Music and Reviews from Clare, Limerick, Waterford and sometimes further afield

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Fidleir's Airs: Easter Snow

On any given Easter Sunday, I would normally gravitate to a church whether at home or abroad.  I feel privileged to have experienced wonderful sacred music on travels to Europe. In recent years, Misteria Paschalia, a festival of Baroque Sacred Music in Krakow in the city's sacred spaces was a highlight. In Munich, while opera was the draw, it was the wonderful liturgical music in the Bavarian capital's churches that  lives longest in my memory. This time last year, I found myself at the Basilica Notre Dame du Roncier in the picturesque Breton town, Josselin on the Nantes-Brest Canal. A little burst of the bells heard there As a musician, it was wonderful to be part of the liturgical music at home be it in the parish church at Dunboyne, Ennis Cathedral and more recently at Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in the wonderful Georgian Cathedral in Waterford. This year, I couldn't quite reconcile myself to broadcasts from empty churches and contented myself with a gawk at the Archbishop of Canterbury's kitchen during his skype address on BBC TV.

For  my home recording on Easter Sunday morning 2020, I looked for a suitable air  and turned to no 105 in Traditional Slow Airs of Ireland .Easter Snow seemed on the face of it to be appropriate. The air, I learned was a favourite of piper  Seamus Ennis, and he named his caravan home in the Naul after this air. I listened to a recording that  his daughter Catherine made playing organ with  piper Liam Og O Flynn. I couldn't find a vocal version that closely matched the tune in my volume of Irish Airs in Tomás O Canainn's collection.  I particularly liked Hull based multi instrumentalist Wolfy O Hare's  brisk version on tin whistle and at the other end of the tempo scale, Fiachra o Corragáin has a beautiful languid  version on harp all available to watch on youtube. More information on the air from the Clare Library website here.
The title however  has nothing to do with Easter but is an anglicisation of an Irish placename in Co. Roscommon. The original name Diseart Nuadhan (St. Nuadha's Hermitage) evolved through Issertnowne to Estersnowe and now quite frequently Easter Snow. Christy Moore wrote a song titled Easter Snow as a tribute to Seamus Ennis.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Fidleir's Airs: Caoineadh na dTrí Muire

With some time in hand, I have it in mind to embark on a musical project that has been percolating for a while. I have always enjoyed playing the slow airs associated with the Irish bardic tradition. I plan to take a closer look at this treasure trove with a view to expanding my own repertoire and delving a little into the provenance of the tunes and so on. My main source is Tomás Ó Cannain's Traditional Slow Airs of Ireland which has over a hundred airs . The first video specifically for this project was recorded on Good Friday and looking for a suitable air to chime with  the day, I chose No 10, Caoineadh na dTrí Muire. I think it was Séamus Ennis who said the key to playing slow airs was to know at least a couple of lines of the sean nós version. I tried to match the phrasing of Iarla O Lionaird's version. The song was particularly associated with Joe Heaney and I include an extract from the Joe Heaney's archive website. A different air appears under the title in the Veritas Hymnal but the tune turns up later in the volume in another Easter hymn, An tAiséirí. In a verse in the Veritas version, Mary calls on two women who share her name,   to assist in the keening "Gabh i leith a dhá Mhuire go gcaoine sibh mo ghrá liom"  

The video setting was a Marian Grotto in Tramore in my neighbourhood. I hadn't visited this garden before the corona virus made me look more closely at what was on my doorstep. The garden is a lovely tranquil space tended by Mr Tony Hanlon.

"As Angela Partridge points out, the title by which this lament is known in Joe’s native Carna is Caoineadh na Páise (The Passion Lament). However, he accepted the title Caoineadh na dTrí Muire, which was given to the song following his first public performance of it in Dublin (Partridge, op. cit., 31). Caoineadh na dTrí Muire was a title associated with the song/poem in County Mayo. Versions from Donegal, Clare, Cavan, Kerry and Cork have also been recorded.
The song is best understood as a conversation between a number of participants including Peter, Jesus, the Blessed Virgin, and the Roman soldiers. This device advances the story with the greatest possible economy, allowing us to focus on the emotional intensity of each moment, from the viciousness of the soldiers to the disbelief and distress of Mary and finally to the quiet stoicism of Jesus, offering comfort to his distraught mother.
This is surely the most famous of the songs that Joe brought to public notice, and one of his own favourites. Along with Amhrán na Páise and Oíche Nollag, this lament reveals his deep reverence both for the spirituality of the subject-matter and for the tradition that his grandmother and others like her held up for her grandchildren and her community every year. As Máirtín Ó Cadhain wrote following Joe’s first public performance of this song in Dublin, In Caoineadh na dtrí Muire he brings home to us the joys and sorrows of Mary with the intimacy and poignancy of a Fra Angelico painting (quoted in Angela Partridge, Caoineadh na dTrí Muire: Téama na Páise i bhFilíocht Bhéil na Gaeilge, Dublin 1983, 4)."

Detail of vVctorian stained glass church window in Fringford depicting St. Mary with two other women under the cross on the first Good Friday

A Pheadair, a Aspail,
An bhfaca tú mo ghrá geal?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Chonaic mé ar ball é,
Gá chéasadh ag an ngarda.
Óchón agus óchón-ó!

Cé hé an fear breá sin
Ar Chrann na Páise?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
An é n-aithníonn tú do Mhac,
A Mháthrín?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!

An é sin an Maicín
A hoileadh in ucht Mháire?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
An é sin an Maicín
A rugadh insan stábla?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!

An é sin an Maicín
A d'iompair mé trí ráithe?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
A Mhicín mhúirneach,
Tá do bhéal 's do shróinín gearrtha,
Óchón agus óchón-ó!

Cuireadh tairní maola
trína chosa 's trína lámha,
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Cuireadh an tsleá
Trína bhrollach álainn.
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Óchón agus óchón

Monday, February 24, 2020

Midterm Ramblings

Stormy weather and inertia put plans for an excursion on hold. So I stayed at home for the midterm break. However there was plenty of diversion in Waterford and I enjoyed that sense of being on holiday at home. Here is a roundup of the highlights.

Piano Virtuoso at the Large Room. Belfast native, Michael McHale was in Waterford on Thursday and it was heartening to see a a good turn out of 80+ patrons in the Large Room for a terrific performance. McHale addressed the audience adding some asides to the programme notes. The Chopin pieces, we learned were all dedicated to Charlotte Rothschild. It was a busy day for McHale with two recitals in different counties. Fortunately he had a driver and he acknowledged the support of his parents in fulfilling his engagements. It added to the general cheer to have Carmel and Noel McHale among the audience. I have on occasion, turned pages for Michael but there was no need for a page turner on Thursday as the entire programme was performed from memory. As we have come expect from a player at home in the best international venues, the playing was wonderfully
colourful and expressive. The jazz flourish of McHales's own interpretation of Danny Boy was a thrilling close to
the evening.

Check out McHales' tips for practicing pianist taken at the Steinway C piano in Waterford City Hall

Programme: Beethoven Moonlight Sonata;  Chopin Waltz, Mazurka, Ballade;
                     Beethoven Apassionata Sonata; John Field Nocturne; Irish Airs arr McHale My Lagan Love, Cailin O Cois tSuire Me ; Rigoletto paraphrase Liszt  Encore Danny Boy

The Mall was a hive of activity on Thursday. Across the road in the Waterford Crystal Centre, I caught the final stage of a spoken word event.  Ex-RTE presenters, Ciana Campbell and Michael Murphy  were reading from Murphy's book of poetry, The Ministry of Dreams as part of Project Music's programme of events. There was good stuff too in the Reg where a young man with a guitar was singing soulful ballads for midweek patrons.

10 Dark Secrets of 1798 Paddy Cullivan

While the Blues conceded to Bohemians, Paddy Cullivan formerly of the Late late Show House band was in action at Central Arts. His show wasn't quite what I was expecting. Opening and closing with a song performed to a backing track, Cullivan delivered an detailed illustrated lecture. The device of covering a lot of material in ten chunks worked quite well. There was no doubting the lengthy research or Cullivan's passion for the subject but I found it too long  for quite depressing content and yes, I think  I would have liked another song or two. With this format, I wondered might Cullivan fare better on the regular history talk series say in the Medieval Museum rather than at a less attentive Friday night gig audience.

Guitar Night
Duo Cry Monster Cry

Navan native Pat Coldrick brought an easy listening set list to the Theatre Royal. Down the road in  Central Arts, two brothers Jamie and Richie Martin AKA  Cry Monster Cry dropped off on a nationwide tour to present a sombre set tinged with nostalgia. There was a smack of the Everly Brothers in the effortless close harmonies and the jangle of mandolin and banjo gave it a folkie edge. It was all very mellow. A cover of Springsteen's Dancing in the Dark was one of the few uptempo numbers. Check them out here

Radio Highlight of the week. 

Monday, February 10, 2020

Hansel and Gretel at The Abbey

Weather warnings for Storm Chiara were up as  Walsh and Irish rugby fans sheltered in the pubs around Abbey Street, I made my way to the Abbey for the opening of INO's latest production, a collaboration with Theatre Lovett in Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel at The Abbey Theatre 
A film-noirish set, a hardworking ensemble and a lively translation were the strengths of Irish National Opera’s new production of Hansel and Gretel. Directors, Muireann Ahearn and Louis Lovett move the Grimm Brothers’ dark tale from a traditional woodland setting to a surreal hotel occupied with residents dressed in Jamie Vartan’s post-Edwardian period costumes. Musicians make an entrance taking up their positions in the ‘foyer’ salon ensemble in tightly choreographed movement. A spotlight falls on a French Horn player (Liam Duffy) as he appears on a balcony delivering the most exposed of solos in the overture. The roles of Sandman and Dew Fairy are combined in the guise of an cabaret singer a la Dietrich sung by Emma Nash. Raymond Keane’s silent antics as Night Watchman added to the spooky, dreamlike mood.

The singing is good across the ensemble although the dry acoustic in the auditorium seemed to rob voices of some of their warmth. Amy Ní Fhearraigh and Raphaela Mangan play the children who are banished to the Haunted Woods Bar. Miriam Murphy and Ben McAteer’s bring a comic horror physicality to their portrayal as the feckless parents. Carolyn Dobbin has the most fun as the Witch revelling in David Pountneys’ colourful libretto. Richard Pierson directed the six other musicians from the piano in his own reduction of the score. The acoustic here favoured the wind and brass timbres with strings sounding  a bit thin without the oomph of a cello or double bass. The eerie pre-recorded voices of RTE Cór na nÓg worked very well in representing the disembodied voices of the Lost Children.

There was an enthusiastic reception from the first night audience that included a substantial proportion of youngsters.  This is a novel production, on the dark side but unlikely to give anyone nightmares. There are 5 more performances at the Abbey this week followed by a nine-venue nationwide tour. It is puzzling that given the target is a family audience that there are no matinée performances scheduled. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

History Matters in Dunhill

By John Hartery

It was  noted before in this blog that history talks bring crowds and it was proven again  at Dunhill Multi-Education Centre, no mean achievement on a dark and wintry January evening. Dunhill is an example of a community that's vibrant with a large range of local education and entrepreneurial activities amongst other initiatives. 

The lectures  come under the banner of The Julian Walton Winter Lecture Series and is now in its 14th Year. Walton is of course the doyen of historians in the region with an impressive track record of broadcasting and writing on historical topics many with a local flavour.

The Dunhill schedule  of talks run on a weekly basis on Thursday nights with a fiver admission charge and a cuppa and chat afterwards. Topics tend to have a local bias but placed  the context of wider history.

Tony Benn's memorial to Emily Davison
Last week's talk by Niamh Crowley had a full house for 'Women, The Vote and Waterford'. it was quite a wide-ranging talk tracing  the Suffragette movement in the UK and USA to local Waterford women who helped smash the glass ceiling. Archive footage and pictures illustrated the path taken to secure votes for all women (and some men) finally  in the late 1920s. Ireland in fact in the vanguard in granting the franchise to everybody. 

The Epsom Derby event and Emily Davison was noted and an interesting clip of what happened  

Davison was also famous for hiding out in the House of Commons to feature there in the census. An occasion finally acknowledged there by a plaque placed by Tony Benn an act  subsequently chronicled by Reg Meuross

Many women used the census of 1911 to voice their views on no votes for women. Crowley illustrated the census returns of a trio of Waterford women active in pursuit of the vote; Lily Poole, Dr Mary Strangman and Rosamund Jacobson.

There's plenty of talks coming up  in the Dunhill lecture series and something for all tastes

Dunhill History Lectures with Julian Walton - Series XIV - 2020

The series will run for ten weeks, every Thursday from 9 January to 12 March. Lectures are held at Dunhill Multi-Education Centre (opposite the GAA grounds).
Starting at 8 p.m., each lecture lasts about an hour and is followed by a question & answer session and light refreshments.
9 Jan Julian Walton: “Eaten by a hog”: The early history of Kilmeadan
16 Jan Liam Suipéal: Coastal Place names from Dungarvan to Youghal - an illustrated talk on our coastal heritage.
23 Jan Niamh Crowley: Women, the vote, and Waterford
30 Jan Julian Walton: The Hore family of Dungarvan
6 Feb William Fraher: Visualising the past: Waterford County Museum’s photographic archive
13 Feb Julian Walton: Charles Newport Bolton (1816-1884) – artist, genealogist, and historian of Waterford Harbour
20 Feb Christina Knight O’Connor and Eddie Cantwell: Investigations at Gallows Hill, Dungarvan - a community archaeology project
27 Feb Dave Pollock: Finding medieval Stradbally
5 March Eugene Broderick: Thomas Meagher (1789?-1874): the forgotten father of Thomas Francis Meagher
12 March Julian Walton: A surprise!

Friday, January 24, 2020

London Calling 2020

Every now and then, I pine for the buzz that a big city can offer and can't resist the impulse to jump on a plane for London so conveniently close to us on the east coast of Ireland. The appeal was explored in this BBC radio programme by Mark Tully quoting a diverse range of authors in a celebration of the big city from William Blake to Suzanne Vega and from New Orleans jazz to William Wordsworth. London seemed the same as ever. Brexit wiped off the headlines by the announcement of Harry and Meghan's departure. I spent four nights in central London visiting old haunts and finding some new ones. A little roundup of my experiences here.

Play at Kilburn:  The Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn High Road has had a name change. The complex housing a cinema, bar and restaurant as well as a theatre with a town hall feel was lively on Thursday night. It is now  known as The Kiln. I saw Mike Bartlett's play Snowflake here. Although it was well reviewed, I found this three-hander based on the rift between a father and daughter with a Brexit theme a bit yawn inducing. Guardian review by Michale Billington here The Black Lion across the road is an impressive pub for a post show pint.

Pete Atkin at Pheasantry wity songs of the late Clive James

The Songs of Clive James and Peter Atkin: A bittersweet evening as Clive Jame's song writing partner accompanied by pianist Simon Wallace played  some of the songs the duo had produced in five decades of collaboration at the clubby ambience of the basement lounge of, The Pheasantry- a Pizza Express venue on King's Rd Chelsea. The staff managed to deftly serve pizza and drinks without interrupting the flow. A radio programme on the duo here.

Troy Exhibition at The British Museum; With a magnificent atrium, The British Museum is for my money the most impressive public building in London. A special exhibition of all things to do with Troy. Lots of ceramics, marbles and paintings. Best of all were the books, early print editions of translations of Homer's Iliad and hand written volumes with notes in the margins, many from a collection at Buckingham Palace.

Shopping: Enjoyed browsing in the Victorian building housing a Waterstone's branch on Gower Street. Lots of literary events listed

Ballet: The Red Shoe's based on a Hans Christian Anderson tale was playing at Sadler's Wells in Islington. A gorgeous production to a Bernard Hermann score. Ballet Rambert were showing off what they could do at an open rehearsal of a forthcoming production (Aisha and Abhaya) at the Royal Opera House. The house is open during to the day to have a wander around. The viewing balcony allows views over the area and a peak into the costume workrooms. I enjoyed a pie and a pint in the Red Lion in Islington near Sadler's Wells amid punters in  to watch Saturday football.

Pub Theatre
Canal Cafe Theatre has a long running revue programme in the style of Beyond the Fringe over a pub in Little Venice. It was hilarious. with topical sketches riffing on the latest news.

Cast here 

Edward Bartram, Gabrielle de Saumarez, Luke Francis and Emily-Rose Clarkson.
Directed by Sam Sheldon.
Musical Direction by Richard Baker.

Curtains: Musical
I saw Curtains by Kander and Ebb on the last night at Wyndham's Theatre in the West End before it went on tour. It was very charming and witty. There were strong performances not least from Jason Manford as the stage struck detective. Mark Lawson's review here Definitely worth seeing if not a must-see.

Westminster Cathedral: Music for the 10.30 liturgy included a motet from Handel's Messiah- And the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed; settings by Renaissance composer Christopher Tye and an organ voluntary by Buxtehude. All was not happy it seems in the Cathedral Music Dept and the newsletter carried news of the sudden departure of music master Martin Baker, it appears in a clash over changes to the timetable. More here in a Guardian article

The magazine carried a feature on the late Colin Mawby who was of course well known from his work with RTE choirs in Dublin. Artcicle from Oremus here

Busker Trafalgar Sq
The newsletter also carried a list of raffle prizes still to be claimed included; champagne, chocolates, M&S vouchers, 'Festive Pandoro Cake' and a 'donkey'! I suppose might be hard to house a donkey in your average London dwelling.


Pooch, Pie and Pint in Islington

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Red Iron: New Jim Nolan Play at Garter Lane

Michael Quinlan and Brian Doherty

Anticipation was high in theatre circles at the prospect of a new play by the Waterford's  favourite playwright. Garter Lane was humming for the opening night. The Blackwater Gin was flowing, the mellifluous sound of the Barrack Street Concert Band installed in the Gallery threw a cheerful aural glow over the pre-show buzz as stage folk gathered to say hello and see a new play brought from page to stage. Best dressed among the gathering was the Mayor wearing his chain and office and Munster Express theatre critic, Liam Murphy in splendid red shirt and matching shoes. Memories were triggered of the glory days of Red Kettle when the Waterford company was at the forefront of the national theatre scene. Although the company ceased operations, Nolan has acquired the title and 'The Red Iron' was presented under the Red Kettle banner.

After a tragic funeral, a group of friends reunite after decades on the eponymous Red Iron, a bridge that now can only be approached from the 'enemy territory' of Co Kilkenny. The bridge is  a haunt of their younger days. It happens to be the day of the homecoming of a defeated Waterford hurling team and we hear a recording of the reception voices of a stoic manager Derek McGrath and entertainer Richie Hayes so effectively drawing us back to the emotional occasion on the Quay. I remember; I was there!

Image result for mount sion centre

The dialogue is peppered with references to sport and particularly  hurling. Hurling jerseys and bunting adorn the beams of Dermot Quinn's impressive set. Nolan adroitly draws the characters from the streets around Upper Yellow Rd with sharp detail of local streets,  GAA  teams and pubs. The redemptive power of music is  a familiar theme in Jim Nolan's plays and there is much reference to the characters' involvement in the Barrack Street Band who feature in the sound track. Nolan has a sharp ear for local humour and the comedy dialogue rang as  true as if overheard in Jordan's Bar. The characters  pick at scabs to reveal some painful memories that produces some powerful and poignant drama if a little convoluted at times as one  reveal rapidly follows another.

The cast, with one exception, are professional thespians drawn from  Waterford and its diaspora  who delivered very  credible characters.

The opening night audience loved it and the a standing ovation swiftly followed the final lights down.

Booking is heavy for the first week and  the play runs until November 30th.

Cathy's  review of Jim Nolan's Brighton play here
Cathy's review of Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye here 
The Red Iron Bridge from

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Opera in Concert: Tosca in Cork ; The Veiled Prophet in Wexford

Tosca at Cork Opera House
Opera in concert has a lot to recommend it. Production costs tumble without the expense of sets, costumes  and with less rehearsal time.   If the music is gloriously played and sung, there is still plenty to thrill. Both of the nations designated opera houses presented successful concert performances last week.

Cork Opera House completed their 2019 Opera Concert series with a production of Puccini's Tosca.  Without the benefit of theatrical spectacle, the opera depends on the strength of the central performers. Producer Aisling Fitzgerald assembled an impressive cast led by Cork's own Majella Cullagh. All three leads projected convincing characters pushing beyond the confines of the format. Making her role debut, Cullagh was a fabulous Tosca, every inch the on-stage diva.  American tenor Michael Wade-Lee was splendid as Cavaradossi. (I last saw this tenor in a strange production of Carmen when many patrons might well have opted instead for a concert version.)* English baritone, Julian Tovey projected a rather suave Scarpia, 'a smiling demon' rather than a pantomime villain. Seated on stage behind the cast, the orchestra conducted by John O' Brien gave wonderful support. The darker timbres of viola and cello were to the fore there was super work from wind principals.

The choristers  of St Fin Barre's Cathedral clad in red cassocks and ruffs made a striking visual impact as well as  an authentic church choir sound and the act I Te Deum was a highlight.
The capacity house loved it and there was long ans sustained applause and quite a few on their feet. The loudest cheers were for Majella Cullagh. The party continued afterwards in the bar where spirits were high as artists and patrons mingled to discuss the evening's performance. Hurrah too for two intervals. It was good to have a breather after each act.

The Veiled Prophet at Wexford Opera House

Wexford Festival with Una Hunt's Heritage Music Productions presented a concert performance of an opera by CV Stanford on the main stage of Wexford Opera House. Here is an extract from the programme.

"The Veiled Prophet by Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford is based on Irish poet and songwriter Thomas Moore's most famous poetic romance Lalla Rookh. The opera is set in the Merou and the Prophet's Palace in Persia and the title is taken from the name of the heroine of the story, the daughter of the 17th-century Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.

Very few professional performances have been given of Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford’s operas in the last century. Stanford was a prolific opera composer, much more interested in the lyric stage than most of his contemporaries in Britain (his career was largely divided between Cambridge and London). But recognising the hopelessness of pursuing an operatic career at home, he turned to Germany – he had studied with Reinecke in Leipzig in the 1870s – and it was in Hanover that the first of his ten operas, The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan, was premiered in 1881. Given there as Der verschleierte Prophet, it had been translated again as Il profeta velato by the time it reached Covent Garden."

The standout aspect of the production was the chorus (prepared by Errol Girdlestone in his final Wexford engagement)  who filled the stage in Act 1 and 3 The Wexford chorus augmented by a Dublin Conservatoire Chorus did Stanford's choral writing justice. In Act 2 soloists were to the fore and there was much to admire in the performances and the score. I didn't however get a sense of the intrigue of the plot and all the characters seemed indistinguishable to me. I met members of a Stanford Society, a fan club based in the UK who were there in force and clearly delighted with the afternoon's entertainment. I enjoyed it and look forward to listening to the broadcast on RTE Lyric FM on November 9th. The broadcast will be available to listen back.

* (

Finghin Collins at City Hall Waterford.

Finghin Collins and Marian Ingoldsby 


Mozart Sonata in A major K. 331 “Alla Turca”

Marian Ingoldsby Ros Tapestry Suite XIV: Exchange: the Irish and Normans mingle at the fair

Philip Martin: Ros Tapestry Suite XI: Gothic Glory: The Building of the Parish Church of St Mary’s in 1210

Schubert Sonata in A major D. 959

22 years after his Waterford debut, Finghin Collins returned to play at the Georgian Large Room. It is part of the lore of the local history that he stood in to play for an indisposed Vladimir Ashkenazy here as a teenager. Collins took to the platform with broad smiles and seemed surprised and delighted by the warmth of the reception. The playing was superb and delivered with theatrical aplomb. Sustained applause wrung two Brahms' intermezzos as encores. Linda O' Shea Farren from the Contemporary Music Centre was in the house to interview composer Marian Ingoldsby about her piece based on the Ros Tapestry. The event was much enhanced by having a unique visual dimension. The two relevant panels framed the stage with the house Steinway C sandwiched between them. Many patrons lingered to chat and greet the virtuoso. It was a marvelous night

There are few, I believe, in the  business who have worked harder than Finghin Collins to shape and promote the classical scene in Ireland as well as developing a successful international career. What he has achieved both in New Ross and Galway in well planned and executed festivals is so impressive and has added enormously to the musical life of those towns well beyond the pale. It was good to see committee members of the New Ross Piano Fetsival in the audience to support their artistic director.

LAST 3 DATES: Finghin Collins plays in Glór, Ennis tonight, in Curtis Auditorium Cork tomorrow (Ros pieces by Linda Buckley and Sam Perkin) and in Galway on Friday. Next dates in Switzerland.
Panel 14 Ros Tapestry

Friday, May 24, 2019

Myth and Magic at the Gaiety

Oval Victorian Splendour

Daylight gave a bright lustre to the red velvet and mahogany fittings of the  plush interiors of The Gaiety Theatre and it was pleasant to dawdle in the comfortable bars of Dublin's Victorian pleasure palace on a midweek afternoon in anticipation of the first matinée performance of Mozart's Magic Flute from Irish National Opera. A different sort of vibe prevailed than is usual at an evening event, The audience a little less voluble with the younger and older generations more fully represented than usual in  the house which looked about 75% full.

Wren boy Ring 
Morrigans meet the boys
There was a  enticing storybook quality to Caroline Staunton's staging with an abundance of vivid colours and textures. The characters looked as though they are plucked from the handsome  illustrations of either Celtic myths or a Dickens novel.Sets and lighting by Ciaran Bagnall created a magical setting that was very beguiling. A confluence of  elegance flowed from the stage design to the historic venue itself.  The oval two tier set was echoed in the auditorium as though it been cut to fit this space.  Strong performances across large cast  and a 24 strong chorus.  A red cloaked Anna Devin was terrific as Pamino. Kim Sheehan as Queen of the Night re imagined as a stooped and horned pooka hit all the high notes with crystal clear accuracy. Gavan Ring dressed as a wren boy  made much merriment from the role of Papageno. Nick Pritchard was an excellent Tamino. Andrew Gavin impressed as Monostatos. There was a hint of "The Greatest Showman" in Lukas Jakobski's Sarastro in top hat and scarlet coat.  Berlin bound Padraic Rowan  made an impression in the minor  role of speaker. The Irish Chamber Orchestra worked hard in the sunken pit. The woodwind ensemble sounding so clear and effortless in this acoustic. Fiona Kelly on flute and Richard McGrath  on glockenspiel provided the sprinkling of instrumental  fairy dust.
'The Greatest Showman'
The production ended the 18/19 season of the company. Any qualms about INO maintaining the high bar set by the opening production of Marriage of Figaro were quelled in this fantastic production which proved a superb bookend for the season. Bravo tutti!

The production finishes on Sunday with another afternoon performance on Saturday. Well worth an excursion.