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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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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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