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Notes from Irish Jazz: Ellen Cranitch, Galway Jazz Festival

We're coming up to International Jazz Day this Thurday 30th April, and we're shining a light on some of the people who create the jazz scene around Ireland! To give us an insight into jazz in Galway, we chatted to Ellen Cranitch, musician, broadcaster and Director of Galway Jazz Festival.

Ellen worked for many years as a flute player with the NSO, RTECO, Irish Chamber orchestra and countless chamber ensembles and  has composed award winning scores for theatre, television, film and dance. Her late night radio programme, Vespertine, on RTÉ LyricFM, is a trailblazer for eclectic, new and varied music programming.

Q1. Virus aside, how would you describe the jazz scene in Galway at the moment?

It's small, thats for sure. There are a few regular gigs run by Symon Misniak, Aengus Hackett and Matthew Berrill, but for a city that prides itself on being an arts-centric hub, it's quite surprising to find how little jazz and improvised music is actually happening. We found a massive hunger for it when we ran the festival, but there definitely is room for year-round concerts, gigs etc. There have not been many international visitors outside the festival, and Galway could really do with some input and support from nationally funded agencies.

Q. What is your favourite thing about programming jazz in Galway?

It was so gratifying to build a dedicated, loyal and curious audience in a relatively short space of time. We were so thrilled that we made so many new friends, who took chances on gigs they might not have been interested in previously. We also relished the chance to include lots of local talent, alongside the bigger European names, and we loved bringing the music to tiny venues all over the city that had never hosted gigs before.

Q. In an ideal world, what do you think would be one thing which would make a big difference to the jazz scene? 

Money of course! At least, money spent in the right way! We ran the festival on a teeny budget, but were adamant that the artists were paid well and on time. It'd also be lovely if there was a dedicated listening venue, mid-size with a nice acoustic, that could host a variety of plugged and unplugged gigs.

Q. Could you name some of your favourite artists/tracks with Galway connections?

There's a few dedicated souls who keep the jazz flame lit through the year, and programme interesting stuff. Aengus Hackett, himself a guitarist, curates a regular series focussing on the work of different influential figures , and its always a great night, and packs out the Black Gate Cultural Centre. Matthew Berrill is a gifted saxophone player and educator who has done a huge amount to open young peoples ears to improvised music. Anna Mullarky is doing great things with electronica, and hip-hop/funk band Shy Mascot, led by Eanna Ryder is always interesting. Roisin Mulliez is a young singer exploring the classics, and with a particular interest in the all-female big-bands of the thirties and forties. 


Thanks Ellen! 

Listen to some Galway jazz here:

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