Máirtín O'Connor – The Mighty Ocean

Máirtín O'Connor – The Mighty Ocean

Sunday, 25 April 2021, 9.30pm

The Mighty Oceancommissioned by Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture, produced by Galway Music Residency for TG4 as part of Galway 2020’s Capital of Culture Programme, will have its World Premiere on Sunday 25 April at 9:30pm. Composed by Máirtín O’Connor, the premiere of this musical suite reflecting on climate change and the environment will coincide with the final week of Galway 2020’s programme.

The Mighty Ocean opens a musical dialogue between mankind and the environment, touching on the entrancing power of the sea, while questioning the destructive influence of humankind on our endangered oceans. The piece is scored and arranged for 12 musicians including Irish traditional music legends Máirtín O’Connor, Garry Ó Briain, Cathal Hayden and Seamie O’Dowd and Jimmy Higgins, and Galway Music Residency’s ensemble in residence, ConTempo Quartet.

As well as exploring the themes of climate change, environment and landscape, the half-hour film marks a decades-long musical dialogue between Galway Music Residency, its permanent ensemble in residence ConTempo Quartet, Máirtín O’Connor, Garry Ó Briain and Cathal Hayden. Over more than 15 years, these partners have pushed the boundaries of musical and cultural fusion to present unique listening experiences to the people of Galway and beyond. The Mighty Ocean sees the culmination of this creative friendship in a spectacular celebration of music and the sea.

The programme was filmed by HeavyMan Films in St Nicholas’ Collegiate Church. This iconic medieval building is considered by many to be the heart of Galway City and has its own links to the ocean through its most famous visitor, voyager Christopher Columbus. The Mighty Ocean also features stunning visuals of Galway and of course our great global connector – the sea. 

The Mighty Ocean is commissioned by Galway 2020, European Capital of Culture, Produced by Galway Music Residency, with HeavyMan Films, for TG4 and Galway2020, and Co-Funded by Creative Ireland, Galway County Council and Galway City Council.

Galway Music Residency is proudly supported by NUI Galway (Education Partner), the Arts Council, GMIT, and Galway City and County Councils. For further information, visit www.galwaymusicresidency.ie.

Galway Music Residency
Everyone should have the right to listen to, learn about and love music. This simple belief is the driving force behind everything that Galway Music Residency (GMR) aims to achieve. It exists to serve the people of Galway city and county, providing opportunities for all to experience music in new and unexpected ways, to learn from inspiring musicians and spark joy in their lives. Following a competitive international audition process, the ConTempo Quartet was chosen as GMR’s Ensemble in Residence in 2003. 

This unique long-term residency has allowed GMR to develop long-lasting relationships with individuals, communities, artists and organisations, creating meaningful connections throughout Galway. Over the past 18 years, GMR has developed a remarkable and ever-evolving suite of education and performance programmes to serve diverse audiences and under-served communities in Galway, presenting some of the best music ever composed in new and unexpected ways.

At the core of GMR’s work has been the goal of softening the barrier that traditionally separates the audience, the general public, from classical music and musicians. We present music in interactive ways, in unexpected venues, giving people of all walks of life meaningful experiences of music and encouraging the next generation of music lovers.

Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture
The Galway 2020 European Capitals of Culture programme currently engages with 23 countries in the EU and four pan-European organisations that are active in different countries across Europe. Overall, there are 75 European links within the cultural programme.

The artistic vision for this cultural programme is that it will be authentically of Galway, presented through a European lens and supported by partners and collaborators in Europe and beyond. The concept for Galway 2020 is Making Waves. It is about creating new ways of thinking, new ways of working, new conversations and new partnerships aimed at ensuring a more creative Galway.

Contempo Quartet 
Formed in 1995 in Bucharest, ConTempo Quartet is recognised as one of the most exciting and vibrant chamber ensembles performing today. The quartet was chosen as Galway Music Residency’s Ensemble in Residence in 2003 and continues to captivate audiences throughout the city and county with its repertoire of classical, contemporary, folk and traditional music.

Following a competitive international audition process, ConTempo Quartet was chosen as GMR’s Ensemble in Residence. This young and vibrant quartet, comprised of two married couples, had formed in Bucharest Romania while studying performance, and already had an impressive career of performances, recordings and awards under its belt. Despite an extremely high standard of applications, this quartet had, as well as its unparalleled musical talent, a spark that made the selection panel believe they were going to bring something truly special to the people of Galway.

Ever since ConTempo Quartet took up its residency in 2003, this has remained true to form, and the quartet is committed to continuing this residency for as long as it can make a positive impact on the lives of its adopted community. This unique partnership over such a long period, has enabled the GMR with ConTempo Quartet to develop long-lasting relationships with individuals, communities, artists and organisations, and to create profound connections throughout the city and county. Focused on performance and education programmes, over the past 16 years GMR with ConTempo Quartet has developed countless opportunities for the people of Galway to engage with music in a meaningful way regardless of their age or circumstance

Máirtín O’ Connor 
Máirtín O’Connor’s name has been synonymous with the accordion for decades both as a master of the instrument and as a composer/arranger. His skill, dexterity, innovation and versatility and soft-spoken wit have won him acclaim around the world. 

A Galway musician through and through, he was born in Barna and grew up in Mervue, Galway City . He started playing at the age of nine, having first encountered the accordion through his paternal grandparents, both of whom played the instrument.  A qualification in Electronic Engineering led Máirtín to a full-time job in Digital in Galway, however he followed his heart and chose the path of music, leaving his permanent job in 1970’s Galway.

Performance and Recordings
Since then, his musical career has seen him perform and record with bands such as Midnight Well, De Dannan, Reel Union, The Boys of the Lough, Skylark and the first Riverdance Orchestra in 1995.  He has also played on Bill Whelan’s Seville Suite, on the prestigious Paris Musette record series (Vol. 2 and Vol. 3) chronicling the history of the Musette and has recorded with many national and international performers. 

Over the past 20 years, he has recorded and toured extensively in Ireland and internationally with Cathal Hayden, Séamie O Dowd and Jimmy Higgins.  They have recorded two CD’s, Crossroads and Going Places. He is also part of another great trio, ZoDoMo, with Dónal Lunny and Zoe Conway, combining their diverse influences and unique compositional voices to create an eclectic mix of the old and new.

Solo albums include The Connachtman’s Rambles (1978), a major success in the British folk charts, Perpetual Motion (1990) exploring music outside the Irish tradition and nominated for a Bank of Ireland Arts Award , followed by three albums of his own compositions, Chatterbox (1993), The Road West (2001) and The Rain of Light (2003), arising from his St. Patrick’s Festival commission. These recordings are widely regarded as innovative, groundbreaking and captivating, firmly placing Máirtín as one of Ireland’s more unique compositional voices.

Compositions, Commissions and Awards
He has composed music for theatrical productions, festivals, TV documentaries and film. He was commissioned to compose music for St. Patrick’s Festival in Dublin in 2003, The Rain of Light Fireworks Suite. His playing can also be heard on the soundtrack for the films Dancing at Lughnasa Some Mother’s Son, The Twelfth Night. 

Galway 2020 commissioned Máirtín to develop and expand the Mighty Ocean Suite to become part of their European Capital of Culture programme in 2020.  The original idea for an environmental suite came from Leo Hallissey, Director of Sea and Bog Week festivals in Letterfrack. The suite is a commentary on our relationship with nature and the environment, which Máirtín set out to compose with a simplicity and narrative that would hopefully connect with the younger generations. 

Recipient of many awards for his music including TG4 Traditional Musician of the Year 2015, AIB Traditional Musician of the Year Award 1995, Galway County Council Premier Arts Award in 1996, Fiddlers Green Hall of Fame Award, Rostrevor, Co. Down in 2009 and conferred with an honorary degree at NUI Galway for his contribution to traditional music.

His book ‘Inside the Box, Outside the Box’ includes photos, stories and anecdotes which portrays Máirtín’s personality just as his music has done for forty years.   He now lives on the shores of Lough Corrib in Annaghdown.

Garry O Briain 
Garry O’Briain is one of the most distinguished and sought-after accompanists in Irish traditional music. His distinctive style on mando-cello, guitar and piano is instantly recognizable and reflects his remarkable skill and ease in a wide range of musical genres. 

He travelled extensively in Europe and North America as a musician before returning to settle in County Clare to collect music and start instrument making. He became involved with some well known musicians to form successive groups. ‘Aengus’ with Maurice Lennon and Jackie & Tony Small, ‘Buttons and Bows’ with Jackie Daly and the McGuire brothers and ‘Skylark’ with Len Graham and Gerry O’Connor. He has continued to work with many of Ireland’s foremost musicians and developed studio production skills while working as a session player on an extensive list of recordings. Production credits include Máirtín O’Connor, The Clancy Brothers, Dordán, Danú, Séamus and Manus McGuire, Boys of the Lough.  He has written music for stage, film and television and is also a songwriter. Some of his songs are showcased on his solo album ‘Cat Won’t Fly’. His recording of Carolan’s music received critical acclaim and is considered one of the finest interpretations of this composer.

He has been a key enabler many great collaborations with Galway Music Residency, scoring and arranging for ConTempo Quartet in collaborations with musicians from other musical genres, including Máirtín O’Connor.  He has also worked in recent years as a director and orchestrater with the NUIG Medical Orchestra.

As an instrumentalist with proficiency on guitar, piano and mandocello and as a singer he is always in demand for solo or ensemble performance. 

Matthew Berrill
Multi-instrumentalist Matthew Berrill is a sought-after session musician and is a member of many ensembles in the jazz, improvised and traditional Irish music worlds, including Ensemble Ériu, Cuar and the Irish Memory Orchestra. In 2019, he worked with many acclaimed Irish artists including Mick Flannery, John Blek, Pauline Scanlon and The Whileaways. In 2020, he was a recipient of a Music Bursary from the Arts Council to compose music for his MMM trio, which features Máirtín O’Connor and Mike Nielsen. In Autumn 2020, with the help of a scholarship, he embarked upon a Masters in Jazz Performance and Composition at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in London.

Matthew curates the Galway Music Residency’s 3 Kinds of Music Series and in August 2020, presented ‘JazzTempo’ with Galway Music Residency, a collaborative project between the ConTempo String Quartet and a Jazz Quartet made up of jazz musicians from County Galway. Here, three new compositions of Matthew’s were premiered alongside his arrangements of three jazz standards.


The Mighty Ocean |Máirtín O'Connor| Dé Domhnaigh 25/4 21:30 | TG4

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