From Trinidad and Tobago to Connemara: Ceol na Mara Summer School for Strings

Ceol na Mara Summer School for Strings saw its 12th edition this summer in the beautiful surrounds of Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, County Galway and it continues to go from strength to strength under the guidance of Artistic Director, Oonagh Keogh.

Ceol na Mara Summer School for Strings is a non-residential music course designed with families in mind. All ages are welcome, from children to teenagers and adults who play strings. Taking place in Kylemore Abbey, the location gives everyone time to enjoy the beautiful Connemara countryside. There are also walks to go on, quizzes to play and get-togethers that make the weekend fun!

Adam Bartholomew, a 16 year-old cellist from Trinidad and Tobago has travelled all the way to Connemara from the Caribbean for the past two years to take part in Ceol na Mara. His connection to the course goes back two generations and here is what he had to say about his experiences:

“Over the past two years, I have attended the Ceol na Mara Summer School for Strings, but the story really began in the 60’s when my grandfather, Professor Courtenay Bartholomew from Trinidad was studying medicine in University College Dublin and became great friends with the late Dr Sean O’Grady and his sister Geraldine O’Grady (now Keogh) who is the mother of Oonagh Keogh, founder of the Ceol na Mara Summer School for Strings. He later married Marina Munnelly, a nurse at St Vincent’s Hospital, and my father, Brian, was born in Dublin in 1965.

I was mesmerized by the beauty of Connemara’s topography. With her towering hills, expansive lakes, sandy beaches, flora and fauna, Connemara provided me with serenity which helped me to be calm and focused throughout my music-filled days at the majestic Kylemore Abbey.

The week was inspirational. Each of the profound tutors had something special to offer. In one-on-one technical and interpretation sessions with Annette Cleary and Gerald Peregrine, I gained insight as to how they, as professional cellists, practice and interpret music. Playing traditional Irish music and its unique melodies and rhythms with Odhrán Ó Casaide was a fresh experience for me coming from the Caribbean. I enjoyed playing Duke Ellington’s Take the A Train in the jazz sessions with double bassist Malachy Robinson. In playing with the other strings in various ensembles, both large and small, led by Oonagh Keogh and Anita Vedres, I developed a better understanding of my role as a cellist. I loved playing alongside others my age.

Everyone at Ceol na Mara has truly inspired me to keep doing what I love and I wish to thank everyone for making me feel very much at home in Ireland, the place where my grandfather met my grandmother and my father was born.”

For further information on Ceol na Mara Summer School for Strings, please see