of one of the Catholic Church’s most famous saints. It also shows how the medieval Church was so afraid of Francis and his relationship with ordinary people that it set about sanitising his legacy and elevating him above the reach of his followers.

Mario, who lives near to St Francis’s home of Assisi, speaks eloquently and passionately about the saint and the way that Dario Fo has brought the Francis’s message to modern audiences in a timeless, dramatic way, while casting new light on the famous Italian Franciscan monk.

But first, he explains why this was necessary.

Francis was born at the end of the 12th century and died at the age of 46. By then, he had created great embarrassment for the Church, simply because of the way he lived his life, explains Mario. He treated people in a genuinely Christian way and wanted to tell the Gospels in people’s own language rather than in Latin.

The Church hierarchy – what an awful word, he says – decided to rewrite the story of his life and, 50 years after his death, only one official account of his life was permitted by the authorities. That was written by a fellow Franciscan, St Bonaventure, who had been ordered to destroy many of Francis’s papers and write a sanitised biography. All other books on him were deemed heretical.

The Church was afraid of him, stresses Mario, and so decided to distance him from the ordinary people, by canonising him shortly after he died. Francis was the fastest saint ever produced in the history of the Church, being canonised within three years of passing on, says Mario. That took him away from ordinary people, as they felt they couldn’t aspire to such greatness.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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