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

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Music for a While: Scholl and Allhoff at Schloss Elmau

Chamber Music Festivals: Kammermusicwoche Schloss Elmau

Schloss Elmau

Klais Bahnhof
                                                                         Leaving Garmisch Partenkirchen , a short train journey through the Wettersteiner Mountains  brings you to  Klais,  Bavaria's  highest station. From here it is a five minute taxi ride to Schloss Elmau. I made the excursion from my base at Garmisch last week to hear an extraordinary artist. Here is my festival report of an evening at Kammermusikwoche.61

Schloss Elmau is an Alpine resort hidden away in rural Bavaria, 60 miles south of Munich. In the uber-swish hotel, that will host the next G7 summit, the lighting is subdued, the lounge room musak is of a superior laconic quality and the book shop is full of weighty tomes on science and politics. You wouldn't be surprised to see Frau Merkel in the corner de-stressing after a week of keeping the show on the road at the Reichstag. 

Live music is a major feature and during a week in January, the hotel  assembles an A list roster of star classical performers for a week of  concerts to please and soothe the pains of guests after a heavy day on the slopes or at the eye watering spas. This year, Dutch violinist Janine Jansen appeared here before her sold out recital at London’s Wigmore Hall. I made an excursion to hear the celebrated counter-tenor Andreas Scholl perform not the German Baroque repertoire for which he is best known but a programme of English songs.
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Scholl Halperin at Schloss Elmau
Konzertsaal Schloss Elmau
The lachrymose programme opened and closed in the Renaissance. The pathos of a pair of tear stained lute songs by John Dowland mingled with mirth of a Jacobean ditty by Thomas Campion. After the cleansing sorbet of a Bach Prelude sensitively played by pianist Tamar Halperin, came the serenity of Purcell’s, Music for a While and Evening Hymn. Benjamin Britten’s arrangements of familiar folksongs included WB Yeats’ The Salley Gardens. The gentle songs were wrapped around poignant sentiments of regret and despair in settings by Haydn of poems by Anne Hunter from his London sojourn. Scholl throughout had a genial stage manner speaking to the audience in German. For an encore he gave us another bite of Britten in the simple ‘I Will Give My Love an Apple’ . A photograph in the hall reminded us that Benjamin Britten and counter tenor Peter Pears performed here in 1959.

The countertenor voice is a musical high wire act, an enthralling blend of strength and fragility.  The impossibly beautiful tones of Herr Scholl, seemed to drop effortlessly down from another world entirely to a rapt audience in the Konzertsaal at Schloss Elmau and music  did indeed  ‘for a while, all our cares beguile’.   Wunderbar!
(Most of the programme can be heard on the Grammy nominated Purcell album ‘Solitude’ 2010 and English Folk Songs and Lute Songs (1996)
No Irish dates listed but several London dates in 2015).

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Scholl wasn't the only class act at the schloss that evening. In the Al Camino lounge  jazz pianist, Tim Allhoff  was quietly impressive  as he worked through a set of complex improvisations  on standards (including a  version of the Danny Boy) accompanied by an occasional cocktail shaker for percussion. 

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Set List  Scholl

Dowland Flow My Tears
                I Saw My Lady Weep
Campion I Care not for these ladies

Bach Prelude in C
Purcell    Music for a while
               Evening Hymn
Britten Folksong arr. The Ash Grove
Haydn  Despair/ Recollection/ The Wanderer

Haydn Piano Solo Minuet and Finale Piano Sonata in A 
Britten Salley Gardens/ Greensleeves
Robert Johnson Have you seen the bright lilies grow
Encore I will give my love an apple 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Kaleidoscope Night at the Odessa Club

Cello Suite No 3 in C Bach
Conversation for two tambourines Bobby Lopez
African Trip Mike Nielson
 Duo for Marimba and Vibraphone Losa   Sejourné
Passacaglia for  Violin and Cello Handel- Halverson
Preludes 1/3 for Classical Guitar Villa Lobos
Trio Elatha  The Crow B Walsh: Salamanca Reels: Trasnan? A Mc Donagh, Iniseer; Croí na Mara O Connor; Reels ; Encore Slipjig The Butterfly

It's Wednesday night at the Odessa Club and the  top floor of this trendy Dublin  venue is jammed. There is a buzz of anticipation as clubbers collect their drinks at the bar and settle down in the elegant top floor chamber for the first of the  Kaleidoscope Night series in 2015.  The lighting is subdued , the vibe is mellow, the informal setting is what vou might expect at a jazz  gig or the prelude to a soulful songwriter. . Under the title Rhythmic Crossings, we heard a two hour programme featuring a mix of standard Baroque repertoire, contemporary new music and a classy fusion of  trad and classical genres from a handful of excellent young professional soloists.
Trio Elatha

Percussion Duo 
The evening opened with a solo item,  Bach Cello Suite No 3 played by Ailbhe McDonagh .  The physical closeness of the audience to the player  added a thrilling intensity to McDonagh's  fully committed performance.

 If you thought that all there was to playing a tambourine was to tap it a bit,  percussion duo, Catriona Frost and Maeve O Hara showed us otherwise in  the variety of techniques deployed   in a fun duet, Conversation for two tambourines. It must have been quite an effort to get a marimba and  a vibraphone up the several narrow flights of  stairs, It was rumoured that the instruments had arrived via helicoptor on the roof terrace.  (This is very cool venue!) The  cross rhythms in Mike Nielson's African Trip and the Latin American flavour of French composer Séjourné were  mesmerising.

The exuberant high voltage playing from Lynda O Connor on violin in a  Handel-Halverson  passacaglia was startling, jolting us out of our trance like state induced by the hypnotic percussion  rhythms. (Those  and a large glass of merlot)

The  second half of the programme exploited  the potential of  varied timbres within  Trio Elatha in various combination of solo, duo and trios.   After the arco fireworks of his colleagues, Brendan Walsh calmed us down with the soothing  timbre of pizzicato guitar strings in preludes by Villa Lobos. The evening closed with a spirited set of numbers from Trio Elatha drawing on classical and traditional elements. O Connor was extraordinary,  proving adept at mixing  it on the style front. It is rare to find a performer equally at  home in classical and traditional styles.  There was an energy and inventiveness in the trio's arrangements of familiar and new material.

The audience were for the most part in the 35-55 age bracket, younger than you might find at a more formal recital. A cocktail of elements combined to make this a good night out; a  varied   programme,   a  selection of highly accomplished engaging performers, and proximity to performers and food and drink . The 9pm start  allowed plenty of time to enjoy a dinner in the clubby first floor bar. Good value at €14.50 for 2 courses) and following the gig there was no hurrying you out of the venue as the bar stayed open to facilitate patrons and performers lingering to chat.

 Despite losing their arts council funding, the salon series continues under the stewardship of  musicians Lioba Petrie and Karen Dervan.  Long may it flourish
It takes place on the first Wednesday of each month at Odessa Club, Dame Street Dublin.  

Monday, January 5, 2015

Cultural Events to Banish Post Festive Blues 2015

Grand Opera House 

 Mid Winter is a time when I retreat to the sofa and wrestle for domination of the remote control. But this will pass and  I enjoyed putting together this round up of cultural events to tempt culture vultures off the couch. My selection  appeared in the print edition of the Irish Examiner  on Friday 2nd January.
Arts Events Selection for month's ahead.

 Here are some further  suggestions.

Opera in Belfast .
I visited Belfast for the first time in decades back in the September  and was impressed with the scale and elegance of the city centre and the many venues. With a journey time of less than 2 hours by bus to Dublin, it is closer than I imagined.   I have a yen to see some opera in the Grand Opera House with it's splendid red brick Victorian facade.
 In February, Northern Ireland Opera present  Richard Strauss’ potent late Romantic setting of Oscar Wilde’s play based on the biblical femme fatale, Salomé.
Belfast-born Giselle Allen sings the title role of the bloodthirsty Princess .  Nicholas Chalmers conducts the Ulster Orchestra in this new production directed by Oliver Mears. There is more opera at the venue when English touring company Opera North  brings two rather more genteel   productions , to this historic venue
Opera at the Grand Opera House
Salomé   Strauss 6-8 Feb
Marriage of Figaro Mozart  Mar 19th and 21th
La Travaiata Verdi Mar 18 and 20th 

Special Consensus at Sixmilebridge

Superpowers in Galway
Festival of Youth Orchestras NCH Feb 7th
RTE Philharmonic Choir celebrate 30 years 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Call Mr Robeson at Garter Lane

 Tayo Aluko has travelled the world since 2007 telling  the story of Paul Robeson, the black American singer and actor and activist. He arrived at the Garter Lane Arts Centre, Waterford on International Human Rights Day. He was most sympathetically accompanied by Cork based pianist, Michael Young. In addition to relatively straightforward song accompaniment, there was a lot of underscoring of script of an improvisatory nature.  You can read the eminent Guardian theatre critic, Michael Billington's review here 

At the close of the thought provoking show, Tayo Aluko conducted a Q& A. Had anyone ever heard him live. Yes, one patron volunteered, her parents had seen Robeson in London while on honeymoon. Newly wed and all, her mother  was smitten. On the singer's death, this lady had sent a letter of condolence to Robeson's only son adding her reminiscences of her parents's experience and was very touched when Robeson Jnr  had sent a lovely letter in response to  her, no celebrity, but a lowly typing pool worker in a London firm. . At each venue a programme note with musings and social commentary on recent events highlighted  resonance between the  stage and current Irish events updated at each venue. Kilkenny version in link. This story could be and has been told in the from of a 2D TV documentary. But one man standing in front of you   telling the story with passion and commitment lives  far longer in the memory . Mr Aluko chatted and signed autographs after the shoe. Although he has traveled far  telling the stroy for a long time , he seemed as fresh and enthusiastic greeting Waterford theatre goers as if it was a premiere. He did four shows in Ireland.  It wouldn't surprise me at all to see this show returning for a few more Irish dates. Watch out for it. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

IBO Messiah in Georgian Splendour

The late Eric DeCourcy 
In my youth, I was a member of  Waterford Orchestral Players, A major part of the repertoire then was oratorio and there was an annual performance in one or other of the Georgian cathedrals. I remember playing Haydn's Creation, Handel's Samson, Mendelssohn's Elijah and of course Messiah with Eric de Courcy conducting  and Fintan O Carroll leading.  It was great training. Opportunities to play Handel's most popular work have been frequent since and always welcome. It was a rare experience though  to actually sit in the audience pews myself but an opportunity to hear the Irish Baroque Orchestra on my doorstep could not be passed up. The performance was part of the Symphony Club of Waterford series.

Under the direction of Eamonn Dougan of the English vocal group The Sixteen, The  Irish Baroque Orchestra, leader Claire Duff with 16 voice Resurgam |Choir presented a lithe and graceful reading of Handel's masterwork in which the poetry in Jennens libretto was allowed to shine.
 I am not a devotee of period instruments and don't ooh and aah over curvy bows and gut strings but I did enjoy the clarity  of the performing style. Although the soloists were all very good, it was the relatively inexperienced youngsters, Sinead O Kelly and Eamonn Mulhall who best matched the nimbleness of the instrumental ensemble  The tenor aria Behold and See with the preceding recitative Thy Rebuke Hath Broken His Heart was a highlight. Soprano aria How Beautiful are the Feet of Him was effortless and beautiful. Just how sparing Handel was in in his deployment of trumpets and drums surprised me. Owen Gilhooly and , Anne Marie Gibbons, both seasoned operatic performers lacked a bit of heft in the lower register  of their arias being more mezzo and baritone rather than bass and contralto.  Owen Gilhooly's rousing  delivery of the  bass aria, The Trumpet Shall Sound with was terrific getting right to the heart of the text. The acoustics in this John Robert designed Georgian space were very sympathetic to the forces.  Excellent * * * *

Sinead O Kelly 
Anne-Marie Gibbons (mezzo),
Eamonn Mulhall (tenor),
Owen Gilhooly (baritone)
with Resurgam choir. 

Festive Music: ICO Joyeux Noel

Irish Chamber Orchestra
Katherine Hunka Director
Ailish Tynan Soprano
Rudi de Groote Cello
Cliona Doris Harp 

  • Saint-Saëns          Le deluge Op. 45, Prélude
  • Vivaldi                  Paris Concerto No. 2 in E minor, RV 133

  • Mahler                  Adagietto (from Symphony No. 5)
  • Britten                  Les Illuminations
  • Debussy               Sacred & Profane Dances for Harp and Strings
  • Francaix               From Quinze Portraits D’Enfants
  •                             In the Luxembourg garden
  •                             Madame Charpentier’s Children
  •                             At the Piano
  •                            The Baby with a Spoon
  •                            The Schoolboy
  • Martinet             Le Petit Papa Noel
  • Wade                  Adeste Fidelis   
  • Saint-Saëns       The Swan (from Carnival of the Animals)
  • Gruber/Mohr     Silent Night

I enjoyed the Irish Chamber Orchestra's festive French themed programme in the magnificent Gothic stone St Fin Barre's Cathedral .  You can read my review which appeared in Saturday's Irish Examiner here  It was a great pleasure  to hear soprano Ailish Tynan. I last heard her when she was  a guest soloist in Chansons d'Auvergne for a concert with Maynooth University Orchestra of which I was a member around 2001 or so. She was just setting off to begin her studies in London. where she now lives and enjoys a very successful career. The Francaix pieces escaped mention. They wee described by Liz Nolan in her comprehensive programme notes as 'bright, bumptious and gleeful'. Just right. 

Jorg Widmann
It isn't that long since I heard the ICO at their home base at UCH  . I had imagined that the Wunderkind of the programme title applied to the conductor  Jorg Widmann who was all over the programme as conductor , chamber music musician and composer in an impressive display of mulit tasking
. In fact the title applied to the Mendelssohn whose teenage works formed the mainstay of the programme.  You can read that review here 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Other Voices from the Other Side of the Street

Main Street Dingle

Cathy's Highlights Other Voices
Best Hang Out: Benners Hotel Lobby / Green Room
Best Spoken Word Event: Banter 98  at Foxy John's  guest Paul Galvin
Best Solo Perfromance: Colm Mac Con Iomaire on 5 string zither violin at An Lab
Best Act : Lost Brothers 
Best Local Contributer: Padraig O Sé Box Player 

Amid the   clamour of wind and rain, gig junkies and musicians made the annual pilgrimage to  Dingle for the annual niche  music festival, Other Voices.  At its core, three nights of  uber cool TV programmes featuring an eclectic mix of genres. The spin off--an   extensive fringe  of live  gigs from early afternoon  to late  draws pilgrims out of the cold into the huddle of cheerful  pubs and the more hallowed civic and sacred spaces in the South Kerry town on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.  
 If you are not in St James Church, Dingle  for the Other Voices broadcasts, the next best place to be is across the road in the relative comfort of Benner's Hotel, The elegant town house lobby acts as a green room for the performers and crew.  Phillip King looking dapper in skinny jeans and maroon bomber jacket greeted the new arrivals and artists breezed through the lobby all spruced up in their stage gear before being miraculously 'teleported' onto the big screen in front of us  like Mike Teavee in Willy Wonka's Factory

There are advantages to the hotel lobby OV experience other than proximity to the bar. The lobby audience are not bound by the same rules of etiquette such as applauding and refraining from chatting among themselves. There is a  moment on Friday though, when a hush descends, the chandeliers are dimmed and all eyes and ears lean forward, the better to hear the  sotto voceLost Brothers' beguiling close  harmonies. Flanked by  twin fiddlers, Colm Mac Con Iomaire and Steve Wickham,  something magical happens as the four musicians move onto a plane of perfect visual and melodic  symmetry and both sides of the Main Street seem to resonate  in a sense of communion.  You could hear a proverbial  pin drop and there is for the first time that evening an outbreak of applause. 

 More sibling resonances as real life French /Cuban twins Ibeyi  filled the ethic/ world music slot. Their expressive gleeful features leaped out of the box. They accompanied themselves on piano and beat box but it was  their a capella Yoruba songs that  most captivated the lobby contingent.

Colm Mac Con Iomaire 
It was standing room only for Colm Mac ConIomaire’s , solo fiddle gig at An Lab, a black box theatre space housed in a school. Known for his association with The Frames,  the Dubliner featured also on David Gray's hit album White Ladder. He augmented his sean nos inspired improvisatory fantasies with a series of loops from a foot pedal station, which he jokingly referred to as his recession quartet.  He was joined by Catherine Fitzgerald on piano for a portion of the set. The Dubliner plays a distinctive  5 stringed instrument known as a zither violin with a broad bottom and angular shoulders made by 18th century Dublin luthier,  Perry. 

Mac Con Iomaire joined The Lost Brothers for their late afternoon gig at An Diseart .  The audience  crammed into the mahogany pews  listened with an intensity bordering on reverence under the lilac glint of the Harry Clarke stained windows.  
Fireside Banter with Jim Carroll

Over at Foxy John's Pub, music journalist Jim Carroll took up a position  by the fire for the 98th Banter session, a series of interviews with musical interludes podcast for an online audience  Interviewing a somewhat guarded Paul Galvin about his new book, it emerged that his writing talents had been spotted at school and he might well have gone into journalism.  You can listen to that podcast here . 

Back in Benner's for the evening broadcast. Damien Rice had us swooning with his witty lyrics en francais and  we chatted among ourselves as Mercury winners, Young Father's  raucous heavily choreagraphed routine  didn't quite transmit effectively through the glass and chrome  receptacle.  'Not quite my cup of tea' was one punter's summary. It was good too to hear local  box player, Padraig o Sé's emphatic slides and polkas coming in on the Saturday night air in Main Street.

To stay near the main hub of activity, you won’t want to pass Benner’s Hotel .  Although the town was buzzy, there were plenty of vacancies with just a few premises displaying house full signs. We stayed at the Marina Lodge which offered bright and comfortable budget accommodation in a super  waterfront location a stones’ throw from the town centre .


Monday, December 8, 2014

Limerick Choral Union: Celebrating 50 years of Singing


On Sunday, it was my pleasure to join the orchestra for one of the biggest choral events of the year. Limerick Choral Union marked the end of their 50th year with an epic choral extravaganza featuring 240 choristers, a trio of soloists and a 53 piece orchestra. Always an outfit to do things in style, LCU invited Galway Choral Association, a teenage choir from Villiers Secondary School and boys and girls from Scoil Ide to join them . The collaboration across the generations and county borders made this a truly joyful vibrant occasion. Musical director Malcolm Greene pulled all the elements together with his customary energy, enthusiasm and attention to detail.

Soprano Jean Wallace
A fearless Jean Wallace stepped into the breach caused by an indisposed Franzita Whelan. Poulenc's Gloria is a gorgeous six movement work full of colourful contrasts. The comprehensive programme notes reminded us that the work was premiered in Boston in 1961 not too long before the choir was first formed. The dramatic stakes were raised with a performance of Carl Orff's epic choral cantata, Carmina Burana.  based on two dozen medieval Latin texts on the fickleness of fate and the perils and pleasures of  overindulgence. Jean was joined by Hungarian baritone Gyula Nagy and Derek Moloney in counter tenor mode The  varied palette of vocal timbres and textures enhanced with unusual rarely heard orchestral colours  in wind and percussion sections made for  rich musical tapestry  

The house was full to capacity and after a standing ovation, choristers, musicians and patrons lingered a long time in UCH foyer  to savour the occasion, a fitting finale to the Limerick City of Culture. I was proud to be a part of it.

The programme will be repeated in Galway with Choristers of St Nicholas Scola Cantorum at Seapoint, Salthill, on Saturday 31st January 2015

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Lines of Vision: Words and Pictures at the National Gallery

To celebrate 150 years of the National Gallery, 56 Irish writers have been invited to select  a picture from the house  collection and to contribute a literary response  to the work to a new book edited by Janet McClean, Lines of Vision: Irish Writers on Art. You can view all the paintings selected in a special exhibition running at the gallery until April. Many of them are familiar. Included is the Caravaggio, The Taking of Christ selected by John Banville. There are several of Jack B Yeats paintings and that misfortunate Monet now rehung is looking none the worse for wear Copies of the book are on hand so you can read the response and view the painting. Admission is free.

You can read Peter Murray's extensive piece in the Irish Examiner  on the project here

You can hear several of the authors interviewed by Sean Rocks on an RTE Arena special recorded in the gallery. Listen back here 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Voci Nuove: Cork Choral Group Raising the Bar

My preview piece on a coral concerts taking place this weekend, featuring the combined efforts of two excellent choirs is in today's Irish Examiner. You can read it here

MY e interview with MD Lynsey Callaghan and member Brendan Long is here.  Voci Nuove can be heard at the Unitarian Church in Dublin and at the Cork Vision Centre on Saturday this week.
  Can you expand  a little on  the process in finalising  the programme? 

Given the historical significance of this year, I was eager to reflect on this through music. The programme includes a mixture of contemporary works and older pieces, but, for me, all are in some way connected to war and adversity that has occurred throughout history. As well as this, there is great hope in many of the pieces so that while they comment on suffering, they also express the belief in eventual peace.

Among the predominantly 20th century/ contemporary,  Schutz represents the historic period . What is special about this  piece that earned it a slot?

This biblical text (Revelation 14:13) has been used in funeral music of many German-speaking composers. Heinrich Schütz’s six-part motet comes from Geistliche Chormusik (1648), an important collection of 29 of the composer’s motets using German-texts. The collection represents a transition in his writing and while its stylistic roots are in the Renaissance, the expressive contrasts within the piece clearly represent the Baroque era to which it belongs. The year of publication of Geistliche Chormusik is significant because during this year a series of peace treaties were signed which ended the Thirty Years’ War in the Holy Roman Empire and the Eighty Years’ War between Spain and the Dutch Republic. Although the treaties did not entirely restore peace throughout Europe, they created a base for national self-determination and their principals became central to international law and the prevailing world order. The Thirty Years’ War was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history and it was against this backdrop that Schütz composed his tribute to the dead. Presumably Schütz was not untouched by these horrors that were Raging through Europe and his words and yet in this piece we see faith prevailing, claiming 'blessed are the dead, that die in the Lord'.

only 3 years old and already much lauded. Can you fill us in on the accolades the choir have garnered to date;

Voci Nuove was formed in October 2011. It was originally comprised of  9 voices from Cork School of Music, with the goal of performing alongside Cois Cladaigh in the Galway Jazz Festival. The choir quickly rose to the heights of  receiving a choral  workshop with The King's Singers in Dublin. Voci Nuove has grown from strength to strength and in September 2012 they held auditions to expand the choir. They began performing at concerts, and in Spring 2013 they completed their first series of concerts in Cork, Ennis and Galway entitled Pitches be Crazy, hosted by and collaborating with Cantare Chamber Choir (Ennis) and Cois Cladaigh (Galway). As a part of this tour, Voci Nuove performed Spectrum by Sam Perkin, Cork, an exciting choral work which was composed for the choir. 

They began competing, winning several categories at Cork's Feis Maitiú, 2012. In 2013, the group were awarded 2nd place in the Sacred and Chamber choir categories at the Cork International Choral Festival, and were awarded the John Mannion Perpetual Trophy for their performance of Ave Regina by György Orbán. They opened this Cork Choral Festival by singing for the Shandon Sunrise, and following this they performed a challenging programme in the beautiful surrounds of Triskel Christchurch.

In October 2013, they competed at the inaugural City of Derry's International Choral Festival. Here, they were awarded first prize in the International category, and placed first in the National Sacred Music category. In November 2013, they travelled to Vienna for their first choral exchange, hosted by Amerlingchor.  This was a valuable experience for Voci Nuove, to broaden their musical artistry, by working with a new conductor, collaborating with another choir, performing instrumental music, and exploring genres not in their typical repertoire.

Voci Nuove's 2014 is already proving to be a busy and exciting year. In February we had the chance to perform Spectrum again at a Cork School of Music concert which celebrated the new music of composer Sam Perkin. The following week, Voci Nuove participated in a workshop with Grammy-award winning ensemble Chanticleer in the Cork Opera House. On 11th February, Voci Nuove supported Chanticleer in concert also at the Cork Opera House. This same week, Voci Nuove appeared on RTÉ's The Today Show to promote their concert with Chanticleer.

In April 2014, Voci Nuove launched their Spring-Summer 2014 tour, Cardboard Pocket Rag, in the Dublin Unitarian Church. On this day they were grateful to receive a pre-recital choral workshop with Michael McGlynn. Other stops on this concert tour included the Mitchelstown School of Music & Arts and the Triskel Arts Centre in Cork City. For this Triskel concert, Spizzrag, Voci hosted The Yale Spizzwinks(?), a dynamic young male a cappella ensemble from the US.

Following Voci Nuove's weekend at the City of Derry International Choral Festival 2013, Voci Nuove were invited by Cork International Choral Festival's artistic director, John Fitzpatrick, to compete in the Fleischmann International Trophy Competition 2014. Here, Voci Nuove's performance of Come Sleep by Daniel Brinsmead won the Lady Dorothy Mayer Memorial Trophy award in the Fleischmann International competition. They also received the Trofaí Cuimhneacháin Philib Uí Laoghaire award for their performance of Molaimís go léir an tAon-Mhac Chríost by Ben Hanlon. They were awarded second prize in the Ireland's Choir of the Year competition.

What have been the highlights / most proud moments 

Winning the International competition at the inaugural Derry International Choral Festival, performing in Vienna, and opening for Chanticleer in Cork Opera House all stand out.

 What direction does VN hope to go in with new MD at the helm? 

Onwards and upwards, continuing to tackle exciting new projects and music, and raising our profile in Ireland and beyond. 

Is new music a particular priority for VN ?  

I am constantly impressed by the standard of music that is being written in Ireland at the moment and the great work that organisations like the Contemporary Music Centre and the Irish Composers Collective are doing to champion the products of our composers. I think it's important for composers to have an instrument to write for and if we want more music to be written we really have to encourage this through performance. We are very lucky to have composers writing pieces with our choir specifically in mind. This is very exciting and mutually beneficial.

The venue  Cork Vision Centre  is not one I have been in before. What is the acoustic like for vocal groups/  Any particular reason for choosing this venue?

We've always striven to do things a little differently from the typical classical ensemble. Not that there's anything wrong with performing in big established venues, we just like to bring an audience to lesser explored places, both in music and location. The acoustic is perfect. The Vision Centre is a re-purposed church with high ceilings and flat walls that lend themselves nicely to acapella choral music. 

How did the collaboration with new Dublin choir come about?

It is a very exciting time for both choirs as Laetare Vocal Ensemble has just begun its journey and Voci Nuove has taken on a new musical director. It made sense for both groups with so many similarities to join up and share an exciting concert of so many 'firsts'. The choirs already have many connections: a number of past Voci members who moved to Dublin are singing with Laetare, the conductor of Voci is also a member and there are many friendships between members of the two choirs through participation in other musical activities (Irish Youth Choir, Irish Youth Chamber Choir). The collaboration works on so many levels: it means each choir gets to perform both at home and in a different city and so early on in the year; the members of each choir get to bond both within their choir and with another group; the themes can be explored more thoroughly with potentially two different perspectives or interpretations; there will be a connection between the two choirs so, should members relocate, there will hopefully be a place for them to continue their singing. There is so much musical talent in Ireland and these concerts hope to celebrate young chamber choirs and their musical achievements. It makes perfect sense for two exciting choirs to work together to create something special for all involved.

Are any of the composers involved in the rehearsal process?  

The Irish composers have been so generous with their time and talents. We have remained in touch throughout the process of learning their music and if I have any questions i know that i can drop them an email or call them and they will be willing to help.

What is your rehearsal schedule over the next few weeks leading up to the concert 

With really only one week to go, we will have our final rehearsal the night before the Dublin concert. We will rehearse in the Vision Centre and can get a feel for the acoustic and the layout. I am really looking forward to this rehearsal because, with the concert so close, I am expecting that there will be great focus and energy.

Are all your members Cork based.

We recently acquired a bass 2 who travels from Limerick and for this we are very grateful. 

How does a choir of young musicians who have not been exposed to  war approach preparing to perform works on a war theme. 

The programme is a challenging one with very sombre themes but there is also hope. Many of our pieces look to an end to war and suffering. Luckily, I don't think that any of us have had first-hand experience of war. Each piece, however, tells a story and we will try to create a scene, bringing our own experiences and emotions to the music. i think empathy is crucial for performing, so while we might not have experienced war, everyone has experienced suffering in their lives. It is our challenge to take our experiences and use them to make us better, more genuine performers. 
New MD Lynsey Callaghan