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

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Keane Power of Imagination: Imagine Festival Launch

The power of imagination to carry us through life's difficulties was the theme of Eamon Keane's engaging key-note address at the Imagine Festival launch at St john's College. Drawing on childhood reminiscences and his rich and varied career as a broadcaster, musician and counselor, Keane drew in the audience with his easy story-telling style, -recalling his mother Maura Hassett playing Chopin in their council house-an incident of stage fright as a fledgeling virtuoso and his encounters with assorted characters including Nelson Mandela, fiddler John Sheehan and some colourful North Kerry denizens. Describing himself as a musician who fell into journalism, he graciously paid tribute to his WLR colleague Mary O Neill for her arts programme 'giving voice to artists and documenting the local scene'. Hear hear we say! Sadly with no piano in St John's College Oratory, we'll have to wait for another occasion to hear him play
Rick O Shea seemed genuinely delighted and excited to be taking on  the direction of Waterford Writer's Week and gave a glimpse of what's in store in the weekend of events in various venues around the city. Mark Roper was on hand to read some of his poems. There were a couple of songs from troubadour Lorcan Reidy and a snippet of Sam Shepherd.

I love the Imagine Festival and often  gravitated back to Waterford for it when I lived away. On a very small budget and with a team of committed volunteers, it presents a range of arts events to brighten up those dark and dull days in late October. While it is works hard to spread the word nationally, I believe the festival aims to serve the local audience first and makes a virtue of its diversity rather than targeting a niche. I do have a quibble though. I found this launch event too long and the scheduling made it awkward for attendees to support the many arts events already happening in the city that evening.  A 6.30pm start wrapping up at 7.30pm would have  facilitated patrons to support the launch and also get to Garter Lane in time for a trad group or to  classical music recitals in the Large Room and Waterford Crystal. And surely there would have been a few takers for a cabaret singer in Theatre Royal. Maybe we could have a diary somewhere where any confirmed events could be posted so planners could see at a glance what is scheduled and avoid those awkward clashes.

Related posts: I was fortunate to hear Eamon Keane and John Sheahan perform together at Listowel Writers' Week some years ago My report here

My Round up of Imagine Festival 2016

Culture Night Waterford

To Hell in a Handbag

I set out last night to get a flavour of the Culture Night activity in Waterford city.  My experience was good in parts like a curate's egg. Speaking of clergymen, I enjoyed Helen Norton and Jonathan White's witty spin off of Wilde's Importance of Being Ernest. An hour long of crisply enunciated dialogue by the actors in the comfortable space at Garter Lane was a cheerful and well executed theatrical experience and drew a full house. My first stop at the Fat Angel Wine Bar was less successful, I couldn't hear or see any of the four short plays by local authors presented in the small back room and by default joined  the lively chatter in the front room. Gravitating toward Greyfriars, usually a focal point for culture night activity, I was surprised to find the doors to the exhibition at the Municipal Gallery closed and was left with feeling that the buzz and the culture vultures were somewhere else this year. Later I did manage to squeeze into the Oak Room of The Munster Bar for the Mod Poets session. I heard a intense monologue with a bleak theme of post traumatic stress disorder delivered by a very well turned out actress in 50's costume by Anna Jordan and Paul McDonald's ode to his dog.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Hungarian Feast on a Famine Ship: New Ross Piano Festival

A famine ship and a grand piano seem unlikely co-stars. Add in a distinguished Hungarian diplomat, a pale young man in concert tails and a flock of starlings perched in the rigging as unwitting extras and the scene looked like a setting of a classy spy thriller.  I was on the Dunbrody moored on the River Barrow, Co Wexford for the launch of the 13th New Ross Piano Festival. This year, there is an emphasis on Hungarian repertoire and artists  in the weekend concerts. This year,  artistic director with his formidable team are scheduling  some jazz piano events. Heavyweight on the international scene Enrico Pieranunzi will be in New Ross on Wednesday. Check him out on the video above.
 I was pleased to meet chairman, John Kissane who said he particularly loves the chamber music element of the festival. There are loads of attractive programmes and an impressive roster of emerging and established talent in daytime and evening concerts. Check out the details on the festival website After a few well chosen words by the Hungarian Ambassador, Istvan Phally, there was a little piano music from Sean Morgan Rooney and director of the festival Finghin Collins. As the last notes faded out over the river Barrow, the starlings with a whoosh abandoned the riggings and flew away,. no doubt to return to St Mary's Church when the festival proper begins.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Billy O'Brien & Friends

Sur ta lèvre pure, ô ma bien-aimée,
Telle aussi mon âme eut voulu mourir,
Du premier baiser qui l’a parfumée.

The dreamy  setting of Coibri  by Ernest Chausson telling of a hummingbird who sups too much love 'from the rosy cup' seemed to catch the languid mood on one of the warmest days we've enjoyed this summer.  Expressively sung by tenor Phillip Keegan with sunlight flooding  in the  Large Room from the Georgian windows, the song was just one of the many highlights of a programme presented by pianist Billy O Brien. "A concert of summer classics that will wow you" was promised in the publicity and wow us they most certainly did in the nicely balanced programme featuring  various permutations of  five performers, all young professionals in the early stages of their careers. On violin was Siobhan Doyle and Marian Power. The cellist was Yseult Cooper-Stockdale. As well as Borodin, Schumann and Elgar, we also heard a premiere of a new work by Ben Hanlon who introduced the work in his self deprecating manner. His Piano Quartet no 1 was a series of four reflections taking inspiration from eclectic sources; Autumn leaves, the rhythms of politicians names and a gruesome painting of a Pictish Warrior. The writing was lively with much colourful interplay between the parts.

An encore of Gardel's Por Una Cabeza brought the audience to their feet but that was not the end of the proceedings. Aside from the excellent musicianship displayed, the evening was extraordinary  on another front. It was packed with more than 200 patrons and many under the age 30. Not since Joanna McGregor performed here have I seen a full house for a classical music programme. When the music stopped, another soundscape kicked in. The sound of  buzz of conversation resonated in the room for a long time as the audience which included many family and friends of the musicians lingered to chat, take some snaps and generally  savour the magic. Bravo Billy and Friends and Ben Hanlon. It was marvellous!.


Friday, June 23, 2017

The Second Heaven of Desire in Old Tramore

Anyone walking around the Lafcadio Hearn Gardens in Tramore on a fine summer day might well imagine that they were in heaven. The beautiful gardens were designed in a Japanese spirit as an homage to an Irish writer who embraced the culture of his adopted homeland and wrote extensively on Japanese folklore and beliefs. Hearn spent childhood summers in Tramore as did the composer Paul Hayes who now lives in Japan. 'The Second Heaven of Desire in Old Tramore'   is a  setting of a short story from one of Hearn's collections. Hayes goes further and "imagines himself looking down from "heaven" on his own and Hearn's memories of Tramore". Hayes enlisted Donnacha O'Maidin to record theDawn Chorus in the gardens to form part of the piece.  The work will be premiered at a piano recital at the Large Room, City Hall Waterford, one of a plethora of events celebrating 60 years of diplomatic relations between Ireland and Japan.

The programme will be performed by renowned pianist Satako Inoue and will include works by Japanese composers Takemitsu and Tanako and a work by Donegal based composer, John McLachlan.

Satoko Inoue

   piano recital

City hall Waterford

Tues June 27th 8pm

Tickets €10/ €5

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Earthquake in Krakow:

photo Wojciech Wandzel

I'm on my first visit to Poland. There was a nip and the smell of smoked sausage in the air when I arrived early on the overnight train from Prague and the horses drawn carriages were just beginning their first circuits of the Stare Miasto . The attraction is Misteria Paschalia, a week long festival dedicated to early sacred music with events taking place nightly in various venues around the historic city. The programme last night featured the exhumation of a 'sepulchro', a  rare sacred opera by a 17th century Italian composer unknown to me, Antonio Draghi. First performed in Vienna, Il Terremoto is described in the handsome programme notes as being a 'a Hallowed Play for the Holiest Sepulcre of Christ in the Most Magnificent Chapel of her Holy Roman Majesty Empress Eleanor'. The experience was like seeing a Fra Lippi, Renaissiance painting come to life with an early music sound track provided by the elegant and spirited playing of the combined forces of Polish and French Baroque ensembles, Arte dei Suonatori and La Poeme Harmonique under Vincent Dumestre. A terrific ensemble effort, among the most unusual voices heard was that of  counter tenor Domenique Visse. I loved the sound of the wire strung harp and I've never seen a viola de gamba player play his instrument like a lute before. The setting, the chiaroscuro lighting effects, the costumes and the dramatic performances  made this quite unlike any oratorio experience I've had to date. Superb!

As I conclude, the Virgin Mary, the Centurian, San Giovanni have just got into a taxi outside my hotel. It seems like a parallel universe to see the performers in civies.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Acis and Galatea Given a C&W Makeover

I caught the second night of  the latest Opera Theatre Co. production last night at the Watergate Theatre. The nymphs and shepherds of Handel's pastoral opera, Acis and Galatea  get a  country and western makeover and are transformed to line dancing, smirting young 'uns out for a night in their  local pub . A revolving set moves us from the cosy interior to the back door smoking area Mostly the conceit works well although occasionally the ancillary action distracts  from the singer  and I believe no one should have to sing while simultaneously managing a costume change.

The singing is  terrific throughout the ensemble. Eamonn  Mulhall fresh from his appearance at the National; Theatre Amadeus and Susanna Fairbairn are the ill fated lovers. Andrew Gavin impressed as Damon and Edward Grint was Polyphemus transformed to  a sinister bar room bully.

 If you are going , I suggest you sit near enough the orchestra so that you can watch Peter Whelan in action. Directing  from the harpsichord, it was a pleasure to watch this dynamic performer mould and shape his forces. Special mention to the wind who worked hard on oboe, piccolo and recorder to add distinctive pastoral colour to the score.

Handel' Acis and Galatea  is on a nationwide tour. It arrives in Waterford's Theatre Royal  next Monday . I see that the Dun Laoghaire date is sold out. If you have the time I suggest a mini break in the South East where you can enjoy your own pastoral bliss on the newly opened Waterford Greenway. Walk or cycle the rural coastal pathway which runs between the medieval port city and Dungarvan. The opening took place 50 years to the day of the final train journey along the route There was a wonderful atmosphere at the official opening. The Barrack Street Concert Band serenaded
passers by at the starting point in Carriganore . The sun split the stones and the sense of local pride was palpable. We are truly blessed to have such outstanding natural beauty on our doorstep and bravo to county manager, Michael Walsh and everyone who had the vision to see this project through.

Jennifer O Connell's piece on Waterford Gre
enway here

Tour dates for Acis and Galatea here


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Weekend Round Up

The Bells The Bells 
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds,
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing.[9] 

Is there any more cheerful sound than the plangent peal of church bells ringing out on the quiet of a Sunday morning. I was at Christchurch Cathedral, Waterford this morning where many gathered for the Sunday morning service. Dean Maria Jansson welcomed former president Mary McAleese where spoke eloquently on the theme of immigration. After the service, all gathered outside to hear the newly restored bells ting out after a silence of almost two years. Patsy McGarry's piece here
The Cathedral Choir looked splendid in their red and white cassocks. Chiming perfectly with the sentiment of the occasion, the opening hymn was All People That on Earth Do Dwell. I loved the Henry Purcell anthem, Rejoice in the Lord Always and organist Eric Sweeney's rendition of a Carrillion by Louis Vierne. The Gospel Choir closed the programme with Bob Dylan's, Chimes of Freedom

When the Parade Passes By

I am not big devotee of parades and the notion of us all rushing out to march up and down during a month when our weather is at its most capricious strikes me as a form  of national folly. My heart goes out to the bands that have flown in from sunnier climes to march through our grey windswept streets. However, The best parade is your local one and  I thoroughly enjoyed Tramore's effort  this year. All local human life was here  marching and  perambulating through the streets of the seaside town. Pipers, dancing children, Roses in high heels and tractors-lots of tractors, little and large trundled through. It all took about twenty minutes which is just long enough to be standing around on a cold March afternoon. Watch the Tramore Parade here

Reprise of Jim Nolan play: Good to meet  Garrett Keogh in Waterford today. The actor is in town for the performance of Jim Nolan's play at Garter Lane tomorrow (Monday) before the team embark on a nationwide tour. My report from the premiere last March here. I


Monday, November 28, 2016

Roundup of a busy week

 Wife to James Whelan Garter Lane
Tales of Hoffmann: Omniplex Cinema. Waterford
Travel Awards German Travel Writers
Cormac Keveney Quartet at JJ's
Chamber Choir Ireland Bachiana
Sunday Lifetime Achievement Award: Vanbrugh  at NCH
RIP Billy McCarthy

Wife to James Whelan: Co production with WIT and Garter Lane Arts Centre.

 I have to admit that the name Teresa Deevy was unfamiliar to me although I was aware that a blue plaque had been unveiled in recent years and that she was a playwright from Waterford. Dayna KIlian's notes made interesting reading. Born in 1894 in Waterford, the youngest of thirteen children, Her writing was much encouraged at home and at school and she was a college girl, switching from UCD to UCC when she became deaf. She moved to London and quite extraordinarily she taught herself to lipread by genning up on scripts and watching them on stage. She wrote prolifically for the Abbey until she fell out of favour with a new board under Ernest Blythe. An extraordinary life story. The notes tell us that Sean Dunne, the Waterford poet  made an effort to locate a copy of the script by placing an ad in the Irish Times in 1984. The play had not been published and no copy could be found. Eventually a copy was found in the family home  The play was published in 1995 and a production ran at the Mint Theatre in New York that specializes in mounting productions of neglected scripts.

The  eight strong cast gave a good account of it and and the 1930's period was nicely evoked in Blanaid McCann's costumes.
In Tully's Bar (great to have this watering hole back in business for post show discussions) I met Bill Deevy gand nephew of Teresa Deevy who spoke of his father being charged with his aunt's archive which was kept at the family home until being donated to Maynooth Library where it remains accessible for students to consult.  Further evidence of Waterford's strong literary tradition.

Live Screening /Tales of Hoffmann:  came live from the Royal Opera House. I saw it in the Omniplex in Waterford  which was very comfortable with good surround sound effects. The production was a revival of a smashing production by John Slessinger, the film director. Particularly enjoyed Christine Rice as Guilietta

German Travel Writers' Awards: Congratulation to Arun Brazil of the Irish Sun who won the 1st prize for a second year at the German Travel writers Awards held at the Cafeen Seine . Congratulations to Caroline Doherty of the Irish Examiner who took third prize for her piece on Dusseldorf.

Choral Concert Chamber Choir Ireland came to St Patrick's Gateway with a programme of mostly Bach. There event fell short of expectation for a number of reasons.
I missed the opening remarks and the rest of the hour long programme was presented with no note of context either spoken or in the printed programme which did have the full texts. I felt the sound of the violone and organ sounded very rich and pleasant in the acoustic of the small scale church. and it would have been nice to hear a solo item from Mr Earley .
Feedback suggested that the programme was a bit on the short side. Not for me I am quite happy with one good   hour of anything.  However, I do like to have a little chat with the performers after the show. What a shame that despite the early finish at 8.45pm or so, members of the choir beat a hasty retreat back to Dublin.

NCH  Lifetime Achievenent Award for the Vanbrugh:

It was bitterly cold as I  made a round trip to Dublin for an event at NCH at which  the Vanbrugh Quartet were presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award. For the evening they had assembled some friends to play some favorite repertoire.  There was splendid Brahms with Michael Collins. Hugh Tinney made light of the tricky Schubert Trout variations.  Chi-chi Nwanoku looking fabulous in bright red top spoke movingly about coming to play in the home of her Irish mother after fifty years of living in the UK.   Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Foreign Affairs did the honours and struck just the right night of humour and gravitas in bestowing the awards. You can read my preview piece for The Irish Examiner here.

Adieu JJ Smyth's

Cormac Keveney is a fine  jazz singer. I heard him for the first time on Thursday at JJ Smyth's in Aungier Street. Accompanied by Damien Evans on bass, Johnny Taylor on piano and Dominic Mullan on drums. Keveney has an understated platform presence and the mood was easy and mellow in an eclectic set. I liked his version of Paul Simon's Train in the Distance. I enjoyed chatting to bassist Damien Evans who hails from Australia. We aklso met Chris Keveney, Cormac's proud dad who is himself a jazz musician. You can catch him playing at the Kilkenny Shop on Sunday mornings.  Check him out for yourself here

I was somewhat taken aback to hear that the venue is apparently close to changing hands and it seems that jazz may move to an alternative venue in future. We always get a cheerful greeting from Spanner the doorman who has presided over the upper room at JJ's for as long as I can remember .

RIP Billy McCarthy. Billly
Like everyone in Waterford, I was shocked at the untimely passing of WLR broadcaster Billy McCarthy. I never met him but I did go along to see him in action at a live broadcast and I recorded this note on this blogpost.

Can it really be 17 years since the Bluegrass Festival weekend was inaugurated in Dunmore East. In honour of the occasion, WLR stalwart Billy McCarthy conducted his morning radio show from Azurro Restaurant in the South Eastern fishing village. Having connections here , I listened with keener interest than usual to this mid morning broadcast and indeed went along to watch the final segment of the programme being recorded . Producer Jennifer Long assembled a delightfully diverse range of genuinely local voices to broadcast on the ether on a gloriously sunny morning. Many of them familiar, they included local restauranteurs, a publican, Tidy Town folk, a lifeboat man, local history experts, singers, bluegrass musicians , divas and sailors and a celebrity chef. McCarthy's easy and understated interviewing style concealed what a consummate performer he is. It was a refreshing change to have a morning show presenter who does not use guests as a foil for his own witticisms . McCarthy knew many of his guests which added a depth to his dialogues but he drew interesting information from all his relaxed interviewees."

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Imagine Festival: My Roundup of Festival Highlights

The Imagine Festival taking place on my doorstep in my home town remains one of my favourite  festivals. While an excellent PR effort makes a decent  to attract visitors, it is primarily aimed at the local audience and there is a good blend of contributors drawn  from the local pool and the wider arts fraternity.
In the classical music strand, the Vanbrugh Quartet brought composer Ian Wilson with them on their visit to the Large Room. His work Línte was dedicated to Gregory Ellis who is stepping down as leader. A Shostakovich quartet was the highlight of a programme including works by Haydn and Beethoven. The Vanbrugh played with their customary élan and skill and although they will be missed, we look forward to seeing members in new configurations. 
Later that evening Kate Daniels the mood was mellow at Phil Grimes  brought an eclectic set list  to a jazzy evening at Phil Grimes upstairts room. Her quartet included Imagine chairman Nick Bankes on bass and Jackie Burke on violin. Dylan, Piazzola and the back story to Bei mir Bist Du Shein were all in the mix.
There were several things I loved about the set up for the  Waterford Dramatic Soc. evening at the Vinatge Parlour room.  Not least was the cabaret style seating where you can sip mulled wine and eat cake throughout the proceedings.  The second thing I liked was  the  presence of a  hostess. Mistress of the Tea Rooms, Sarah Jane Hanton was on hand to meet and greet guests something lacking in most Waterford arts venues I liked the surround sound aspect where readers positioned themselves around the elegant period reception room engulfing their audience. Among the readers were the distinctive voice of Denise Quinn. Clodagh and Winnie Power, Bertie Rodgers and Toby and Ann Hickey just some of the contributers reading a selection of readings, poetry and song on a 1916 theme. 

Opera has been in the news recently with Irish singers kicking up something of a fuss on radio and newspapers about the paucity of opera in Dublin. Wexford was in full swing but it wasn't the only opera hot spot in the south east. Composer / librettist team Eric Sweeney and Mark Roper presented their second operatic venture. The Green One. The Gothic plot was a Middle Eastern  variation on the creation myth of Persephone and Demeter with the Green One , a mortal boy torn between two sibling goddesses.  I liked the use of dimmed lighting to create a theatrical mood. A flavour of Roper's elegant verse, well crafted verse  here.

The sun in my eye, rain on my skin,
Smell of rose, jasmine, cinnamon.
Taste of an apple, wind in the pine.
Bread, music, leaves, honey, wine  Mark Roper

Booze Blaas and Banter was yet again a convivial morning gathering of words, music on a maritime theme fueled with beer and breakfast. It will have to have it's own post I was delighted to contribute myself with some airs associated with boat songs. Thanks to Paul Diullon for accompanying me. I  will have to post a fuller account in a separate post.

In other events, I enjoyed listening to Declan Hughs and Alan Glynn chatting about Raymond Chandler who spent childhood summers in Waterford. Amber and the Bear brought an unamplified honest to goodness Dixieland jazz set to Grimes bar and Waterford City Brass recreated the Hofbrauhaus vibe in Downes Bar.

Tues Art Exhibtion Bay Tree
Launch Greyfriars  Vanbrugh Quartet  Large Room Kate Daniels at Phil Grimes  
WDS Readings from the Rising Soirée Hanton  host  Art Exhibition
Downes Beer Fest
Amber  and the Bear Jazz at Grimes
Sunday Declan Hughs Crime writer Ian Glynn Chandler
Vincent Woods cancelled
Weds/ Thur Werxford
Opera The Green One / Malojan

Booze Blaas Banter