Finale of ambitious series celebrating Europe’s cultural diversity
Following more than three years and eight months and, soon to be, 27 concerts, From Europe with Love is coming to a close. Galway Music Residency’s ambitious monthly lunchtime series exploring string quartet repertoire from all 27 EU member countries will see its final performance on Tuesday April 5 at 1:10pm in St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church.
From Europe with Love has welcomed more than 3,200 audience members to the 20 live, in-person, concerts across the series. A further seven concerts migrated online during the pandemic, which reached more than 6,000 online views. The ambitious series engaged ConTempo Quartet in performing works by 59 European composers, 49 men, and 10 women, with 12 living composers in the mix.
Two world premieres, Forever begin… (Fanfare for a New Year ) by Galway composer Jane O’Leary, and Epiclisi by Cypriot composer Giorgos Papageorgiou, were among the programme highlights.
Researching string quartet repertoire from 27 countries was a mammoth task. This was taken on in large part by Galway composer and Galway Music Residency board member, Jane O’Leary, who spent many months sifting through the musical offerings of each member state. "In choosing programmes for these 27 concerts, we made so many discoveries. For some countries the difficulty was making a selection from a wealth of possibilities [Germany, Italy, Austria, France] while for others it was a challenge to find music, as we knew nothing about the composers from that country.
"In some cases, it was difficult to find published pieces - they simply didn’t exist. In others, while there was a history of choral works, or liturgical music, almost no music was written for string quartet until very recently.
"When we discovered (and enjoyed ) the music of composers like Peteris Vasks [Latvia], Dobrinka Tabakova [Bulgaria], Dora Pejacevic [Croatia], Chiel Meijering [Netherlands] - music previously unknown to us, there was a spark of joy.”
Once the repertoire was chosen, it was ConTempo Quartet’s turn to get to work. Preparing these 27 programmes was a huge undertaking artistically. Many programmes included works the quartet had never performed or heard, including a number of technically challenging contemporary works.
Adrian Mantu of ConTempo Quartet says: “This series has made us into real artists in a way. We have been pioneers in preparing and presenting so many works that were completely new to us, from countries we had never been to in many cases, works that often had not even been performed in their own countries. It was a completely different experience to performing say Haydn or Beethoven when you come to a work with familiarity. During this series, many of the works were blank canvasses that we got to colour in. So, From Europe with Love has been a real highlight of our musical experience.”
From Europe with Love required countless hours of rehearsals and research, not to mentioned sheer passion and dedication to the series concept. The result? A total of 27 unique and beautiful programmes to delight Galway audiences.
Delight they did. The public have embraced the series since its earliest beginnings, trusting Galway Music Residency and ConTempo Quartet to guide them safely on this European journey. This is a testament to Galway listeners who are just as willing to welcome an unknown folk-inspired contemporary work from Slovenia as they are to a celebrated Debussy quartet. This openness has allowed From Europe with Love’s audience to truly discover the shared musical heritage of the European Union.
On the Galway audience, Mantu said: "What amazed me was how they have been so willing to embrace the unknown with us, embarking on a journey of exploration of the European Union. So now they have very high expectations and we’ll have to work hard to figure out what to bring to them next.”
Jane O'Leary added: "It was a great source of pleasure to see that our listeners enjoyed the discoveries they made as we journeyed across Europe. It was like taking a trip to countries we had never visited in person, and especially wonderful to meet people in Galway from each of those countries as they introduced the programmes. From Ambassadors to teachers to writers and artists - our listening experiences were enhanced by their voices and stories.
For three years and eight months, through a pandemic with lockdowns and restrictions, online and in person, we have witnessed an extraordinary wealth of music in the beautiful setting of St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church. We have learned about our European neighbours, and have felt connected through music."
The final performance on Tuesday April 5 will celebrate the music of Finland. ConTempo Quartet will perform Jean Sibelius’ Voces Intimae, the composer’s only major work for string quartet from his mature period. About the work, Jean Sibelius said: “It turned out as something wonderful. The kind of thing that brings a smile to your lips at the hour of death. I will say no more.” What better way to bring this series to a close. The concert will be introduced by Ulla Hokkanen, director of Galway Community Circus.
On the conclusion of From Europe with Love, Galway Music Residency executive director Maeve Bryan said: “It is bitter-sweet to bring this series to a close. It has been a joy and privilege to present the composers and string quartet repertoire of each European Union member country over the past three and a half years. It has been a particular honour to introduce the audiences of Galway to many lesser known gems, and voices not generally showcased in Ireland or much of Europe. To our knowledge, nothing like this has been done anywhere else in world and we are very proud of this achievement. We look forward to creating a legacy for this project in the coming years.”
Entry to the concert is free, all welcome. Booking is recommended through www.eventbrite.ie Patrons are asked to follow Covid-19 regulations inside the venue. Galway Music Residency is supported by NUI Galway (Education Partner ), the Arts Council, and Galway City and County Councils. For further information, visit www.galwaymusicresidency.ie