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Why canÕt we sing in church like we do on the terraces?



Date Published: {J}

On occasion, we have shown in some of the biggest sports venues in the world, that we Irish can be outnumbered hugely – but we can sing The Fields of Athenry to the point where superior numbers are simply drowned out.

So, why is it that so many are often still so shy about singing in church?

I saw it last week at the Solemn Novena. Yes, the singing has improved but, even though the Redemptorists had brought in their own leaders for the hymns, to my mind, many were still too deferential – though we’d sing at the drop of a hat in a pub, or at a wedding.

Now maybe I’m only voicing my own prejudices, or even deference when it comes to joining-in, but I got the impression betimes last week that some only gave occasional real voice – perhaps when the choice of hymn happened to hit one that they particularly liked and remembered. Hail Queen of Heaven seemed guaranteed to raise the volume a few decibels.

You have to wonder if maybe this reluctance by some to sing out in church goes back into history – to a time when the Catholic Church was, essentially, underground during Penal times. Or maybe we were raised in a Church which was, in many instances, joyless and Jansenist in its reserve, with its concentration on ‘sins of the flesh’. and concomitant hellfire and damnation.

Compare the singing, for instance, to my perception of full-blooded involvement anytime I was among a Protestant community.

Occasions of sheer joy seem to have been few and far between in the Catholic Church, though I still remember vividly my childhood Easter Saturday lighting-up of every bulb and candle in the church, the church organ booming out for the first time after the weeks of Lent, and the gold vestments. The celebrant on those nights was no Pavarotti, but he always chosen as a decent singer who could cry out “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” in tune.

Also, am I right in thinking that much of the newer Church music and chant seems to lack any kind of sense of where precisely it is going as regards melody. One of those great ‘Amens’ of 40 years ago might go on for 10 seconds and be complicated, but you could get eventually the hang of it.

Of course, I speak as an old choirboy. You’ll remember I told you some time ago of two of us as youngsters setting up quite a lucrative little business in singing Requiem Masses and collecting maybe 10 shillings each at the end as a tip. Unaccompanied, we could make our way through the entire Mass and, indeed, parts of it are still alive in my mind today . . . “Dies irae, dies illa, solvet saeclum in favilla . . .”.

All that said, the Solemn Novena has come a long way from the days of the Missions which the Redemptorists, and others, preached in years gone by. There is a joy, a sense of unity and a sense of involvement nowadays which is a long way from the ‘laying down the law’ and ‘flaying the backs of the penitents’ which were the centrepiece of the old Missions.

For more, read page 17 of this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



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



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



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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