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Noriana’s debut album draws from rich well of Irish and US folk music

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Date Published: {J}

Galway-based singer Noriana Kennedy combines the best of the folk traditions from both sides of the Atlantic on her debut album, Ebb n Flow, which she launches in Galway with a gig at Kelly’s Bar this Thursday.

She established herself as one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary folk music as the lead singer of the five-piece trad band Nábac, which will be familiar to Galway audiences for a memorable performance during the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in the city in 2009.

The Lucan-born musician discovered a formative love for old-time and bluegrass music in 2006, when she travelled to Virginia to record an EP with the Irish-American band Sawyer Hollow. The passion for American folk music that she developed has imposed itself on her debut album.

“I suppose it is a halfway split between the Irish-Scots influence and the American thing,” says Noriana. “It’s not exactly a hybrid because the influences don’t mix within a song but the album is definitely a mixture of the two.”

The cosmopolitan nature of the record is unsurprising given the multinational makeup of her musical accompaniment. Old-time fiddle players Stephanie Coleman and Cleek Schrey hail from Chicago and Virginia respectively, while guitarist Christof Van Der Ven is Dutch and, although banjo player Gerry Paul was born on native turf, he spent many of his formative years in New Zealand.

In fact, Noriana is momentarily stumped as she tried to name a single contributor to the Irish and American folk album who is Irish. “I think Sean Regan was born in England. Bill Whelan [who plays the banjo] is Irish!” she says finally.

“So are Liz [Coleman] and [producer] Trevor Hutchinson, so there are a few but it’s far from a pure trad CD alright. I hadn’t even realised that! But it doesn’t matter where you’re from if you’re good. People who aren’t from Ireland can actually be more serious about styles than people from home.”

Noriana’s own musical upbringing wasn’t steeped in conventional folk music either, although her parents laid the foundations for both Noriana and her brother Paddy, who was also a member of Nábac, from a young age.

“Our parents were always hugely encouraging towards music for myself and my brother. Mom used to give guitar lessons and dad played the banjo, and Dad would bring fiddles or an accordion into the house, and there was always a guitar lying around.

“We used to get lessons but we’d always drop out,” she laughs. “It wasn’t until we were in our teens that we really got into it.”

Noriana developed a fondness for folk by listening to contemporary bands like Kíla and began singing in sessions in Dublin before starting with Nábac.

“I started singing with Nábac with my brother and a few of the lads – a piper and a guitar player – were moving to Galway to do a music course. They didn’t end up doing it in the end but I moved down here with them at the time and we based the band in Galway.”

It was a fortuitous move in 2005 for both Noriana and the bustling folk music scene here, which has benefited from the addition of one of the finest voices in the genre to its existing pool of talent.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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