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

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Turning Japanesy: Lafcadio Hearn Gardens Open in Tramore

 'verily, even plants, and trees, rocks and stones, all shall enter into Nirvana'

Russell Library Maynooth

A couple of years ago, I visited the Russell Library in Maynooth. Among the Gothic arches and ancient tomes, there was an exhibition devoted to the unusual life of  Patrick Lafcadio Hearn. A penchant for  Japanese culture was very much in the zetgeist of the Victorian era.   Gilbert and Sullivan's  The Mikado, was and remains the most popular of the G&S oeuvre. In 1890, Lafcadio Hearn travelled to Japan for a journalistic assignment and became enamoured of all things Japanese. He stayed on in his adopted country, married a local and rose to become a professor in Tokyo University and was considered to be the West's great interpreter of Japan.

Lafcadio had family connections in Waterford and often came to Tramore for his childhood  holidays. He is quoted as saying that his happiest hours  were spent at the seaside town . Standing in the gardens dedicated to his memory, with the sun shining, white horses racing to the shore and the 'wind making the trees speak to each other', it was easy to believe it.

You can read more about the venture and the occasion of the official opening last week in a Munster Express article here .  The gardens, Agnes Aylward of Tramore Development Trust told us  'were created in a Japanese spirit' and in keeping with that  procedings were conducted with due  deference and decorum.
I specially enjoyed hearing poet, Thomas McCarthy read Sean Dunne's poem inspied by Hearn. You can listen to it in the audioboo below. The gentle strains of pizzicato guitar were in the air and Joey Whelan looked as though he was in his natural habitat nestled between the standing stones in the American Garden.. We heard Moore's melodies sung in Japanese by guest singer, Yuki.

The gardens are lovely with splendid views across, Tramore Bay . This season, visiting times are restricted to allow work to continue  but the gardens are open every Thurday 1to Sunday

More information on the Lafcadio Hearn Gardens here 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Mick Hanly Waterford Folk and Roots Club

   2nd part set list
My Love is in America
Le Weekend
This is Me
I Think I'll Get By 
Lord Franklin
Lady Avonlee
One More from the Daddy

Garry Walsh

 There was a  kind of hush in the Cove Bar last night as punters packed the upstairs room  for an evening at the newly launched Waterford Folk and Roots Club  Youthful  impressario, Garry Walsh presented singer songwriter Mick Hanly to open the guest roster. It drew an audience who listened with quiet intensity to catch all the twists and turns in thoughtful musical tales  and anecdotes delivered in Hanly's beguiling  sotto voce with elegant guitar accompaniment.  You could hear - well if not the  proverbial pin drop, the odd wrapper crackle. These were proper vinyl record carrying fans and quite a few copies of  Hanly's memoir 'Wish Me Well' went home . He describes it as anextended sleeve not to his lates album.  The life of Irish travelling troubadours isn't often chronicled and I am looking forward to reading it.
Garry mentioned some exciting names on the folk scene for future events. So keep an eye out for

Friday, June 19, 2015

Peggy Seeger and Sons at the Capstone, Liverpool

Belated birthday greetings to Peggy Seeger, who celebrated her 80th birthday yesterday (17th June). Seeger's solo gig in Sixmilebridge, Co Clare was top pick of 2011 gigs.  To celebrate, the folk queen has taken to the road with her  two sons and I caught the trio at the Capstone Theatre , Liverpool with my son in a terrfic evening of wit wisdom and great songs

Old songs, new songs-Songs and poems about love and loss, political songs, lullabies, comic songs- There was such a breadth of moods and styles in the set , all punctauted by whimsical snippets   from Peggy's folder of clippings. There was the odd singalong chorus, Pete Seeger style.  Whatever she sang, Seeger sparkled and that wasn't down just to her  irridescent eye make up.

The two lads added blokey self deprecating banter that never felt forced or contrived and sophisticated arrangements on a array of instruments including one I have never seen or heard before. Neill MacColl used two short bows to play a psaltery, a small harp like instrument. We had a tune from Playford's dance collection. The humble melodica appeared briefly in Calum's arsenal.

Most of the new songs are on Seeger's excellent new album, Everything Changes. We loved the wit and humour of Peter Berryman's Do You Be;ieve in Me .  Seeger's own songs When Fairy Stories End and Everything Changes offered more contemplative musical comment on life.

Seeger has had a lot of ill health recently and it was great to see her in such exuberant form. There  wa s sense of an artist savouring every moment.  Bravo Peggy Seeger.  You're a 'helluv an angel'.   We were so lucky to be there.

Seven dates left on the tour Details here

Seeger family   Guardian pic

Album Review  Everything Changes Guardian 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

ReJoyce: Bloomsday Meanders Dublin 2015

  'Stephen's boots crush crackling wrack and razor shells, squeaking pebbles, wood sieved log by the sandworm, lost Armada. Open your eyes, a stride at a atime. Am I walking into eternity along Sandymount Strand? 

Early Morning:  A profusion of  suitably straw hatted ladies and bow tied gentlemen gathered in the morning at the Iris Charles Centre, Sandymount to feast on devilled kidneys and bucks fizz. Despite the eary hour,  the annual Bloomsday Breakfast  had an element of an Edwardian parlour soirée. Under the stewardship of  Rodney Devitt,  scholar and entertainer, our Joycean repast was accompanied by readings and  musical turns.  How lovely to hear a sung version of the Coolin and we enjoyed readings and poems from Eleanor, Pyllis and Glynis, I enjoyed a musical setting of Joyce's poem , Chamber Music. I was delighted to contribute a couple of airs on violin  Amply fortified, we sallied forth to visit locations  from Hades, Proteus and Nausicaa, the three episodes of Ulysses set in Sandymount accompanied  by Rodney Devitt's  insights and  reading of related passages. You can hear Rodney read a snatch of Ulysses in the audioboo below.
Lady Mayors of Ringsend and Sandymount Colide 

Bloomsday Breakfast

Joyce stayed here on 'Ulysses' night
Bloomsday Group Rodney Devitt Paddy Dignam's House Audioboo from Bloomsday Breakfast

Mid Morning

Bloomsday Gathering Sandymount Green
David Norris reads Nausicaa
Mid Morning:  The sun came out as toddlers, tennis players, and Joycean enthusiasts converged on the  green triangle of Sandymount  Green.  The Great White Shark of Joycean scholars, David Norris gave a coulourful reading from the Nausicaa episode of Ulysses . Charles Lysaght read passages associated with cricket while Anthony Jordan picked up a political thrread. James Conway and Mary Guckian from the R&R Writers' Group  read from their own anthologies inspired by Joyce.  A bowler hatted Paddy O Dwyer brought us back to Hades MC, Joe McCarthy of the Sandymount Tidy Towns Committee looked splendidly Joycean in roundy specs and appropriate moustache. Mezzo soprano Bríd Ní Ghruagáin had the assembly in raptures at her rendition of Balfe and Moore (Believe Me if All Those and Marble Halls) Looking every inch the grand Edwardian dame in  black velvet and cream, thespian Glynis Casson added words and song from The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. The event concluded with a genteel singalong of 'Finnegan's Wake'
Mushrooms and devilled kidneys
 James Joe McCarthy

Evening: It was returns only at the NCH for Nora Barnacle, a brand new song cycle by Shaun Davey. Similar to Granuaile in that it that it features a song set for a solo soprano, but  simpler in style and featuring a pared down ensemble of piano, clarinet, concertian/accordion, extended percussion and guitar.  Nora's story is told in Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill's terse repetitive text as a series of postcards home (18 in total) from the various staging posts. A brief biographical  programme note was projected at the start of each song.  It is not often you hear a clarinet and concertina together,  and the two reeds made an appealing blend. After a sustained applause and a standing ovation, the ensemble reprised, Nora in Paris. The limitations of just one voice stretched the relatively plain material a bit too thin to sustain my interest over a whole evening.

Bloomsday was fun. Sandymount was the place to be.  Root out your copy of Ulysses and make a date for next year. If  you can't catch one of Rodney Devitt's  Joycean walks, you can pick up his guide book, Walking into Eternity at Books and Things on Sandymount Green.
Watch out for the gorgeous voice of  Bríd Ni Ghruagáin.  She will be appearing in  Lerner and Loewe's Brigadoon at the NCH on Saturday June 20th. 3pm and 8pm

Ulysses Quartet on Newbridge Ave

Rodney Devitt
The mood  of Bloomsday frivolity was caught nicely I thought by Marty Whelan's regular  correspondant, Hugo Listen to the extract from Marty in the Morning on LyricFM  here!type=radio&rii=16%3A20798267%3A5345%3A17%2D06%2D2015%3A

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Indiana Choristors in Ireland:

Gentlemen of two choruses: Dordán and Evansville Phil. 
Just a quick line to tell you that the Evansville Philharmonic Chorus are on a short Irish tour. I heard them in Waterford on Monday night and they were terrific. Attached to the Evanville Phiharmonic Orchestra in Indiana, a 50 strong group presented a set of acappella numbers under director Andrea Drury.  I particuarly liked their barbershop version of Vive La Compagnie and Hold Me Rock Me by Canadian composer, Brian Tate was a great choral showpiece.  Their last date is TONIGHT Wednesday in St Mary's Blessington when they are joined by another American choir, the Lincoln Boys Chorus all way from Nebraska. . Details

The local male chorus did us proud. Dordán's Salve Regina was a highlight and I enjoyed the combined gentlemens' chorus  rendition of Regina Coeli.  Just one quibble. Both professional operatic voices , Vanessa Whelan and Dominic McGorian were amplified. It detracted rather than added to their impressive performances.

Well done to the Solas team for getting the house in. Great to see full rows at the Good Shepherd Chapel. Certainly those road signs were eye catching, a daily reminder of the event on my route.

Monday, June 8, 2015

I Was Glad: Cathedral Choirs Converge at St Canice's

Combined Choirs:I Was Glad ; Parry
Limerck: Teach Me Lord   Settings by Attwood, Byrd and John Hilton the Younger 
Kilkenny:O Vos Omnes Gesualdo
               Unser lieben Frauen Traum Reger
               O Thou the central orb: Charles Wood
Waterford: Massof St Patrick: Eric Sweeney
Combined Choirs  Schubert Missa in G major 

Organists Malcolm Proud and Cecilia Kehoe

While the Deise Hurlers  were thrashing Cork at Semple Stadium, Waterford fielded another team in a less combative but no less arduous inter-county endeavour. On this occasion, all teams lined out in  red as Christchurch Cathedral Choir joined choirs of St Mary's, Limerick and the home team of St Canice's Cathedral for an afternoon of  sacred music from the Anglican Choral Tradition.

The celebratory mood was set from the start with Parry's coronation anthem, which Kate Middleton walked up the aisle to in 2011. Limerick offered  three settings of psalm 119. Teach Me Lord. Kilkenny. St Canice's with the largest group approaching 30 voices produced the fullest sound, equally at  ease in the complexity of Gesualdo's 5 part motet as Reger's chorale like Marian hymn.

Christchurch, Waterford added a contemporary edge with a Fauréesque flourish. Composer Eric Sweeney directed the choir in his own work. The Mass of St Patrick was commissioned by St Patrick's Cathedral  and premiered in Dublin as recently as 2007. It  was conducted on that occasion by Peter Barley who was at the helm of the Limerick contingent yesterday.

The concert closed with a performance by the combined choirs of a teenage Schubert Mass. The work featured some impressive emerging talent. A voluntary membership of adults is supplemented at St Canice's by Choral Scholars of school and college music students introduced as part of the revival of the choir in recent years under director David Forde.  (Names are noted below. Watch out for them. They are good.)  You can hear a brief interview with David below and a snatch of a Schubertian Sanctus.

Any endeavour is always enhanced by the addition of cake. I am happy to report that the audience enjoyed a superior array of home baked goodies following the performance.

St Canice Choral Scholars:  Aliyah Knox Khan, Sophie Knox Khan,   Hannah Traynor, Ciaran Fennelly, John Kennedy
                                             Aoife McKiernan

The programme will be repeated in Waterford and Limerick. I will post dates when I have them to hand.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Tandeln and Scherzen with Ivan Ilić at NCH

Vieneese Rivals and Friends 

Rondo in C: Beethoven 
 6 Fugues: Reicha
Tandeln und Scherzen: Beethoven 
Nocturnes opus 9/62:Chopin

Paris based pianist  Ivan Ilić as been a regular visitor to Ireland performing frequently at venues around the country. He opened the Crawford lunchtime series last month and returns to Cork tonight to play in Kilworth at the North Cork Classical Music Festival. I finally heard him live for the first time yesterday at a  lunchtime recital  the John Field Room.

This was extremely satisfying lunchtime fare of rare treats.  The programme was nicely balanced, a set of lighthearted variations and a rondo  set against the cool rigour of half a dozen of Reicha's fugues  'softened'with a pair of Chopin nocturnes.  Tandeln translates as 'dilly dallying', an unlikely verb to juxtapose with  Beethoven. The playing was clean and  graceful -free of any histrionics or unnecessary barvura effects. Ilić drew the threads of the programme together in clearly enunciated, insightful spoken  introductions painting a picture of a cheerful youthful Beethoven in  pleasant contrast to the more familiar  dour image.   Reicha and Beethoven we learned  were friends who met as teenagers in an ensemble conducted by Reicha's father.  Later, both were students of maths and philosophy and rivals in composition

Many artists choose to let the music speak for itself. It adds a depth  when the artist personally sets the context and Ilic had an  engaging and relaxed podium presence.  Furthermore in bidding adieu, he invited the audience to linger and chat to him, a gracious postlude to the procedings. Catch him if you can.

Ivan Ilić  plays Kilworth Arts Cente Sat 6th June 
Castletownshend July 31st

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Irish Opera Singers in Munich


Click on the link above to Liz Nolan's wonderfully insightful interview with mezzo soprano Tara Erraught in the Sunday World of Song slot on RTE LyricFM .  As Nolan herself put it-'Erraught is a  highly perceptive commentator on her art and milieu'.

Ms Erraught is the guest soloist in an opera gala with RTE NSO on Friday at the NCH. The concert will be broadcast live. I travelled to hear her perform with the same orchestra recently in an oddly balanced programme. My review here 

Dean Power Jonas Kaufman

I experienced at first hand some of the inner workings of the Munich Opera House myself recently when I interviewed tenor Dean Power in January backstage. That piece appeared in the Irish Examiner in February  and you can read it here . I think it has been the most widely shared piece of the two dozen or so pieces filed.

Ms Erraught made light of the trials of travelleing and being away from home. I wondered about the generation of opera singers who made careers for themselves in Europe before there were daily flights to Irish airports . One such singer is John O Flynn, a bass from Cork returned from Munich to contribute much  to Irish musical life as director of the Irish Operatic Repertory Co. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

GUBU Rigoletto

Leaving Munich Opera House on a trip recently, I noted a row of seats at the top of the house with no view of the stage but with dinky seat lamps to allow reading of the libretto while listening. to a performance.  Curious, I thought.

I ran into the cast of Opera Theatre Company's  at a service station on Monday as they journeyed from Dublin to Donegal to present their latest  production of Verdi's Rigoletto. There has been much hand wringing over the lack of a major house in the capital. As a provincial theatre goer, I am much more concerned that we continue to have good touring productions and OTC do a fantastic job of bringing top class singers and musicians  regularly to a theatre near you at reasonable ticket prices. Tonight they are in Kilkenny  at the Watergate Theatre and your last chance to catch them is at the Lime Tree  in Limerick. With at three locals in the cast, Kevin Neville, David Howes and Owen Gilhooly -there should be a rousing reception to close  proceedings at the  Shannonside, Duke's Court.

My review of the production appeared  in Saturday's Irish Examiner

With a tight word count, there wasn't room for everything and I want to note also the excellent performances of Kate Allen and John Molloy. Both are deliciously dark in character and timbre as the ‘hitman’ Sparafucile and ‘masseuse’, Maddalena. The male chorus of 'scumbags, scangers, spastics and of course eejits' , bearing all manner of gangland weapons are very impressive.

In musical terms this was a superb performance in so many respects. but the production appalled  me. Transformations of the aristocratic milieu of 16th century Mantua to visions of sleazy 20th century underworlds is mainstream stuff in major houses . Jonathan Miller’s enormously popular Mafioso staging for ENO is 30 years old.  Here is the quartet from that production. Sleazy but quite stylish and  retaining a degree of charm, I think.

Picking up the resonance of newspaper reports around an infamous double murder in the 1980's, The current OTC production  appeared to me to be a GUBU Rigoletto.  The plot also  features a double murder, Monterone and Gilda both are dispatched (spoiler alert) Set in a grotesque  'boxing club' set of with prominent portaloo, cage  and other club accoutrements . Singers are never allowed to simply stand still to deliver their arias but are kept busy with bizarre tasks such as rearranging oversized bunnies or simulating sexual activity. Gilda's Cara Nome is performed while zipping the Duke into a large bright yellow onesie.

All this  'provocative' theatrical busyness  does rather drain the energy from the piece. Is the general audience best served by a radical charmless production, I wonder? In her preview interview with me for the Irish  Examiner , Emma Nash spoke about being introduced to the genre by her father at a live performance at Cork Opera House. It seems a shame  that this was not a production you would want a young newbie to see or indeed that I myself would want to revisit. For many who don't travel to see opera , this might be the only production we may have a chance to see in years.  Do we really need a fresh innovative  approach.?

    Suddenly, an option on those 'libretto seats' seem like a rather  good idea.

Rigoletto Promo (Opera Theatre Company) from Opera Theatre Company on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Chamber Music at Termonfeckin:

I spent the weekend at An Grianánm, the ICA HQ  in Termonfeckin where the Dublin Chamber Music Group were holding one of their twice yearly chamber music courses. It is always reassuring to return after a gap of many years to find a place and event unchanged and just as good as you remember it. Here is an extract from  Kevin Myers' Irishman's diary  on  the event  in 1998. 

'Twice a year, the DCMG and friends go on sabbatical weekends to An Grianan in Termonfeckin, and the venue alone would justify the journey. Termonfeckin is one of the most beautiful little villages in all of Leinster, and it is one of the oldest too - it has a richly decorated high cross from the ninth century and it was the home of the great James Ussher, the prelate of Meath and later Armagh, whose modest little library once included the Book of Kells and who was once world-famous for his calculations that that the world began at 4004 BC (though even he never had the temerity to declare the date on which God invented chamber music).
Ham salad
The DCMG weekend breaks consist of musical sessions over the two days under the watchful eyes and attentive ears of tutors Constantin Zanidache, Helmut Seeber and Adele O'Dwyer, concluding with a quite lovely afternoon concert in which everyone who wants pitches in. It is very informal, but still serious: it is music played as music should be, out of love. That is followed by an old-fashioned and now sadly unfashionable Sunday evening meal from one's childhood: ham salad, with thinly sliced buttered bread, fruitcake and scalding tea out of great big pots. The tea alone is enough to make you take up the viola and conquer the Everest that is Gluck, or at least, bring back Dev - the kind of tea once served to visitors by convents; it is shiveringly delicious.   Kevin Myers : An Irishman's Diary 1998

Hear hear to all that. The  tutors on this occasion were the complete ConTempo string quartet who were between OTC Rigoletto engagements. On Saturday night, there was an open rehearsal and we heard a performance of Haydn String Quartet, Opus 76, no 2  and Beethoven.   My group for our Sunday afternoon concert performance of Mozart's Kegelstatt Trio consisted of Karen Ni Bhroin and Ronán Conroy. You can hear my interview with Karen here. We were tutored by Andrea Balencu,. You can hear Ronán read his poem, A Muse is a Terrible Thing   inspired  by Andrea's wondertfully animated coaching  here. 

A performance of the work here with Maxim Rysanal viola Martin Frost Clarinet.

The next weekend is the October Bank Holiday. All musicians are welcome. As My Myers said 'they are enormously enjoyable, civilised and enjoyable. 

 Cost of participation, accommodation and meals is €250: enquiries to Brian McBryan at 01-288 3627.