Vampires, concerts, and classes from Galway Music Residency

by Charlie McBride

This Sunday August 27, Galway Music Residency formally launches its September-December programme and it is a season that packs in talks, workshops, free lunchtime concerts in St Nicholas’s, and a Halloween screening of classic vampire film Nosferatu with a live score from ConTempo, among other attractions.

Overseeing the programme is GMR’s acting general manager Maeve Bryan. From Knocknacarra, Bryan was a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland for six seasons and graduated from NUI Galway with a degree in English and philosophy and a master's in ethics, culture, and global change.

Having left music during her college studies she now finds herself once again working in it. "That is something I have thought about a lot," she tells me. "Music was such a big part of my life growing up. My mother was a music teacher and we grew up with music in the house the whole time. At some point I decided I did not want to be a professional musician but it never occurred to me that I might be involved in the music world in any other way. So being young and inexperienced I decided to look into other areas I was interested in and I really enjoyed my studies. They led me into working in publishing for a couple of years but all that time I felt the pull back into the arts and music. I started volunteering with the Galway Jazz Festival and through doing that I realised I wanted to have a career in arts management, and through persistence and volunteering and hard work I made that happen for myself."

A music teacher herself, education is a passion of Bryan’s which is reflected in several exciting elements of the GMR programme. "Our apprentice programme, now in its 12th year, offers young ensembles with musicians who are in third level education in music or the early stages of their professional careers the chance to be mentored by members of ConTempo Quartet and given performance opportunities," Bryan reveals. "The programme lasts a year and has been really successful, it gives young musicians a foot up and a platform to showcase their talent which is something that can be difficult for young musicians to find, especially in classical music because there is a lot of competition.

"One thing I am really excited about it is the new youth orchestra Sym-phonic Waves which we launched in January as a Galway 2020 project," Bryan continues. "They have just had a summer residency with a youth orchestra in Germany which has been established for 25 years whereas ours is very new so it was a meeting of two cultures and methods and infrastructures for youth orchestras. We are also renewing our relationship with GMIT, who we worked a lot with in the past. We have some collaborative projects coming up toward the end of this year and beginning of next year. They will be staff and student-based projects working with ConTempo Quartet."

Another significant promising partnership is that between GMR and NUIG where a formal music degree course will come onstream next year. "We have a really strong partnership with NUIG and part of our launch on Sunday is also the launch of a new five year partnership which will see NUIG become our official education partner," Bryan explains. "That is a big deal for us because that support is so important in establishing ourselves as an educational resource. We are mainly known for providing concerts but we have a strong base in education so it is nice to have a solid partner in that now. There is a new BA in music being launched in September 2018 in NUIG and that’s one of the motivating factors in us partnering up with them. There has never been any third level music qualification for people in Galway; previously students always had to travel so this is a huge development. It means we can keep our talented young musicians in Galway, educate them here, and hopefully employ them here. This partnership is the first step in working towards ConTempo being part of that BA in music. It is something we in the Residency have always hoped for."

While ConTempo are widely known for their concerts –and they will be giving free lunchtime performances at St Nicholas’s on the first Tuesday of every month from September onwards, the GMR programme also shows how much time the group invest in mentoring music students. "Last year they were presented with honorary doctorates from NUIG in recognition of their contribution to music education as well as performing in Galway," Bryan points out. "Our education work is not always highly visible so not everyone knows about it. There are so many schools and groups who might like to work with us but are afraid to reach out because there is a perception of classical music being very formal and we are really not a formal organization, we are very open to new collaborations and are more than happy to help as many different groups as we can in terms of workshops or projects. We offer something different and at the core of what we are trying to do is to make people realise that classical music is for everyone regardless of your age or education or circumstances, it is not just an elite thing."

The screening of FW Murnau’s 1922 classic Nosferat bears out Bryan’s words about the programme’s openness and non-elitism. The screening takes place at NUIG on Thursday October 26 at 7.30pm (Tickets €10/€5 ) with a score composed by modern French quartet Prima Vista and played live by ConTempo.

Full details of GMR’s new season will shortly be available on http://www.thegalwaymusicresidency.ie/.

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