Saturday, July 4, 2015

Tunes in the Church, St. Nicholas Collegiate Church, Galway, Ireland

Tunes in the Church, St. Nicholas Collegiate Church, Galway, was truly one of the highlights of our travels in Ireland.  Galway was such a beautiful and musical city. Church of Ireland,  St. Nicholas Church (, is the largest medieval parish church in Ireland in continuous use.   It was built in 1320. The most famous visitor was Christopher Columbus who prayed there in 1477.  It was visited by Cromwell whose soldiers used the church as a stable for their horses after the siege of Galway in 1652.
The church was a wondrous setting for the ancient music.  We arrived early but by the time the concert began all the seats were taken.
Helen, sang haunting traditional Irish songs and later played the fiddle as well.  Laura and I remember her name because they kept calling her to the stage. The fellow who took the wee bit of money at the door would also lead a tour of the church in the intermission. The highly entertaining mystery man played superbly an assortment of squeezeboxes.  Then there was a great Dublin fiddler and a dancer as well.  I feel terribly sorry that we don’t know their names.  All young they were the flower of Irish music, the Van Morrisons and Bono’s of the Traditional.  No doubt in years hence I’ll hear their names and say something inane like, “Oh I heard Barbara Streisand in Galway. She was singing with Yehudi Menuhin. An Irish Borishnikov was dancing.  This amazing mysterious fellow was playing the greatest concertina music every known to man. He was truly amazing and he didn’t even have a monkey!”
The online site is “” and listed that night’s performers as Caoilfin Ni Ehrigil, Claire Egan & Eoin but not speaking Gaelic.
After much  further searching I found that the fiddler was Danny Diamond of Dublin. He’d taken the bus there. When asked by a member of the audience what the difference between a fiddler and a violinist was, he responded, “A violinist dresses better and his violin costs a whole lot more. A fiddler’s a bit scruffy and his violin is a bit beat up.”  As well as playing traditional music he played some of his own tunes which were truly inspiring.
Helen Diamond, Danny’s sister, is a well known Irish traditional music vocalist and fiddler. The first word that came to mind to describe her voice when I heard her sing was 'haunting'. I'm just not sure this is an appropriate term to use for music sung in church.
Their parents are Dermot and Tara, also Irish musicians.  Danny said how much he enjoyed the chance to play again with his sister because their blossoming individual careers didn’t give them many of these opportunities.  I still don’t know who the squeezebox player was. He was so gifted and Irish he might well have been a Leprechaun. Leprechauns keep their names a secret, don’t they?
Jack Talty is the Concertina Player! I found his name on the Tunes in the Church cd and sure enough when I looked him up on line, that was him.  He's a great performer and has many recordings.  Raelach Records is an Irish Traditional Music Label.  While Jack plays solo, he also plays with Cormac Begley and the The Clare Memory Orchestra.  He's from Lissey Cassey, but has toured extensively.)
In the end, sadly I am left not knowing the name of the dancer, that Irish Fred Astaire of the world of Jigs.
On sale was a cd, Tunes in the Church, recorded at St. Nicholas’Collegiate Church, Galway in 2013. I’ve been  playing it the car stereo to and from work since arriving back in Vancouver. It makes me want to return to Ireland just for the music.  Everyone was tapping their toes and dancing in their chairs at that concert.

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