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Noelie McDonnell to Come Alive



Date Published: 05-Nov-2009

Turn on any radio station these days and it’s likely that you’ll catch yourself humming along to The Big Release, the first single from Noelie McDonnell’s new album Come Alive. The high-energy, addictively catchy song was chosen by Today FM’s Ian Dempsey as his Single of the Week and has also been featured on a range of programmes on RTÉ and local radio stations. Featuring superb saxophone playing from Hugh Fielding, it’s certainly a song that crosses genres, and Noelie laughs as he says that his father was delighted to hear it on Brendan Balfe’s RTÉ Radio 1 Show on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Noelie and his band performed live on the Ian Dempsey Show on Monday – three tracks from Come Alive were played on the Ian Dempsey Show that day.

Things are going well for the Tuam man who will perform a matinee concert in Galway’s Town Hall Theatre this Sunday at 3.00pm to mark the launch of Come Alive, which was recorded over a seven-month period between Austin, Texas, and Toronto, Canada. It’s Noelie’s third album and sees him continue to develop as a songwriter, with lyrics that are simple and insightful, frequently containing a lovely turn of phrase.

His music is classified as folk/rock, or alt rock and that’s probably the most accurate way of describing him, but it’s too narrow. Noelie’s influences range from Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen to John Prine, encompassing Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, Guy Clarke and Steve Earle along the way, but his voice is most definitely his own, and very definitely Irish.“

All those people sang songs that were simple and story based and local. The story element would be important to me,” he explains.This is Noelie’s fourth year as a fulltime singer/songwriter. Before taking the great leap he worked as a secondary teacher in St Pat’s secondary school in his native Tuam, where his subjects were English and History. But he says that while he liked the work and got on great with the students, he just knew teaching wouldn’t be his life-long profession.In fact, he knew from very early on that singing and songwriting was where his heart lay. He began playing guitar at the age of 12 and “picked it up pretty quickly”.

“If you could play three or four chords you could also play a full song,” he explains. And growing up in Tuam, being a musician was not unusual. “It was a perfectly acceptable career,” recalls Noelie. “Before I was around there were the showbands – a lot of them came from Tuam – and then there was a band called Blaze X who had a single in the Irish charts and opened for U2. And when I was a bit older, there was Too Much for the White Man and they were also in the charts.”

Then, in the late 1980s and early 1990s the Saw Doctors stormed the music scene with anthems such as N17 and I Useta Lover, and the Stunning were also riding high in the charts. They were another influence as their drummer, Jimmy Higgins, has family links with Tuam.“

As a young lad, you’d see these guys on the street that you’d seen on TV the night before and they’d all say hello and encourage you.”

Their encouragement fell on welcome ears – Noelie was in a band at the age of 13 and in 1991 his group took part in the legendary West’s Awake gig in Tuam which featured the Saw Docs, the Stunning and members of the Waterboys as well as a host of local talent.Noelie was writing songs at this stage too, but, while he was happy to play music, he was far more reticent about this aspect of his creativity. “I wasn’t confident about showing them to others,” he says, adding that he overcame this shyness when he lived in Galway.“

There were songwriters’ nights [in local pubs] and I used to go along them and I started playing.” That was nerve wracking initially, but the feedback was positive.

“When you play for other people you don’t know whether it’s good or not, but people liked them,” he says of the songs. “Then I was asked to open [gigs] for people such as John Martyn and John Spillane,” he says, praising the gig organisers and music pub owners who supported him in those early days.

“It brought me to a bigger audience and I was playing with people who I really respect.”

His debut self-titled album released in 2005 got an excellent response and its opening song, Stars was also picked as Ian Dempsey’s Song of the Week on Today FM.In 2008, Noelie won new fans with the wonderful single, Nearly Four, written about his nephew, which remained at No.1 in the iTunes folk chart for six weeks. The album that song was taken from, Beyond Hard Places saw Noelie being hailed by The New York Post as a startlingly good new Irish talent’. It spent two months in the iTunes Top 10 folk album charts.

The world isn’t exactly short of singer/songwriters and, so it can be difficult to get a break, says Noelie, who says that “a lot of it must be down to luck”.

Ian Dempsey has been a fan since the beginning and that has been a huge help.

“He and his production team seem to like what I do and I’m lucky in that because he has a popular radio show.”

But, while luck is important, it’s not the only factor. “If you are dedicated to something, there are ways of making it work for you.” And when it comes to dedication, he has earned his stripes.

His music and his personality have led to him getting support from a variety of sources from the Saw Doctors to American folk legend Greg Brown. It was when he supported Brown during the Iowan’s show at Campbell’s Tavern in July 2008 that Noelie unwittingly laid the groundwork for this new album, Come Alive.

Brown subsequently invited Noelie to open up on some US dates which lead to the Tuam man playing at the International folk conference in Memphis, performing with the elite of Americana including Anais Mitchell, Devon Sproule and Jess Klein among others. After that, he went to Austin, Texas, to start work on Come Alive at the Aerie Studio with producer and engineer Mark Addison. Noelie finished the recording with musician/producer Don Kerr (Ron Sexsmith, Rheostatics) in Canada at the end of this summer.

America has been an important outlet for Noelie’s talent and he goes there twice a year, performing for a few weeks each time. He’ll be returning in February and August, and doing some shows in England in December but in the meantime he has a series of gigs lined up at home to promote the album.

“I want to get as much publicity for that as I can and pick up more fans. If you get people along to the gigs, they tend to come back.”

Noelie McDonnell plays the Town Hall Theatre at 3pm on Sunday and tickets are available from the venue, online at or by phone at 091-569777.

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

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

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



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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