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Thirty years hitting right note with audiences

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Date Published: {J}

Music is magic when it’s live. It’s as fragile as a sports match when you don’t know what’s going to happen next,” says Jane O’Leary, who has been responsible for bringing some of the best classical performers in the world to Galway in the last 30 years.

American-born Jane and German-born Erika Casey were the driving force behind the group Music for Galway, set up in 1980, which aimed to create new opportunities for people in Galway to enjoy live music performances.

Both came to Galway via the then UCG – Erika’s husband Tim was German professor at the university, while Jane’s husband Pat, whom she had met in America, had also secured a job lecturing there.

Since the 1970s Jane has been a major part of the West’s cultural life. Indeed, her influence extends further afield as she has also served on the Arts Council, the board of the National Concert Hall, Ireland’s Cultural Relations Committee and the country’s Contemporary Music Centre.

Jane also founded the modern music group Concorde and has been awarded for her work throughout the years by being nominated to Aosdána, the body set up by the Arts Council in 1981 to recognise artists whose work has made an outstanding contribution to the arts in Ireland, and to help these people focus on their arts.

And for 30 years, she has been at the artistic helm of Music for Galway which has seen international figures including Yehudi Menuhin, Nigel Kennedy and Emma Kirkby perform in Galway, as well as rising Irish talent such as pianist Finghin Collins, who is returning for the 30th celebrations.

From the beginning UCG had a major role to play in the development of Music for Galway with the university’s Buildings Officer Gerry Lee being on its board.

“The first thing we did was buy the piano,” says Jane, casting her mind back to the group’s early days. She is referring to the Steinway grand piano which has been used by performers since the beginning.

“We said that we couldn’t run concerts unless we had a good piano, a piano that any musician in the world would be happy to play. Gerry Lee asked me what was the best piano available and I said ‘a Steinway’. Erika said ‘from Hamburg’.”

For Jane a Steinway from Hamburg would have been the perfect instrument, but she felt it was way outside the budget of this fledgling society. However, her concerns were groundless.

“Gerry said ‘that’s what we are going to get’, and within six months we had raised the money locally. It cost £15,000 and is worth €80,000 now.”

That was 1981. The Aula Maxima in UCG’s Quadrangle had just been done up and was an ideal location. Because of the strong connection between UCG and the Music for Galway founders, it became the natural home for this grand piano. The instrument was lifted in there by six strong men and that’s where it still sits.

Shortly after that, Music for Galway formed a company and as it enters its fourth decade the group is still going strong, although life is not without its challenges.

“The audiences were bigger in the first year than they are now,” says Jane. “It’s actually harder now [to get audiences], maybe because there’s too much going on and maybe people are too comfortable.”

Galway was a very different place in the mid 1970s, she says, and while the city wasn’t as developed as it is now, it was an ideal environment in which to set up a new group promoting classical music.

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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