Tunes In The Church Series

Tunes In The Church Series

After being recognised for its enterprising qualities in the NUI Galway Student Enterprise Awards recently, the Tunes in the Church series is back this summer with a focus on music, musicians and audiences. Cormac Ó Beaglaoich talks about its success to date.

Cormac Ó Beaglaoich was recently awarded one of two runner-up prizes of €5,000 in the NUI Galway Student Enterprise Awards for his Tunes in the Church series in the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas, Galway the largest medieval parish church in Ireland in continuous use as a place of worship.

How did the Tunes in the Church series come about?

Coming from Dingle and seeing the success of the summer concert series there organised by piper Eoin Duignan (based on Steve Coulter’s idea), I decided to give it a go in Galway city but to present only traditional Irish music. Eoin’s concerts feature both trad and folk musicians. Flute player Gary Hastings had recently been assigned to the Church of Ireland in Galway. At the end of the summer of 2009 I approached him (he was in Westport at the time and was moving to Galway) and he was happy to have the series in Galway the following summer.

In what ways did you see it as an enterprise?

The purpose is to have a sustainable concert series that benefits traditional Irish musicians. It has huge cultural significance as it one of the few concert series geared towards music lovers and tourists which presents trad in an authentic way – unlike the big touristy shows. What sets it apart from other concert series is that audience members are encouraged to ask performers questions, breaking down the barrier between performer and audience.

Is that happening much? Are audience members actually asking questions?

Yes, there are frequently questions which makes every night fresh. It adds to the experience. The concerts enable people to learn about the more nuanced aspects of the music that are often lost in spoon-fed and highly produced shows. It also challenges traditional musicians in a way that ordinary concert formats don’t. It keeps them on their toes.

What’s the breakdown between tourists & locals, do you know?

I’d say it’s 70:30 tourist/local.  

What were your plans for it and have they changed at all now that you have some extra money to invest?

Nothing has changed really. It was always a long-term project. The only thing that will be different with having money behind me is that I’ll have the freedom to delegate more. I have two interns working with me and with this money I’ll be looking to involve a few more people now hopefully.

Tommy Keane, the Galway uilleann piper, has written of his experience of the series: ‘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.’

In so far as it is confirmed, the line-up for this summer includes the following:

Friday 1 June
Saileog Ní Cheannabháin – fiddle and singer
Gary Hastings – flute

Monday 4 June
Cormac Cannon — uilleann pipes and tin whistle
Breda Keville — fiddle and singer
Gary Hastings — flute

Wednesday 6 June
Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin — flute and singer

Friday 8 June
Tim McHugh — flute and singer

Monday 11 June
Lillis Ó Laoire — singer
Cormac Ó Beaglaoich — concertina and baritone concertina

Wednesday 13 June
Laoise Kelly — harp
Michelle O Brien — fiddle
Cormac Ó Beaglaoich — concertina and baritone concertina

Friday 15 June
Galway Session 2012
Kinlouchard Céilí Band, members of Royal Scotish Piping Academy

Monday 18 and Wednesday 20 June
Eithne Ní Chatháin — singer and fiddle
Maitiu Ó Caisaide — uillean pipes and tin whistle
Cormac  Ó Beaglaoich — concertina and baritone concertina

Friday 22 June
Andrew Mac Namara — accordion

Monday 25 June
Charlie Piggot — accordion
Claire Keville — concertina
Lillis Ó Laoire — singer
Cormac  Ó Beaglaoich — concertina and baritone concertina

Wednesday 27 June
Michelle Mulcahy — harp, concertina, accordion and fiddle
Áine Bird — fiddle
Jack Talty — concertina
Cormac Ó Beaglaoich — concertina and baritone concertina

Performers lined up so far for July and August include:
Clíodhna Ní Bheaglaoich, Mick, Louise and Michelle Mulcahy, Brendan Ó Beaglaoich, Lorraine O Brien, Catherine Flynn, Tommy Keane, Jacqueline McCarthy, Catherine Flynn, Mícheal O Cathain, Catherine Flynn, Sile Denvir, Claire Dolan, Meabh Ní Bheaglaoich, Kathleen Loughnane, and Seosaimhín Ní Bheaglaoich.

Published on 16 May 2012

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