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Teenage soprano Aimee is hitting the high notes

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It’s onwards and upwards for award-winning teenage soprano, Aimee Banks.

Moycullen’s young operatic starlet represented Ireland in the 2015 Junior Eurovision in Sofia, Bulgaria. Since then, demand has not stopped for Aimee, who has performed internationally on some of the world’s most prestigious stages including the legendary Carnegie Hall in Manhattan, New York.

Aimee was invited to sing at the world-renowned concert hall after winning a first place and Judges’ Distinction Award at the American Protégé International Vocal Competition 2015.

Aimee’s skill and control demonstrated in her execution of operatic arias won her the accolade ‘Performance of the Night’. Her enchantingly delicate, yet powerful and hauntingly beautiful singing voice transfixes and mesmerizes audience members.

The ability to enrapture an audience and evoke emotion is what drew her to the classical genre. “Classical music has the ability to express emotion that you just don’t get with other genres,” she says.

Aimee’s mother, Alyson says that the whole family travelled to New York  to watch Aimee perform at Carnegie Hall. They were joined by friends of Aimee’s late grandmother Nuala – who was an alto choir singer and member of Ancór music ensemble. Nuala had a huge influence on her granddaughters’ musical pursuits.

Upon returning to Ireland, Aimee was asked to perform at a Christmas Function in the Meyrick Hotel. Little did she know how serendipitous and opportune this intimate performance would prove to be!

The social event was arranged by Skål Galway – a local chapter of the international organisation for travel professionals. In attendance, at the event, was Stephanie Abrams, an American broadcaster and author. Her “Travel with Stephanie Abrams” radio show airs weekly in the US to six million radio listeners.

Impressed by the thirteen year old Galway soprano, Abrams described her performance as “magnificently wonderful” even admitting that it had “brought tears to my eyes”.

Abrams advised that Alyson bring Aimee to Boston to perform in front of audiences there. “I thought nothing of it at the time,” says Alyson. However, subsequently Aimee was invited to play with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Abrams featured Aimee on her travel show, recorded in the Glenlo Abbey Hotel, where she described Aimee as a “future amazing singing star”, and applauded the Galway teenager for her undisputed talent and impressive accomplishments.

Aimee sang out the show with an acapella rendition of Puccini’s exquisite aria ‘O Mio Babbino Caro’ made famous by Aimee’s idol, Maria Callas.

Following the success of 2015, Alyson admits they “didn’t think things could get any better”, and prepared themselves for a quieter time of reflection in 2016. However, opportunity came a knocking once more and Aimee, according to her mother “thrives on it”.

Recalling the night of the Eurovision, Alyson says: “The curtains parted slightly and you could see out, there were thousands of people in the crowd – all the way up to the eaves. I was nearly passing out at this stage, and I thought: ‘how is she going to do this’, but Aimee saw this and said, ‘Oh wow, I can’t wait to get on that stage!’”

Where others would be overcome with fear and nerves, Aimee takes it all in her stride. This ability to compartmentalize emotions and behaviour is what makes her a true performer. “You can physically see her ‘switch on’ performance mode, her eyes close for a split second before performance and when they open – it’s Showtime,” says Alyson.

For Aimee, 2016 kicked off with a performance at the Government launch of the 1916 Centenary Commemorations at the National Convention Centre in Dublin. Over 2,000 guests attended the New Years Day event including President Michael D. Higgins, and his wife, Sabina; Dublin Lord Mayor, Críona Ní Dhálaigh; TDs; senators; councillors and a whole host of other community factions.

Aimee performed a solo piece at the event; giving a classical interpretation of ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon. She was accompanied by Cross Border Orchestra, the internationally-acclaimed and award-winning youth orchestra of Ireland.

A month later, and the day before her 14th Birthday, Aimee performed with classical giants The Three Tenors, at Town Hall Theatre in Galway. They are due to share the stage once more at The National Concert Hall, on Thursday, April 14 (tickets still available).

And while her classmates at Coláiste na Coiribe enjoy the downtime that comes with the Easter Holiday break, for Aimee it’s all go. She, together with mum, Alyson, and music instructor Michel Durham, will fly out to Boston on th April 6 with performances scheduled on the 7th in Boston Hall, the Norman Rockwell Museum on the 8th, and the Whitney Arts Centre on the 9th.

While there, Aimee will meet with the Director of Boston Symphony and award-winning soprano, Maureen O’Flynn who has performed with the world’s major opera companies and symphonies, including; the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, The Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper), Teatro La Fenice, and the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden.

CITY TRIBUNE

Cancer patients need better Covid protocols

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Galway City Councillor Alan Cheevers with Taoiseach Micheál Martin on his recent visit to the Dáil to petition for greater bowel cancer screening.

A CITY councillor and current cancer patient at University Hospital Galway (UHG) said this week that a better system should be put in place as regards Covid procedures for those undergoing chemotherapy, radium and other acute day-care treatments.

Cllr. Alan Cheevers told the Galway City Tribune that cancer patients on day treatment programmes at UHG should be completing an antigen test prior to entering the hospital.

“This would eliminate the need for phone surveys prior to their treatments and would be a lot more efficient in indicating as to whether a person was Covid-free or not,” said Cllr. Cheevers.

He stressed that he was suggesting this, not as a criticism, but as a practical way of ensuring that both patients and staff could go about their business in a far safer environment.

“What happens at present is that patients are contacted by phone the day before they are due to go for treatment and asked a series of questions.

“Given that in most cases the omicron variant seems so mild, the patient might have no idea that they could have Covid. “What I would like to see is the HSE providing free antigen tests which the patient could undergo a day or two before going in for treatment and then be able to provide the results of those to the hospital.

“It would just take all the guessing out of whether someone going in for treatment had, or had not, the Covid virus,” said Cllr. Cheevers.

The Fianna Fáil councillor from Roscam – who is currently undergoing a cancer treatment programme at UHG – also called for changes to be made as regards cancer and other vulnerable patients who might need to be admitted to hospital if they were feeling very unwell after treatment.

“If that happens, we are currently being told to seek admission to the hospital via the Accident and Emergency Department but I really don’t think that is satisfactory for such patients,” said Cllr. Cheevers.

He said that such patients – by virtue of their condition and treatment programme – would be that bit more vulnerable to picking up colds, viruses and infections.

“I just think that it should be possible for such patients to be admitted to the hospital – rather than having to go through the Emergency Department – which can get quite crowded at times.

“I believe that a solution could be provided whereby cancer patients would be admitted to the hospital without having to go through what is a high-risk environment,” said Cllr. Cheevers.

He added that where patients were vulnerable – such as those on cancer treatment – it should be possible to admit them to the hospital without having to go through ED.

“I think that it should be possible for example to be able to admit such patients through the cancer wards of the hospital. Again, I feel, that would be a safer way of doing things for both patients and staff,” said Cllr. Cheevers.

He said that he was making those observations not as a politician but as a cancer patient of UHG where he described the treatment and care provided to him and other patients as ‘second to none’.

“The oncology department at the hospital provide the most professional and caring service for their patients – it really is a wonderful service and delivered with great expertise and compassion by all involved, I would have to say. They are exceptional.

“My two concerns about the lack of pre-treatment antigen tests and the necessity to get admission through ED, are meant as constructive suggestions in the context of the current Covid situation,” said Cllr. Cheevers.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Barna homes can be closer to sea

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Barna

Members of Galway County Council have voted to allow development to take place in Barna village just 15 metres from the foreshore – as opposed to 30 metres as recommended by senior officials.

Fears were expressed that any developments that take place within 15 metres of the shoreline could be hit by flooding in the event of a storm or prolonged rainfall.

But a local councillor told a meeting of Galway County Council that he never witnessed flooding in Barna in his lifetime.

The nearest threat, according to Cllr Tomas O Curraoin, came from a prolonged storm in 2014 – but this resulted in just one boat being detached from its mooring.

He made his remarks while councillors were discussing the County Development Plan which proposed that there be a 30-metre setback from the foreshore to allow for the development of a coastal amenity park as well as the proposed Oranmore to Barna cycleway. But the independent councillor was not for moving and he proposed that a new setback of 15 metres for development from the sea be applied for Barna.

“There has never been a recording of flooding on these lands and there is no evidence that properties are at risk.

His proposal was seconded by Cllr Noel Thomas (FF) before the motion went to a vote which was carried with 19 councillors in support of the 15-metre setback, eight opposed with eight abstentions.

The only Connemara councillor to vote against the motion was Cllr Alastair McKinstry (Green) who wanted a 50 metre setback but he did not get a seconder for his proposal.

Senior planner Valerie Loughnane told the meeting that the reason for the 30-metre setback was to prevent the threat of flooding and so that the coastal amenity park could be catered for.

She urged councillors not to accept the 15-metre proposal and warned that when it came to planning applications, a flood risk assessment would be invariably sought by planners who would have to make their decisions based on the findings of this.

“There is no evidence to suggest that it could not be flooded at some point being so close to the sea,” Ms Loughnane added.

But it was pointed out by Cllr Daithi O Cualain (FF) that the coast road is a mere seven metres back from the shoreline and doesn’t flood.

He said that by having a 15-metre restriction seemed acceptable as far as he was concerned and added that he would be supporting the motion.

However, Cllr Jimmy McClearn (FG) said that he had enough experience of flooding and flood plains where he came from in South Galway.

He said that the concept of a 15-metre setback from the sea was not acceptable in his books and would be voting against the motion.

Cllr Thomas argued back that if proper structures were put in place along the coast, then there should be no threat of flooding – similar to Salthill, he added.

 

 

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway city broadcaster is the big winner as national radio station reshuffles the pack

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Pamela Joyce... new role.

Lunchtime won’t be break time for one Galway city-born broadcaster from the start of next month – because Pamela Joyce has been given a primetime slot in the latest shake-up at Today FM.

The former iRadio presenter, who has also worked with RTÉ, is the new host of the lunchtime show from 12 noon to 2pm – and she’s thrilled!

“I am beyond and excited and honoured to have my name above the door at lunchtimes on Today FM,” she said.

“This is a huge step for me personally and professionally and I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the show. You can expect all the best tunes, loads of craic and plenty of divilment. I can’t wait to keep the listeners company through their lunchtime.”

Pamela will make the move from her current evening slot – her latest elevation since joining the station three years ago.

She has been a regular voice on programmes across Today FM and has gained a social following for her Cardi P musical skits on Dermot & Dave.

Pamela Joyce grew up in Rahoon in Galway city, the youngest of four girls. The daughter of a Clifden father and a Ballyhaunis mother, she is a graduate of NUI Galway where she completed a BA in Theatre Studies in 2014.

She describes herself as a keen gamer and admits she lives for reality TV. She supports Man Utd, Connacht Rugby, Galway hurling and Mayo football.

Pamela speaks Irish, is fluent in Spanish – and took some time to learn French as well.

Her move is one of a number of changes that will also see Mayo native Ray Foley as the new voice of afternoons, and Ian Dempsey add an extra hour to his morning show, which means he’s now on air from 6am.

But the shake-up is bad news for another Galway-born presenter – because Today FM has confirmed that Fergal D’Arcy will depart the station. The Ballinasloe man will continue to present his afternoon show in the coming weeks – until the new schedule kicks in.

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