Ireland 2019: The Concert at St Nicholas’ Church in Galway

Most people who profess belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ call themselves Christians. And most Western European Christians call themselves either Catholics or Protestants.
But not so for the members of the Church of Ireland. They call themselves Catholics AND Protestants. On our second night in Galway we found ourselves walking to a Church of Ireland church after dinner. This church has been around for an eternity and for a long time it was a Catholic Church, then for a short while Protestant, then back and forth between Catholic and Church of Ireland. To make this even more complicated, members of three different Orthodox communities (most Christians in eastern Europe call themselves Orthodox Christians) come to this church to worship. Now this may sound very interesting to some but others are probably asking why on earth are we looking forward to seeing the inside of this church?

Here’s why:

The poster that caught our eye.

Click on any photo to see a larger version of that photo.

We were casually strolling down Galway’s Main Street earlier that day (see here) when we came across this poster announcing the fact that there will be a concert tonight. It sounded like a great idea and so we planned to return after dinner.

Sign on the church’s iron fence.

There has been a church on this site since the 1200s. This particular church was built around 1320.  It is the largest medieval church still in operation in Ireland.  It was a Catholic church for more than 300 years and then Oliver Cromwell conquered Galway in 1652 and turned the church into a stable for his horses. For nearly 40 years the church was either Catholic or Protestant depending on the religion of England’s monarch. In 1691 all Catholics of Galway were officially banished from the city and St Nicholas Church has belonged to the Church of Ireland ever since. Today the church shares its building with three different Orthodox Christian communities.

From March to December 2005 St Augustine Church on Middle Street was renovated and St Nicholas welcomed the Catholic congregation to worship at their church and both congregations participated in a big candle-lit parade from St Augustine to St Nicholas. In December the renovation was completed and there was a big candle-lit parade from St Nicholas back to St Augustine.

TripAdvisor ranks the church as #15 of 114 Things to Do in Galway and Tunes in the Church as # 3 of 21 Concerts and Shows in Galway.

The southeast side of St Nicholas.

The southeast side of the church sits at the junction of Churchyard, High and Shop Streets. We had to walk around to the front entrance.

We listened to the fiddle of Aisling Morgan during the first half of the concert. Sean-Nos dancer Aneta Dortova joined Aisling in some of her numbers.

Most of the stained glass windows date back to the 15th century.

We had a guided tour of the church during the intermission.

About half of the windows were stained glass.

Our tour guide. I believe he is the church custodian.

Another stained glass window.

I was surprised to discover that the main portion of the church’s interior was pretty small. From the outside the church looks much larger.

The baptismal font and sundry other things.

Most of the images displayed along the walls reflect the art of the three Orthodox communities who share the church with their Church of Ireland hosts.

That’s my granddaughter Mia on the left. All four grandkids are musically oriented and perform in their school bands and they all enjoyed the concert. Mia is a percussionist, following in the footsteps of her mother and older brother. Her favorite instruments are the tympani and any instrument that requires mallets.

Cormac Begley plays an assortment of concertinas —  bass, baritone, treble and piccolo.

The second half of the concert featured Cormac Begley and his concertinas. Aneta danced to a few of his songs, too.

Sorry about the unsharp picture — a few heads got in the way! Yes, I need to stop relying on autofocus.

Our host / moderator says a few final words before announcing the finale in which all three musicians — Aisling, Cormac and Aneta — perform.

Our Irish Dancer granddaughter got a chance to meet the Sean-Nos dancer after the concert.

Aneta and Sophie.

See here for more information on the Tunes in the Church concerts.

The next day we went on an all-day bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare. That will be the subject of my next post.

Irish Music Bonus – – Cormac Begley and Aneta Dortova

Cormac Begley (he often goes by his Irish surname O Beaglaoich) comes from the famous West Kerry traditional Irish Music family that includes his accordion-playing father Brendan and his fiddle-playing sister Cliodhna.  While studying for his PhD in Psychology at National University Ireland Galway he founded Tunes in the Church in 2008. Cormac showed off his concertina collection at our concert and gave us an interesting history of the concertina and its various shapes and sounds.  In this video recorded in Cuas on the Dingle Peninsula Cormac plays a couple of reels accompanied by Libby McCrohan on the bouzouki.

Aneta Dortova has often been seen busking on Galway’s Main Street over the last few years. She also teaches dance at Claddagh Arts Centre and has performed in Scotland, Spain and the Czech Republic. She also has participated in some music talent shows in Dublin. Here she is demonstrating the sean-nos (old-style) form of dancing in front of some of the popular restaurants on Galway’s Quay Street.

Cormac Begley founded AIRT, an arts and crafts and music school on the Dingle Peninsula. For more information on Cormac, see here and here.

For more information on Aneta Dortova see her Facebook page here or her Instagram page here or just go to YouTube and look for videos that feature a Galway busker with red hair.

I could not find any videos of Aisling Morgan but she has a website here.

About crowcanyonjournal

I am a family man with interests in family history, photography, history and travel.
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2 Responses to Ireland 2019: The Concert at St Nicholas’ Church in Galway

  1. Peter Klopp says:

    This church is a fine example in our modern time for tolerance and mutual understanding among people of different denominations coming together under their common faith in Jesus Christ.

  2. wonderful!! and my great grandda was from Galway!!

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