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Unique opportunity to train with ConTempo Ensemble

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Date Published: {J}

It’s fair to say that in their seven years living in Galway, Romanian musicians Ingrid Nicola, Bogdan Sofei, Andreea Banciu and Adrian Mantu have visited more parts of the county than most local people ever will.

As members of the ConTempo String Quartet, which has been Galway’s Ensemble in Residence since January 2003, their remit is to perform live classical music in places where it wouldn’t normally be performed. ConTempo visits schools all around Galway, as well as performing free concerts in venues countywide.

 

The group is made up of Bogdan Sofei on first violin, his wife Ingrid Nicola on second violin, Andreea Banciu on viola and her husband Adrian Mantu on cello.

In addition to performing, the four also teach music and nurture aspiring professional musicians, explains Ingrid. As part of this, they have been running an Apprentice Ensemble Project since 2006 and are currently seeking applications for the coming year.

Auditions will be held in early March and the selected musicians will receive lessons from ConTempo members from April. The winners will also be given practice space and resources to improve their playing skills, both individually and as part of an ensemble. And they will also be given the opportunity to perform in a professional capacity, both with Con Tempo and separately.

This is a fine opportunity to train with one of the finest string quartets worldwide. ConTempo began in 1995 when four students at the Music University in Bucharest, Romania joined forces. They were subsequently awarded a three-year residency at the Royal Academy of Music in London, teaching and studying during their time there. After three years in London they moved to Madrid, to work with musical master Rainer Schmidt who had played with the Hagen Quartet.

“We were in Madrid when we heard about this international position in Galway for a musical residency and we came here and did an audition,” says Ingrid.

A few years previously they had taken part in a music competition in London, winning a trip to Galway where they played a concert as part of the Music for Galway season. That visit was a happy one, although they had no idea then that they would ever be settling here, under a partnership now funded by bodies such as NUIG, the Arts Council, Galway City Council, GMIT, Galway City and County Council.

Coming here was a good move, says Ingrid. Because Irish people are Mediterranean in temperament, the four feel right at home.

“People are so lovely. They are more Latin in spirit that Saxon.”

And although Ireland doesn’t have a tradition of classical music, the ConTempo project has received a warm response.

Ingrid believes that is due to the rich seam of Irish music that can be found throughout Galway.

“Because there is a large tradition of Irish music, even people who don’t know much about classical music have an ear that is open to it.

“And the response is pretty much the same everywhere. For students to have instruments performed so close to them . . . they are amazed.”

The Ensemble in Residence work is fascinating and rewarding, she says. And they are continually broadening their remit.

Since last Autumn they have been involved in a new programme to help make the Leaving Cert music course more accessible.

“The Leaving Cert in Ireland is such a huge thing – more than in Romania, so at least this will take the pressure off one subject,” says Ingrid. “There are some pieces in the music curriculum that are difficult to understand, so we go in and explain about the lives of composers and their work, and that helps.”

But right now, she wants to highlight the benefits of the Apprentice Ensemble Project.

“The aim of the project is to have a quartet in residence and we would make chamber music accessible to them. They will take part in concerts and have tuition with Con Tempo,” she explains.

Their first Apprentice Ensemble in residence was a string quartet called Carousel which worked with Con Tempo from 2006/7. That was composed of two sets of siblings from Loughrea, so there was a real family vibe to the project that year, laughs Ingrid. The second group, SoundPost consisted of music teachers from the city’s Galway Technical Institute (GTI) and Gort Community School

“Up to now it’s been a very successful project, and for the next stage, we want to have two apprentice quartets,” says Ingrid.

For more, read page 31 of 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

Super Mac steps in again

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Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

STEPHEN GLENNON

The Supermac’s logo will appear on the Galway senior footballers’ jersey for the first time against Derry this weekend after the Irish fast food giant was announced as the new title sponsor of the county’s GAA teams.

For 22 years, Supermac’s has featured on Galway hurling jerseys but with the County Board determined to have ‘one jersey, one crest, one sponsor’ for its flagship teams, Supermac’s have once again answered the county’s call.

Although Supermac’s have signed up on a two-year deal initially, there is an option for the partnership to continue for up to five years . . . which, should it do so, it is believed, could see Pat and Una McDonagh’s company invest in excess of €1 million in Galway GAA.

Speaking to the Sentinel yesterday afternoon, Supermacs Managing Director Pat McDonagh was unwilling to talk numbers but said it was by far and away Supermac’s “biggest ever sponsorship” deal.

In addition to the Supermac’s logo being carried on hurling and football playing gear – from minor to senior – its subsidiary company Papa John’s Pizza will feature on all underage jerseys.

“That is still within the Supermac’s brand but that is the name that will go on the underage teams,” said Pat McDonagh.

“It is initially a two-year deal with an option to go to five years. We are delighted this process has come to a conclusion at this stage after lengthy negotiations. So, we will be launching the new jersey – the new football and hurling jersey – and this will be worn by both teams this year. Hopefully, that will be ready next Sunday.”

There were fears in some quarters that with a main sponsor sought to support both codes, Supermac’s may have lost out on the deal to a multi-national, and that not only rankled with a number of officials loyal to the McDonagh family but with proud GAA Gaels across the county.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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Archive News

Macnas set off to explore the world

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Date Published: 31-Jan-2013

Macnas gets 2013 off to an exciting start with performances in China next month in February and Australia in March.

‘Chaosmos’, a newly devised piece, will premiere at the Chaoyang International Spring Carnival in Beijing from February 10-15 while the Boy Explorer heads to the WOMAdelaide festival in Australia from March 7-11.

Initiated in 2002, the Chaoyang International Spring Carnival is a highly anticipated event taking place over the Chinese New Year Holiday period with an attendance of more than 400,000 visitors. This year Ireland has been awarded ‘Country of Honour’ by the Festival; with the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs Macnas have been invited to showcase Irish Street Theatre and celebrate Chinese New Year in an uniquely Macnas way. ‘Choasmos’ is an exciting, ethereal performance with vivid and stunning costumes, bespoke imagery, stilting beasts, masked performers, musicians, suitcases, lotions, potions, a music box and a bag of curiosities.

The well-travelled Boy Explorer continues his Quest for Brilliant Ideas Down Under with an appearance at Peter Gabriel’s International Music and Arts Festival, WOMADelaide, in South Australia. The Boy will rub shoulders with music legend Jimmy Cliff as well as some of the world’s leading music performers and over 15,000 visitors each day. Although he tested his sea legs on a trip to Scoil Ronáin on Inis Mór in December, this is the Boy Explorer’s first time going overseas and casting his net further afield.

It is an extremely exciting time for the company, with so much new work in the offing and as many requests to present at home and abroad. “This will be one of the most exciting years in the long history of the company,” says Sharon O’Grady, General Manager of Macnas. No doubt the rest of the year will hold many more exciting appearances and tours for one of Ireland’s busiest performance companies.

For the most recent news follow Macnas and The Boy Explorer on Twitter, @Macnasparade or @boyexplorer, and on Facebook or check out macnas.com for more information.

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