This concert series beganin the summer of 2010 in St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, Galway with the purpose of setting the standard for the presentation of traditional Irish music in Ireland. In 2011 the series expanded to two more venues: St. Mary’s Church, Killarney; and the Holy Trinity Church, Westport. Concerts are held over the summer months which feature both established and less well-known musicians. Each concert features a combination of traditional Irish musicians, singers, storytellers and dancers in an authentic and genuine fashion. By challenging the concept that the home of Irish music should be in a pub setting, this concert series provides an unparalleled environment and respectful platform in which traditional musicians can showcase their talents.
One of the aspects of this concert series that sets it apart from other formal traditional concerts is the element of interactive involvement by the audience; the audience and the performers are encouraged to engage with one another during the concert. For example, audience members are encouraged to participate in the experience by asking questions they may have for the performers, such as the background of their instruments, where they learned their music, and who or what influences their music. By allowing for open communication during the concerts, the barrier between the concept of ‘audience’ and ‘performer’ is challenged, therefore making each concert unique, fresh, and singularly authentic.
The interaction between the audience and the performers results in the audience learning some of the defining qualties of traditional Irish music. This includes hearing stories associated with certain tunes and tune names, as well as learning about how the living tradition is passed down from generation to generation. This natural approach gives an accurate reflection of the meaning of traditional Irish music and the process involved in the present living tradition and its connection to the past. Furthermore, it elicits the humour inherent in Irish culture and, for want of a better word, the ‘Irishness’ which is often lost in over produced shows.
The Holy Trinity Churchwas designed by Thomas Newenham Dean in 1872.
The population of Westport had decreased considerably during the famine years (1845 – 1849). In the early 1850s, the population of Westport town was about 7,500. Life was difficult for people after those years and people were very poor. It was not until the 1860s that Westport town was beginning to recover from the effects. Farming and fishing was beginning to pick up in the surrounding areas. The Quay played a vital role in the economic development of the town. It provided a convenient location for the import of vital requirements for survival of the people in the surrounding regions. Imports landed include timber from North America and the Baltic, Indian corn from the Black Sea and the United States and other items include sugar, coffee, tea and iron from Glasgow and Liverpool. This provided work for the shopkeepers and craftsmen in Westport, so they could make a good livelihood once more. Roads and footpaths were improved and were being maintained by the Town Commissioners and gas lighting was introduced.
By 1855, the Church of Ireland community in Westport had grown too large to be accommodated in the old church. As the old building was falling into disrepair, plans to repair or build a new church were being considered. In April 1869, plans were approved to build a new Church on the Newport Road in the town. It would replace the old Parish Church that had been built in 1797, in The Demesne of Westport House. The site chosen on the Newport Road was a wooded area and trees had to be cleared for the building of Holy Trinity Church. This site had been donated to the parish, for the purpose, by the Most Noble George John, Third Marquess of Sligo, on 23rd of December 1868. The Holy Trinity Church was consecrated on 26th of September 1872, by the Right Rev Dr. Charles Broderick Brendan, Bishop of Tuam. Thomas Newenham Dean designed the Holy Trinity Church in Westport. Amongst his other great works in Mayo, is Turlough House Castlebar, where now the National Museum of Country Life is situated. The Holy Trinity Church is of Gothic style, consisting of a semicircular apse at the east end, the organs been in the north side and the tower and spire on the south side. The porches are on the west side. The spire reaches a height of 185 feet; the spire is surmounted by an Irish cross in gilt metal, 6 feet long. The Church is built of Irish stone, believed to be located in the locality, punched, the dressings been in Scotch stone. Since its opening in 1868, much work has been done on the interior of the Church to improve its decoration.
More recent times In 1972, to mark the centenary of the Church, members from the Holy Trinity and St Mary’s Church combined, for The Thanksgiving Service. Schools and church choirs joined together for the celebrations. It was a great communal event which celebrated not just 100 years worship in the church, but also a new ecumenical possibility in Westport. In 1984, major restoration work was carried out on the church. A restoration committee of parishioners from the Holy Trinity and St Mary’s Church raised funds to complete the work. With the help from local subscriptions and a national appeal, the work was completed by 1986. In 2004, St Mary’s Church was closed for major renovation works. The Select Vestry in Holy Trinity was able to offer St Mary’s parishioners hospitality during the renovation. Weekday and some weekend Masses were celebrated in Holy Trinity. It was the most natural thing in the world. It is recorded that thirteen rectors have served in the church since it was opened. Most recent was Archdeacon Gary Hastings, which served from 1995 until 2009. He is replaced by Rev Val Rogers.
Click here to visit the church’s website
To whom it may concern,I was delighted to be invited by Cormac Ó Beaglaoich to play in St. Nicholas’ Church, Galway on 21st July 2010 as part of a series of Traditional Irish Music Concerts organised by him. It was a joy of a gig to play from a musician’s point of view. The setting in a wing of the medieval church was very atmospheric. The gig was acoustic and very well attended on the night I played. The audience was a mix of local musicians, music followers and tourists. The connection with the crowd was quite tangible and warm. I performed on uilleann pipes along with a concertina player and a sean nós singer. During my set I decided to explain the mechanics of the pipes and this was followed by a number of audience members asking questions about them – not the kind of interaction that happens in your usual gig.
I also attended several of the other gigs in the series last summer as an audience member and had the chance to enjoy the experience from the other side of the fence. Perfect attention is paid to the performers and it is right that people get the chance to hear the finest of traditional musicians and singers in such a setting. People from continental Europe in particular would be quite used to hearing music performed in old churches and it gives the music a status and respect it deserves. The music presented is “the real thing” and not dressed up for tourists in any way – like a lot of what is available in hotels and pubs around Galway and indeed the rest of the country.
I would have no hesitation in recommending the St. Nicholas’ series of Traditional Irish Music Concerts to anybody living in or visiting Galway. They deserve to be supported in any way possible.
12th January 2011
An Trian Láir