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

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Round Up 8th-14th April



It was all about choirs for me this week. I heard no less four laudable vocal ensembles within a ten mile radius of home in the space of 24 hours in churches. As I write, events in Paris have caused moments of reflection on what treasures these local sacred spaces are.











Wexford Festival Singers brought a programme of mostly Baroque music to Christ Church,  Tramore. New incumbent, Rev Trevor Sargent welcomed a full house of around 250 to this elegant Gothic revival stone gem. The audience spilled in to the galleries and there was great sense of occasion. A string quartet from the Musici Ireland sounded very fine in this acoustic. We liked an Agnus Dei by Wexford based composer, Liam Bates
I look forward to hearing the organ here when it is restored.

The Choir of the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity Waterford.

I enjoyed Dermot Keyes article 'A hint of home in Trafalgar Square' in the Munster Express this week on a visit to  St Martin in the Fields in London's Trafalgar Square. Keyes notes that the London landmark was designed by a James Gibb and completed in 1726 and suggests that Gibb was a major influence on John Roberts who visited London prior to designing the twin cathedrals in Waterford. The music for Palm Sunday included some Lenten hymns. is encouraging to see the words printed and available to all ,an invitation to add your our own voice to those in the gallery under the direction of David Forde.



Ad Hoc Chorale; De la Salle College Vocal Ensemble
Some of the choristors at the Cathedral turned up moments later for duty  at "Heaven and Hell", a lunchtime choral concert given by Ad Hoc Chorale at St Patrick's Gateway. Under director Pamela Harrison, we heard a wondefully diverse selection of old and new repertoire, (including a psalm setting by choir member Ben Hanlon), performed with ease by the choir which includes many leading  lights of the local music scene. A great pleasure too to hear a four part harmony wonderful male voice choir made up of senior students from De la Salle College.
https://www.rte.ie/radio/radioplayer/rteradowebpage.html#!rii=b9_11023929_67_14-04-2019_
. Radio Moment: I was fortunate to be in the National Youth Orchestra when they made their first visit to the USA. The orchestra played in amazing venues, The Lincoln Centre and Boston Symphony Hall and the Kennedy Centre in Washington. I was interested to hear a clip of  conductor Hugh Maguire from the archives on John Bowman's item on the occasion of publication of Gillian Smith's book on her mother Olive Smith.

TV : John Bridcut's documentary on British contralto, Janet Baker for BBC 4 was extraordinary.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Round Up 1st to 7th April

A week when opera on screen kept us in touch with some great events. For a live experience, it was good to join a full house at WIT Arena to hear the NSO at full throttle.

There was a lot of buzz around the ROH production of La forza del destino in the press with the dream team of Anna Netrebko and Jonas Kaufmann in the lead roles and Pappano in the pit. Rumours of tickets selling for €4,000 were circulating. With curtain up at 645 I missed the first two but caught the last two acts at the Odeon Cinema, Waterford on Tuesday night which was enough excitement for a midweek night. Shown in screen 7, there were some issues with the projection format and sound quality that had punters grumbling. I don't know what the technical term is but the picture did not extend across the screen but  appeared to be in portrait format and body shapes seemed elongated vertically. I don't usually complain about volumes being too low, but i didn't quite get the oomph I was expecting. A great midweek opera treat nonetheless.
I was all set to head to Cork for the latest production from Irish National Opera but sadly couldn't make it. Serious FOMO was assuaged by  catching the production on RTE player. It is very easy to access. The sound quality is very good and it is good to see synergy between national platforms being exploited. Why not give Ray Darcy a night off and make room on the TV schedule. As Ko Ko in the Mikado might say, "He never would be missed"

You can't beat a live event and it was  good to see the RTE NSO fulfill the remit of being a 'national' orchestra by getting out of Dublin for two concerts. A full house of circa 500 came to WITArena to hear a programme of Sibelius and the Beethoven and Tchaikowsky under conductor Thomas Kemp. A rough estimate of the proportion of  populations of the Dublin and Waterford areas would suggest a greater turnout by a factor of ten in Waterford. Full house also in Galway, I am told. An attractive programme and glad  to hear the Fidelio Trio on my doorsteps. Programming a work that is essentially a chamber music work requiring a reduced orchestra was not however  ideal programming for this venue which is a huge sports arena. The Fidelio gave it socks but the cavernous auditorium was a challenge particularly for a solo violin timbre. Constructed posthumously from sketches, Tchaikowsky Symphony of Life  was one of those works that was good to have heard once. Perhaps a good choice for a Dublin audience bored with all the other symphonies and ballet suites but not compelling for an audience who hear a live symphony concert occasionally. Set against the stark grey walls, the honey hues of the strings stood out in sharp relief making an usually vivid spectacle.

Venue notes: The venue is not accessible by public transport. This is a drawback as it makes a car or taxi journey necessary to access the event.  I understand a shuttle service runs during college hours bringing students out to the facility from the main campus. It doesn't as far as I am aware operate on weekend nights. Is it possible to extend it to run a service from the city centre or the Cork Road campus returning after the concert? 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Round Up 24 - 31st March

There was a buzz on the Irish opera scene around the opening on Sunday of Madame Butterfly from Irish National Opera. Not everything was happening in Dublin though and I was delighted to be at Cork Opera House for the first of their season of concert performances. I'll be looking out to hear  more of  countertenor Viktor Priebe. He has a voice that will bring you to then edge of your seat..




@CorkOperaHouse #MarriageofFigaro My report for @irishexaminer here. Looking forward to more G&S and Verdi later https://t.co/DyyytHsJyl

— Fidleir (@fidleir) March 27, 2019

Whinge!.  met a pal in the audience who was annoyed that the Cork Opera House  booking system would not allow her book a single seat if it had a vacant seat next to it reducing her choice of seating. I rarely book tickets preferring to take my chances as a walk up but  I had a similar conversation with a punter at the Theatre Royal in Waterford . who was similar baffled and annoyed when she couldn't book her seat of choice. Is it unfair to single attendees or prudent marketing strategy? What do you think?

I enjoyed talking to Patrick Rafter ahead of some Irish engagements for this article in the Irish Examiner  The young Kilkenny virtuoso was in the NCH on Friday performing with his mentor, the wonderful Russian violinist,  Maxim Vengerov.  I was in the Large Room for the Piano Day Waterford event and I caught up with his performance later. You can watch the video stream on this link here. https://www.rte.ie/culture/2019/0329/1039470-lyric-concert-live-violinist-maxim-vengerov-plays-bach-dvorak/.



Piano Day Waterford.
We were blessed with beautiful weather on Friday and I couldn't drag myself away from the seaside for the daytime piano events in town. It all looked very jolly and I enjoyed catching Killian Browne's  plein air performance on line. See the tweet  below for a link . I did make it in for the evening concert and it was good to hear locally based performers enjoy the wonderful performing space .where Waterford Music welcomes international performers at their monthly series.   Doug Lowe is an excellent  American pianist based in New Ross., I have much enjoyed playing  chamber music  with Doug. Here he was partnered by cellist Ian McHardy,  a stalwart of many ensembles in the South East in Beethoven's Sonata no 2.  Both performers were making their house debut and I hope it won't be too long before I hear them both again here. Marian Ingoldsby wowed the audience with an eclectic selection and her drole spoken introductions. Marian's programme mixed her own compositions with work by Chopin, Mompou, O Suilleabhain  and drew a standing ovation.  An homage to Clara Schumann used some interesting special effects.  A layer of dance from Jess Rowell and others added to my engagement with the experience.

Venue Notes: There were some aspects of the event that marred the event.  I like it when a visual aspect, images or video clip is added to a musical experience but only if it it adds something. Here a busy moving projection displaying the sponsors names was merely distracting. The presence of a perambulating photographer  throughout the entire evening was irritating and gave the impression that the audience outside the room was more important than the one contained within. I would have liked a programme note.





High Plains Tradition.



Independent promoter, John Nyhan has brought so many terrific bluegrass and folk musicians to regional venues. On Saturday at Tramore, Coastguard Station, we heard High Plains Tradition all the way from Colorado. It was good to see the upstairs gallery full for the visitors. The five musicians had a collective senatorial air and apparently  all work in law enforcement when they are not on their annual tour. Nyhan himself lead the audience support from the front row and stepped up to sing a song himself- Freight Train. Check out the Bluegrass in Ireland blog for a comprehensive listing of gigs.

Pub Jam Croke's Bar

I had a lot of fun this week in at informal music evenings in my local pub. The Tramore Ukuklele Group met on Thursday for one of its twice monthly gatherings followed by a mellow song set from the house duo. On Sunday I joined a circle of terrific musicians who gather here usually on the last Sunday of the month for a lively jam that mixed trad, pop and jazz



Tuesday, March 12, 2019

History Lectures at Waterford Medieval Museum

By Guest Blogger Pat Rohan

Image result for noel browne against the tide


You know you're on to a winner when you fill a room with over 150 people for a lunchtime history lecture  at the Garden Room in Waterford Treasures Museum. On Wednesday we heard the 'season finale' of a series of lectures by Eugene Broderick. The series ranged over a number of topics in the 20th Century. The topic this time was Noel Browne and the Mother & Baby Scandal from 1948-51.
Image result for mother and baby scheme ireland
Topic of the day
Eugene Broderick is an engaging speaker and brings an enthusiasm and insightful communication style to his talks. The wonderful memoir from Browne, Against The Tide, was the platform from the talk and Broderick referenced it a lot as well as other primary research he had conducted.

It was noted that Browne's birthplace of Bath St, Waterford was mentioned en passant in the book but nevertheless a monument  is now at the spot. Browne detailed the abject poverty he grew up with following the death of his father and saw immediate family members die from the curse of the time, tubercelosis. 

Browne was fortunate to receive financial support that led to his qualification as a medical doctor. He entered politics as a member of Clann Na Poblachta the coalition government and became Minister for Health. He championed the Mother and  Child Bill that was aimed at delivering healthcare to young children and maternity care to mothers.
Image result for noel browne bath street waterford
Local Monument
Broderick unravelled the various forces that were active at the time. The conventional wisdom is that the catholic church was the cause of the bill's failure and Browne's departure as a minster. He illustrated that whilst the church was indeed against  the bill the medical profession played an equally hostile role albeit without putting this opposition on paper and then there was old fashioned political manoeuvres.

An excellent lecture and the  audience went away much informed on the topic. Watch out for more lectures here

Monday, March 11, 2019

A Soldier's Tale: OrtĂşs Festival

I interviewed a young  Irish violinist. Patrick Rafter from Kilkenny ahead of his return to Ireland for engagements at the OrtĂşs Festival. The feature appeared in the Irish Examiner. https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/lifestyle/culture/the-cat-and-the-fiddle-gifted-irish-violinist-to-join-vengerov-in-national-concert-hall-905948.html



I traveled to Cork for the final recital in the weekend festival programmed by Sinead O Halloran and MairĂ©ad Hickey. Despite being a rain sodden afternoon, there was a good crowd in the Curtis Auditorium on Union Quay for an interesting programme of work not often heard. I enjoyed L'Histoire du Soldat Suite by Stravinsky. Francis Humphrey's programme notes were full of detail about the work and the background of Stravinsky's travails during WW. The original plan for a seven piece band plus actors was slimmed down to a trio as musicians were laid low with the flu epidemic. The work charts the  story of a soldier returning from the wars with a battered old violin in his knapsack and his encounters with the devil and a princess in 5 episodes. Joining Rafter were Michael McHale and Jessie Grimes on clarinet.  We heard a lovely lyrical serenade by Hans Gal for clarinet, cello and violin. Brahms Trio for Clarinet, Piano and Cello completed the programme. It was good to meet my former violin teacher, Adrian Petcu who acts as artistic advisor to the young festival. With 4 annual weekends under their belts, the festival seems to be establishing itself nicely
in the calendar. Wishing them best wishes in the next endeavours.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A Plethora of Guitars

I heard some amazing guitarists this weekend, all quite different in their styles but all very entertaining.  A reminder of three great gigs.

Claude Bourbon: On Friday, I enjoyed hearing Claude Bourbon played at the Coastguard Station in Tramore, I believe Bourbon is Swiss and based in the North of England.  Here is a number from his set. Given that the venue is quite small with a chamber sized audience in on the night, I wondered if we might have more music making here that dispensed with amplifiers.





Baroque Uke
Tonos at St Patrick's Gateway

















Eamon Sweeney: On Saturday, Baroque guitarist Eamon Sweeney was at St. Patrick's Gateway with his duet partner, soprano RĂłisĂ­n O'Grady.  Together, they form Tonos, a duo specializing in the music of 16th -18th centuries  During the set, Sweeney played an assortment of period instruments ukulele, a 5 string guitar  before switching to a lute for a gorgeous set of Irish traditional repertoire and lute songs by John Dowland. Interesting asides delivered while tuning added to the enjoyment of the evening. The event was a fundraiser and there was a big turnout in support of local Green party candidates, Marc O Cathasaigh and Grace O Sullivan.

Albert Niland: Something about Claude Bourbon's fusion of styles reminded me of a Galway guitarist,  who I had heard on a couple of occasions in the West of Ireland. It so happened that  when I looked up the gig listings, Albert Niland was playing in Coughlan's Bar in Cork on Sunday. The backroom venue was full with an audience of  fans and it was a genial relaxed sort of gig with a set list of old favourites and infused with Latin influences and  reminiscences. I picked up a copy of Niland's memoir, Busker on the Verge and I look forward to reading it.

 John Palmer Music Man 

Guitars are John Palmer's biggest seller he told me when I interviewed him for a piece in a series of articles on independent stores in the Irish Examiner. Like so many musicians in Waterford, I've being very glad of the excellent service the shop offers and how dreary would the retail landscape in Waterford without it. Read the piece here https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/lifestyle/culture/the-key-to-the-success-of-30-year-waterford-music-shop-908375.html

Monday, February 25, 2019

Ballet Bliss





Live ballet is a bit of a novelty for me and the opportunity to see a Russian Ballet troupe perform one of the classics of the repertoire close to home was irresistible. I knew I'd like it but I loved it. Such style, grace and elegance and a profusion of colourful costumes and backdrops. It was two hours of sheer enchantment. Ballet in some ways makes less demands on your concentration than other theatre forms, with no text, surtitles or lyrics to focus on.

It did add to the pleasure to see a full house in the Theatre Royal, the second of the day as the matinee had sold out. It was not the usual niche audience that you might see at classical music or a play but very much a main stream audience of young and old, male and female. It was remarkable value for €30. While it would have been wonderful to have live musicians, the sound track was quite good   quality and the solo instruments sounded faithful to a live sound.

When the troupe emerged to board their bus to take them on to their next stop, they were transformed from the shimmering  stage creatures to what might have passed for a senior school tour group in track suits and puffa jackets. Such is the magic of theatre.

 Catch it if you can on tour this week. It finishes in  Cork on Sunday.

https://www.kctouring.com/swan-lake-ireland-febmar-2019

I enjoyed Ellie O Byrne's feature on Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake which comes tp Dublin BGET later this week. Read it here https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/lifestyle/culture/changing-their-feathers-male-lead-swan-lake-went-from-controversial-to-iconic-905945.html

Related image Jessica Duchen's  music journalism is always interesting and I enjoyed her Swan-Lake themed yarn, Odette as my holiday reading last week. Like the author, the main character is a freelance journalist and I particularly enjoyed Mitzi Fairweather's asides on the travails of a freelance journalist.

https://books.google.ie/books/about/Odette.html?id=GWJ7DwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Out to Lunch at Belfast

I made my first festival  excursion last week to catch a couple of events at the Out to Lunch Festival. I haven't been to Belfast very often and it is so accessible now with good road and public transport routes. We made the journey by car by passing Dublin on the M50 and the journey time was 3 and 1/2 hours with a coffee stop. I hope it won't be too long before I visit again and next time, I would consider going by bus or train. There are several venues that I haven't visited yet and there is  always plenty of events  happening on the lively arts scene. I'd love to see something in the Grand Opera House and the Waterfront Hall.
If You Can Find Me: A celebration of Stephen Sondheim
The Black Box is pretty much as you'd expect. It is a large functional space with a bar on the side and a small stage.. It has a relaxed clubby atmosphere. It was full for a lunchtime Sondheim selection. There was a light lunch thrown in for the modest entry fee of £8. The dozen songs drawn from diverse shows were loosely wrapped in a obscure  narrative and showcased singers, Margaret Bridge, Elaine McDaid and Rebecca Murphy from the NI Opera Studio programme . There was some adaptation of lyrics to inject some local humour. It was good to hear Wicklow tenor Ross Scanlon in fine form .  Keith McAlister accompanied on piano.




Tenx9
I was back later for tenx9, a regular monthly storytelling session. The format is in the title. Nine people have ten minutes to tell a true story and there is a theme. The event was free and coordinated by Padraig O Tuama and Paul  Doran. There was queue at the venue of an inter-generational audience. The theme on the night was 'Pets' and  even if some of the tales about endearing moggies weren't that gripping, the format meant no item was too long. More about the event here http://www.tenx9.com/
You can listen to a podcast of the evening here. http://www.tenx9.com/podcast/

We finished the evening in a salubrious velvet clad booth at Bert's Jazz Bar in the Merchant Hotel where the mood was mellow for a midweek guitar, piano and drums trio.

Monday, January 14, 2019

New Year Round Up

Play within a play 
January is almost half way through and the short days lend themselves to hibernating and sitting in by the fire. Nevertheless, although the gadding about is somewhat restrained for time being, there are some events that I want to keep in mind so here is a round up of the first fortnight.

Met Live in cinema; Adriana Lecouvreur Cilea. I had missed the first half of the season of live cinema screenings. It isn't the same as being there. Of course not. It is in some ways much better. Imagine arriving in the stalls at Covent Garden with your bumper pack of popcorn and as for having a little snooze- well I imagine that might  be frowned on. Anyway, I loved the Met Live production of Adriana Lecouvreur. I didn't close my eyes once. The NY Times review here.  .https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/01/arts/music/review-adriana-lecouvreur-metropolitan-opera.html I agree with the NYT that terrific as the main leads were, Ambrogio Maestri as Michonnet stole the show.

Hurrah for High Street Music Shops
There is much doom and gloom about the state of the retail sector in the air these days. I like browsing in music shops and it is encouraging to see  independnt music shops keep their foothold in the high street between mobile phones and the rag trade. I can't imagine going to Cork and not putting my head into Eileen Madden's emporium at Pro Music in Oliver Plunkett St. Ben O'Neill has been in business in Dungarvan for even longer, I think five decades. Michael John Ryan continues the family tradition in Tipp town. I spent a pleasant hour in John Palmer's music shop talking to him about his 30 years of great service to Waterford musicians at his shop in Gladstone Street for a upcoming article. If you have an anecdote to share about your favourite music shop do contact me.

 Radio Highlights:
Sleepless nights speed by with the aid of  ear phones and the BBC radio app.  I haven't yet got the podcast habit. It is so easy to browse the schedule to find something good. I never listen to Radio 4 Extra during the day but at night it is a perfect companion. Here were my favourites so far this year.


Great Lives Ken Dodd on Stan Laurel. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01mdf0d

The Moth Hour Hope and Glory https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0001pzy amazing first hand stories stories of army life from theatres around America



https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0001sth In Poetry Extra, poet Daljit Nagra introduces poets talking about their work. You might still catch Thomas Lynch but my pick is British poet John Hegley talking about the Finnish epic poem Karavela.


My first published piece of the year is a round-up  of upcoming arts events. It  appeared in today's edition of the Irish Examiner https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/lifestyle/artsfilmtv/a-selection-of-upcoming-classical-and-opera-events-that-you-wont-want-to-miss-897245.html 

Monday, October 8, 2018

13 Years of New Ross Piano Festival

Joe O Grady takes a bow

The piano arrives at NRPF
On Sunday last,  New Ross Piano Festival wrapped up their 13th festival in the small town on the Barrow with an afternoon concert  with an interesting and diverse programme.  The festival ticks a lot of boxes. I had been at the launch back in September where Collins had introduced a 12 year old Joe O Grady   Yet again, Finghin Collins gathered an impressive roster of top drawer international talent, some of whom haven't been heard in Ireland before. Also featured were up and coming Irish  pianists. I heard excellent reports about the jazz day events and it is good to see jazz becoming established as part of the festivities. John Buckley was the featured composer  About 200 people had gathered  for the last event in St Mary's Church. The Romanian British pianist Alexandra Dariescu projected a sunny personality and seemed genuinely delighted to be in New Ross . Dressed in a mauve and green maxi dress picking up a reference in the programme note about the colours associated with the modes used in the Preludes by Messiaen. She included attractive works by a little known French woman Germaine Tailleferre whose "progressive musical ideas during the 1920's earned her a measure of notoriety throughout the Parisian musical establishment in the 1920's" the comprehensive programme note informed  us. I was interested to note that one of her first husband's ex-wives  had married the playwright Eugene O Neill who coincidentally also has strong links with New Ross.

My favourite work of the afternoon was the Schubert Piano Trio in B flat. Here Finghin Collins was joined by Bulgarian violinist Svetlin Roussev and cellist, Marc Coppey. Have a listen to the beautiful Andante in the video attached. The Andante is about 12 minutes in. The American pianist Anne Marie McDermott  was demonstrated a fierce virtuosity in a sonata by Prokofiev. On paper, New Ross would not appear to be endowed with any great advantages. They have a nice venue with a good acoustic and they hire a piano for the weekend. I think the committee under Connie Tantrum do a fantastic job in producing 5 days of fantastic daytime and evening events that can compare with the best in the world. Bravo tutti!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8IGhm9yR9OM