Music for Galway, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this autumn, begins its new season with a gala concert next Thursday September 30th, 8pm, at the Town Hall, Galway.
The concert will present music by Stravinsky, Ravel, Mozart, Fauré, Jane O’Leary, Strauss, Chopin and Mendelssohn, bringing together artists who have made a special mark on Galway audiences over the past four decades. These include Noriko Ogawa (piano ) Lenneke Ruiten (soprano ), Finghin Collins (piano ), the Con tempo Quartet: Bogdan Sofei (violin ) Ingrid Nicola (violin ), Andreea Banciu (viola ) and Adrian Mantu (cello ).
The Vanbrugh Quartet: Keith Pascoe (violin ), Liz Charleston (violin ), Simon Aspell (viola ), and Christopher Marwood (cello ).
Concorde: Paul Roe (clarinet ), Madeleine Staunton (alto flute ), Bogdan Sofie (violin ).
The concert will be presented by Liz Nolan.
Tickets in attendance (€30/€27 ) Students €10, Friends €26,
Tickets streaming €20, Booking : musicforgalway.ie A WORLD WIDE AUDIENCE
One of the great successes of Galway 2020 was Music for Galway’s spectacular achievement presenting concerts, Master Classes, solo performances, talks and film to a world wide audience.
In its week long Cellissimo festival last March, where the versatile cello, an instrument loved for its amazing versatility from squeaky high, to down into the depths, and cause a concert hall to vibrate with its lowest notes, was a sensation that gave this extraordinary group of music mad people the confidence that there are no limits to what can be achieved.
In seven tightly-packed days MfG live-streamed ten concerts, gave eight live Masterclasses, many of them against a background of famous Galway landmarks, such as Claregalway castle, St Nicholas Collegiate church, and Kylemore Abbey which promoted the city and county to a largely travel -restricted audience.
With its locked-down audience in mind, and in a series of entirely original ideas, MfG offered a package of sensory experiences of taste and touch, while in a brilliant concept by Philip Fogarty a classical cello, based on an original Stradivarius instrument played by Sir George Core-Booth, has been made from choice Galway timber by Kuros Torkzadeh. Its inauguration was live-streamed from Mick Lally Theatre, by the distinguished Headford cellist, singer and composer Naomi Berrill, as she explored themes on different aspects of migration.
The power of Zoom is now so acceptable that there was a response from 23 countries including virtually every country in Europe and throughout the United States.
WHY A CELLO FESTIVAL?
The idea for a festival centred on the cello came about as far back as 2013 when MfG was preparing its 2014/15 concert season. Finghin Collins, Music for Galway’s new artistic director, said he would like to have a season focussing on the cello: such a gorgeous instrument, he mused, closest to the human voice, so sensual in form, so versatile: fabulous on its own, great in trios, quartets, quintets, so beautiful as part of an orchestra and fantastic as soloist instrument: “We’ll have such fun!”
Not for the first time Finghin enthused the group to such an extent that it immediately contacted the organisers of the Cello Biënnale Amsterdam. They were invited for lunch, which lasted three hours, and by the end Johan Dorrestein and Maarten Mostert had become Galway’s collaborators and friends.
Finghin and Anna took off to Roundstone for a few days in October. Anna recalls that “Suzanne Black had joined our team to provide support in the office. It left us free to clear the decks and to concentrate on what we had given ourselves as our brief: this was to be a Galway-inspired event, covering as much of the region as possible and bringing a major international element to it.”
“ It was to be accessible and attract the seasoned classical music lover as well as the simply curious, to mobilise local audiences and draw audiences from all over Europe, if not the world. Landscape, Language, Migration: those were the themes and we would let them inspire us”.
“Armed with flip chart, paper, sharpies, markers and post-its, we headed west; Finghin with his vast knowledge of repertoire and the world’s best cellists; while poor Anna had, in the past, diplomatically dealt with collapsing pianos and false in-concert fire alarms; had enough experience between them to pull it off.”
An intensive three days were spent putting a nine-day festival together. It seemed outrageously ambitious. It included everything from the glitzy superstar cellist to intimate solo performances, from orchestral performances – world premieres of cello concertos co-commissioned with the Cello Biennale Amsterdam – to a children’s strand. Nor was traditional music overlooked. The cello was introduced to Irish trad for an enjoyable session on Inishbofin.
For the next three years MfG worked on turning the flip charts into reality. And then there was the commissioning of the GALWAY CELLO: an idea by Philip Fogarty inspired by the theme of Landscape, turned into an exquisite instrument by luthier Kuros Torkzadeh using timbers that had grown in east Galway. (See item on this page )
Cellissimo - Music for the senses
Cellissimo was much more than a series of concerts. It boldly went totally outside the Richter scale of music probability as it reached into our senses that are not normally associated with music. It was wild idea to promote scenes and scents of Galway to a world-wide audience, and probably had a touch of genius.
In a time where audiences have been bereft of the real and the sensual impact of live music in a real space, Music for Galway aims to bring a little of it back into music-lovers’ lives. The re-imagined CELLISSIMO features top international names from the classical world: Mischa Maisky, Jakob Koranyi, Tatjana Vassiljeva and Natalie Haas. As few were able to travel to the region given current world restrictions, Music for Galway joined forces with local producers to offer tastings, craft classes and talks connected to specific concerts in the programme, which brought a taste and touch of the real west during a series of online and hybrid live events.
To fully participate in these events, food kits were sent to listeners’ homes, such as local cheeses to be enjoyed before the Irish Chamber Orchestra led by French cellist Marc Coppey, was zoomed live from Kylemore Abbey; Connemara Ale was sampled at O’Connor’s famous bar in Salthill, while a tour of Portumna Castle was provided before before Naomi Berrill’s solo performance, presented a concert of Mozart’s and Schubert’s music. Even more extraordinary, was a knitting class given by Anne Ó Máille, before a concert of Irish traditional music led by Natalie Has. Even the scent of Burren wild flowers accompanied the legendary Mischa Maisky and his daughter Lily Maisky from Claregalway Castle. The audiences loved it all.
An extraordinary forty years
What began as an embarrassing incident during a concert in the Jesuit Hall when an old Steinway piano which had been well used for years, suddenly gave up the ghost prompted a coterie of determined people including , Erica Casey, Jane O’Leary, Joyce Kileen, Jimmy Higgins, Deirdre Comerford, and Joe O’Halloran, and always with the generous support of NUIG, money was raised for a new Steinway, and Galway audiences sat back to enjoy many of Europe’s leading performers beating a path to the elegant university hall. Despite financial crises, difficulty with sponsorship, even a pandemic, season after season MfG presented a packed programme often including world renowned performers happy to come to Galway.
Some of the highlights of the past 40 years: include hosting the legendary Yehudi Menhuin conducting the Irish Chamber Orchestra in 1988; the enfant terrible Nigel Kennedy not only played in Leisureland but also went for a session in Tig Neachtain’s in 1990; and James Galway also performed with the ICO a number of times in Leisureland and in the Radisson Hotel in 2005.
In more recent years pianists Noriko Ogawa and Lucy Parham, who brought with them such luminaries of the stage and TV as Dearbhla Crotty, Captain Darling of Blackadder, Tim McInnerny in 2016 and King Edward of The Crown Alex Jennings; and only last year they had the thrill of hearing the wonderful Russian violinist Alina Ibragimova and cello legend Mischa Maisky.
Some extraordinary collaborations: a memorable evening with Cúirt who brought Alan Rusbridger, ex-editor of The Guardian, and having him speak about the challenge of learning Chopin’s Ballade No. 1, with Finghin Collins talking about his life as a performer and playing that famous piece.
During a night of Let’s Dance Season, MfG partnered with the Galway Dance Project and the Galway Tango Club to offer a tango workshop, demonstration and concert in a packed-out Hardiman Hotel. There was an unforgetable presentation of The Carnival of the Animals with Baboró to hordes of delighted children.
The successes were many including Bringing back the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra after three years of absence, as part of the CELLISSIMO season (2014/15 ), featuring German star cellist Daniel Müller-Schott to a full to the brim Leisureland; packing out the Town Hall Theatre for three concerts in as many days, and concerts dedicated to the early music of Beethoven. Nearly 1200 people came to hear his chamber music… in January 2020.
. A memorial moment was looking at a heaving dance floor at the former Hotel Meyrick as the Far Flung Trio performed Piazolla’s best tangos and MfG audiences lost themselves to the music. Sitting in an ‘empty’ St. Nicholas’ Collegiate church in the depths of the pandemic and witnessing the premiere of Rhona Clarke’s powerful ‘O Vis Aeternitatis’ performed by Resurgam and streamed live into people’s homes all around the world
The Galway Cello - a resounding tribute to craftsmen
A uniquely Galwegian instrument saw its concert debut at the opening of Music for Galway’s CELLISSIMO festival, in a special performance, by Headford musician Naomi Berrill who played a piece specially composed for the Galway Cello by Bill Whelan.
The story starts with musician Philip Fogarty. No stranger to hybrid musical journeys himself, he hit upon the notion, when discussing CELLISSIMO, of an instrument made of materials from Galway, as a response to the themes of landscape and migration in Galway 2020’s call for submissions a couple of years back; this cello would be a nexus merging Italian tradition, technology and continental culture with the rich tapestry that is Galway, as expressed in the materials from the Galway landscape itself.
Music for Galway approached luthier Kuros Torkzadeh about making it a reality, and the rest, as they say, is history: quite literally so, as it turned out that this luthier had in his possession a plaster cast of the Gore-Booth Cello, an original B-form Stradivari cello, which had belonged to Sir George Gore-Booth of Lissadell, Co. Sligo. The precise form of this instrument, made in 1710 in Cremona, Italy, became the footprint for the Galway Cello, and so the instrument was infused with Stradivari DNA.
The original Baron Rothschild Gore-Booth survives to the present day, currently in private hands and last known to have been the instrument of cellist Rocco Filippini. As to whether it can be construed that the two instruments are now somehow communing in realtime is a question probably best unattempted here. But communed at one point they certainly have, thanks to the dedication of Kuros Torkzadeh to his craft.
A singular challenge was the sourcing of woods in Galway suitable for the making of a cello; which were indeed found, with necessary exceptions such as the ebony for the fingerboard; yews, sycamores and spruces from west of the Shannon all feature.
A particularly distinctive element of the cello is its scroll, carved in a multi-dimensional reworking of the Claddagh Ring motif in a way that both embraces and reimagines the iconic symbol and its Galway-ness. The fact that such an idea looks that obvious in hindsight, but is at once so inevitable and yet so bold and original, is a resounding tribute to the talent of the craftsman.
The Galway Cello had its concert debut last March as part of the reimagined CELLISSIMO programme, when Naomi Berrill premiered Fragments, a piece specially commissioned for the instrument’s inaugural outing from Bill Whelan.