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

Friday, May 20, 2016

Movie Magic with the ICO

Bernard Hermann   Psycho Suite 
Luis Bacalov           Il Postino 
Jean Claude Petit    Theme from Jean de Florette
John Williams         Theme from Schindler's List
Johnny Greenwood  Suite from There Will be Blood
Nino Rota                Love Them The Godfather
Ennio Morricone     Theme from Cinema Paradiso
Sherman                   I wanna be like you
Henry Mancini        The Lonely Princess and It Had Better Be Tonight
John Williams          Hedwig's Theme
Michel Legrand       Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Encore Carlos Gardel           Encore Por una Cabeza 

The Irish Chamber were at St John's Church Waterford last night with their Magic of the Movies tour as guests of Symphony Club of Waterford. They were joined by accordionist Dermot Dunne who was reunited with his Far Flung Trio accomplices, Katherine Hunka and Malachy Robinson . This was music to sit back and wallow in  and the ICO played the many dreamy wistful melodies with unabashed enthusiasm. Opening with  music from Psycho, it was remarkable that the  audience reacted with smiles and chuckles to Hermann's bleak jagged score designed to evoke shock and horror.The accordion and pianissimo don't often appear in the same sentence but Dunne drew this most  deliquescent of dynamics  from his instrument in the acoustic of the church space . Versatility was a keynote of the evening and players added variety with a bit of singing and strumming their violins, ukulele style. While you'd have to admire the can-do attitude of the players, the larky element of a Jungle Book number with Malachy Robinson on vocals had a cabaret feel to it and didn't quite suit the spartan, ecclesiastical atmosphere of the venue.

There was a good enough turnout of 200 or so. Conspicuous by their absence was any student element from either second or third level  courses.  A pity because this was repertoire that had universal appeal. Touring to Monkstown and Sligo this weekend.

The Irish Chamber Orchestra return to Waterford in the Autumn when they step into the breach left by the Irish Baroque Orchestra who have pulled out of their scheduled date. We are lucky to have them visit twice this season. I had a chat with CEO Gerry Keenan who tells me that the orchestra had a wonderful reception at their German concerts in Wurzberg and Cologne earlier this season

The next SCOW concert features the Irish Symphonic Wind Orchestra and the Irish Youth Wind Ensemble, Sunday 11th September 2016, with guest conductors Johan De Meij and Ronan O Reilly.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Irish and European Elements Delightfully Intertwined - Centenary Gala at Wigmore Hall

A version of this report has been shuttling around various editors' in boxes over the last ten days and has not yet appeared in a print slot. So better late than never, here is my report on a wonderfully entertaining and historic event in London last week. 

Gala Concert at Wigmore Hall: A 100 Years of Irish Culture in Britain  *****
Performers at the Wigmore Hall Gala Concert  photo Simon Jay Price 

HE Daniel Mulhall photo Simon Jay Price 
'Centenaries are useful signposts in the landscape of our collective memory'.  With this pithy observation, Irish Ambassador to Britain, Daniel Mulhall opened an eloquent address at the Wigmore Hall, London's prestigious chamber music venue . The evening was the centrepiece of a week of events at the Victorian hall celebrating a century of Irish culture in Britain.  Over half an hour, the ambassador roved over the cultural landscape of the last hundred years in the context of the political upheavals of the Rising and WW1,  referring to many writers, both modern and retrospective.  Musicians, Aloys Fleischmann Snr and Jnr with roots in Cork and Bavaria were referred to as typifying the intertwining of Irish and European culture. Sport wasn’t side lined with the GAA cited as Ireland's most important sporting body -' Its continued success is one of the legacies of the tempestuous decades prior to the attainment of independence in 1922.' You can read the full text of the ambassador's reflective address here 100 Years of Irish Culture Daniel; Mulhall at Wigmore Hall

The concert which followed was broadcast live on RTE LyricFM, BBC radio and streamed live online. The performers featured a quartet of Ireland's finest young singers with pride of place given to mezzo soprano, Anne Murray together with Finghin Collins, the RTE Contempo Quartet and ensembles from Dublin’s RIAM and London’s RAM. During the concert, Ambassador Mulhall  presented  Murray with a Wigmore Hall Medal in recognition of her long and distinguished international career. ‘She personifies everything that is great about this hall. We salute her commitment to the song recital as a concert going experience’ said John Gilhooly.

 The European classical tradition was exemplified by an all Schubert selection.  An impromptu played by Finghin Collins served as a starter before a selection of nine of Schubert's best loved lieder. Murray dressed in an emerald green gown began with An Die Music . Tenor, Robin Tritschler joined her for a lovely duet, Licht und Liebe. Gavan Ring took a night off barbering duties as Figaro in Dublin. His selection included a dramatic rendition of the Die Erlkonig.  Ailish Tynan added the familiar Ave Maria but in an unusual German version. With a name resonant with the Irish history, clarinettist, Michael Collins joined Tynan for one of the highlights of the first half, The Shepherd on the Rock. Tara Erraught also on a night off from Rossini closed out the first half with a cheerful Serenade augmented by a male quartet from the RAM. 

The second half opened with Gerald Barry’s String Quartet No 1, a work begun in 1985 and revised for the occasion. One felt it wasn't quite the Wigmore audience's cup of tea but it was lively and interesting and the tricky harmonic sections were well executed by the RTE Contempo Quartet.   We heard a  miniature by John Field, arguably Ireland's most famous 19th century cultural export.

John Gilhooly: Arts Manager Extraordinaire  Simon  Jay Price 
If the first half had the ambiance of a 19th century Schubertiade, the second was a hooley in the parlour.  Having displayed their prowess at highbrow repertoire, the ensemble let their hair down with a selection of favourite Irish songs/ Two poignant Francis Ledwidge settings struck a sombre note among the cheerful drawing room ballads. The Ships of Arcady and A Blackbird Singing were most expressively sung by Robin Tritschler, a former BBC Young Generation artist.  The hard working accompanist, Jonathan Ware did justice to Michael Head's intricate piano arrangements.
'What did you most enjoy' I asked a 
gentleman in the next seat sporting a green tie for the occasion. Gavan Ring's barn storming rendition of The Kerry Dances had reminded him of his aunt from Kerry. It was her party piece, he said.
After the formal proceeding, a jolly party continued in the Wigmore Hall Bar where the Guinness was flowing and the canapés were every bit as good as you'd expect. There were informal addresses
by the Ambassador and  Mary McCarthy of Culture Ireland. Anne Murray replied to thank all for the accolade and the warm wishes and in self deprecating fashion recalled her first appearance the hall during the first round of the Ferrier Competition.

Where the Céiluradh event at the Albert Hall in2014 missed the mark in the stated aim of celebrating Irish Culture in Britain, the Wigmore Hall Gala Concert succeeded elegantly. It was terrific occasion, a night of words and music to remember and to be proud of. Maith sibh go léir!


Missed it ? Available to watch free online

Related post: Ceiluiradh at Royal Albert Hall Some Musings
Gala Set List 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Spirit of Spike at Theatre Royal

I caught one of the early nights of a touring production from Big Telly Theatre Company in Waterford last night. A six piece all-male ensemble from the Northern Ireland company presented a highly entertaining,  energetic adaptation of Spike Milligan's comic novel, Puckoon. A zany cocktail  blending Spike Milligan's  goonish humour  with elements of  Flann O Brien and Dave Allen sketches. The actors proved a versatile bunch adding colourful musical accompaniment on a variety of instruments including drums, whistle, ukulele, concertina and harmonica supplementing  Paul Boyd's lynchpin piano/ stroke narrator. There were some lovely theatrical touches. I loved the paper maché boy scout troop. You can read more  about it here.

I had a chat with the performers in Jordan's Bar after the show. Two of the cast have been with the production since it's first outing in 2009. I asked MD , Paul Boyd if the show had changed very much over three iterations. Yes he said, they had adapted it somewhat depending on the audience response and the strengths of the players involved in each of the three productions but in essence it remains the show that proved it's popular appeal with a successful run at the Leicester Square theatre in London's West End.
Paddy Jenkins  recalled  his many trips to the Theatre Royal to perform at Waterford International Light Opera Festival. (What a shame amid the plethora of Waterford festivals, this event lost it's toehold.)

I thought Puckoon was terrific! If you missed it, you can catch it at about half a dozen more venues including a four night run at The Everyman, Cork at the end of May.

Cast  Paul Boyd writer / piano
         Paddy Jenkins Dan Milligan
         John O Mahoney
         Patrick O Reilly
         Keith Singleton
         Giles Stoakley
Director Zoe Seaton

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Brandon and Matthewman conclude 74th Waterford-Music season with a 'joyous feast' of song

Sarah-Jane Brandon Gary Matthewman at The Georgian Large Room, Waterford

Schubert Viola 

Brahms Zigeunerlieder
Strauss Lieder op 27
Debussy Beau Soir/ Mandoline / Apparition
Franz Liszt Oh Quand je dors/ Enfant, si j'étais roi/ Comment, disaient-ils
Rachmaninov:  Zdes' khorosho op21  no 7
                          In the silence of the secret night op 4 no 3
                          The Water Lily Op 8 no 1
                           Son (The Dream) Op 38 no 5
                           Do not sing to me my beauty ) Op 4 no 4
Art is Calling me (I want to be a prima dona) from The Enchantress   Victor Herbert
O Mio Babbino Caro  Giannio Schicchi Puccini

Hey, Gypsy, strike upon your strings
Play the song of the faithless young girl
Let the strings weep complain, sadly quiver,
Until the hot tears flow down this cheek.

 Last night, I confess, 'hot tears flew down this cheek' as the 74th consecutive series of chamber music recitals under the aegis of Waterford-Music went out on a blaze of glorious song from two superb  artists. Pianist, Gary Matthewman is  no stranger to The Large Room. The Yorkshire man  made a big impression on Waterford audiences last year when he accompanied Máire Flavin at this event last year. Nobody gets a pianissimo out of the house Steinway C quite like Matthewman. The song pianist was  back in The Georgian Large Room last night with soprano, Sarah-Jane Brandon and the unanaimous consensus was that this was a fabulous night of song that will long be remembered.   If you missed it, too bad but you can  get a flavour of one of the numbers in this song of yearning, 'Quand je dors' by Franz Liszt .

Sarah-Jane Brandon sings Liszt from TallWall Media on Vimeo.

Throughout, Brandon demonstated the consummate skill and artistry that has garnered her prizes in the most prestigious song competitions She has a  gorgeous tone, the colour of which changed like a theatrical light board according to  range of emotions expressed in the lyrics  in German, French and Russian, all performed .from memory. A truly great voice allied to a gracious stage presence with animated facial expression all combined to make Brandon a compelling performer. Moreover, the pair exuded a joyful generosity of spirit and the audience responded warmly eliciting two encores before they were released.

Had I travelled to hear this superb song team  in a temple of music in London or Berlin, I would have considered it worth the trip. How blessed  are we to hear artists of this calibre
 on our doorsteps in the gem of a venue that is the Georgian Large Room.  A fabulous finale to another great season.

The recital was sponsored by the extended Downey family  in memory of Elizabeth Downey, a remarkable a lady who was singer , performer and concert promoter.  More about Elizabeth Downey here .

Related Posts Remembering Elizabeth 

                        Gary Matthewman: Lied in London Series

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Johnny I Hardly Ye: Jim Nolan Premiere at Garter Lane

Garrett Keogh Michael Hayes  Irish Times photo

It is a feast or a famine and this week, not one but two new professional theatre productions opened in Waterford venues. My review of a Eugene O Neill revival at the Theatre Royal is posted here. At Garter Lane, there was that rarest of theatrical events - a world premiere of a brand new play. Better still, one with a living playwright in the house, a real set, a convincing cast of characters on stage and off  and a plot with plausible contemporary moral dilemmas.

Jim Nolan's new play was eagerly anticipated and the consensus among opening night punters was that it lived up to high expectations. Set in a provincial newspaper office with a raggedy band of hard pressed hacks in the throes of being  taken over by a hard nosed media consortium, it weaves in a reference to WW1 and  a dubious 1916 commemoration thread. The title I understand comes  from a thread where a report on a damaged war veteran is sanitised  to present a  shinier happier version of history. As ever, Nolan's  dialogue is fast paced, witty and rings true- a feature confirmed by several of the local pressmen present from the News &Star and Munster Express.  Many of the other Jim Nolan hallmarks are present; the redemptive power of amateur choral singing, the Sylvie style declamatory monologue towards the end, a cast of recurring offstage characters.

Although serious issues were at the core, there was much humour in the day to day work-room banter and the first night audience laughed heartily throughout. There was a strong performances across the ensemble. Michael Hayes is familiar from the TV adverts for a certain phone company, (yes the one with the Sue the pig in it). His  culchie mammy's boy, Lenny Harris could have been downright corny but it wasn't. Lenny won us over and we laughed with rather than at him. Tall and imposing, Ciaran McMahon was arrogance personified. Jenni Ledwell was a matronly pragmatist and the veteran Abbey actor, Garrett Keogh the flawed hero/ deputy editor making a final principled stand . Ema Lemon made her professional debut in the role of  eager junior reporter, Lisa Reilly.

There was a air of civic pride in the local provenance of the event. Critics from the Irish Times and Independent attended along with  journalists from the local press. Best dressed man was Liam Murphy,  looking dapper in navy blue pin stripe. 'Yes indeed-the occasion of a new Jim Nolan play deserves no less', the arts critic of the Munster Express quipped. Waterford Blackwater No 5 Gin served at the interval was a treat. A standing ovation rolled into a tribute to the late Richard 'Tich' Meagher. After the show , thespians, crew and patrons repaired to recently reopened Tully's Bar (formerly McLoughlins)  across the road to mull over the evening.  It was like old times.


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Jim Nolan : Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye from on Vimeo.

A Moon for the Misbegotten Irish Premiere at Theatre Royal


 James O Neill sailed to America from the South East of Ireland in 1850 where he had a successful career as an actor. So it was fitting that the first professional production of a work by his famous son, Eugene should have an Irish premiere in Waterford. Luminaries from the Irish theatre scene and local arts and business community turned out to fill the house for the opening night of A Moon for the Misbegotten directed by Ben Barnes at the Theatre Royal last night.

James O Neill
 It is a play of two halves each focussing on a relationship between a trio of central characters. In the first act we meet Phil Hogan, Irish American tenant farmer a father figure from the Big Maggie stable of frightful parents. Having dispatched the last of his sons, Mike (an excellent cameo from Cilian Jacob in his first professional role), we have an extended dialogue exploring the relationship between the garrulous Phil and feisty daughter, Josie.  Mark Lambert and Kate Forbes are excellent in portraying the nuances of their roles. 

Donald Sage Mackay
Phil it appears is anxious that his farm will be sold to his wealthy next door neighbour. There is a humorous cameo from Michael Quinlan in the role of Harder who pops in to complain about Phil's pigs in his pond. The only solution it seems is to trick his genial alcoholic landlord, Jim Tyrone into a shotgun wedding with Josie. The meat in the final act is an extended late night dialogue between Jim played by American actor, Donald Sage Mackay and Josie, two ‘misbegotten’ souls whose bluster and bravado is exposed under the moonlight as camouflage for the  feelings of guilt and desolation both harbour. Mackay, a familiar face from many TV and film appearances is an imposing stage presence convincing in conveying good humoured nonchalance in early scenes and torment in Act 3

 The production is visually very pleasing. Joe Vanek's tall triangular farmhouse set inspired by the paintings of Andrew Wyeth, frames the action evoking 1920's rural Conneticut.  Over the course of the play the Anne Wrightsons' striking  lighting effects bathe the set in a palette of orange, blue and sand as day turns to night. I

'May you rest in peace forever in forgiveness and peace' Josie's words to a departing Jim steer an evening of turbulent, powerful emotions to a conclusion of  peace at last.

Final night in Waterford Sat 12th March moving to Belfast and Rochester NY

Pennsylvania Barn Wyeth
Related posts Jim Nolan Premiere at Garter lane Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye: Premiere at Garter Lane



Friday, March 11, 2016

Drums and Guns at Lir

I went to see Drums and Guns, a words and music presentation devised by Iain Burnside with a dozen performers drawn from the vocal programmes at RIAM  Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Juilliard School.  We heard a great range of material based on the theme of war and insurrection in a semi staged format. The set list is posted below. There was much to enjoy and  I was moved, amused and thoroughly entertained over the 70 minutes. I loved the tongue twisting music hall songs beautifully enunciated  by the Guildhall ladies. There three baritone combination was richly sonorous.

 Pushed to pick a stand out moment,  Dutch baritone, Rick Zwart gave me goose bumps with his acapella rendition of Eric Bogle's, And the Band Played Waltzing Mathilda with the company joining in a Stephen Foster-esque final chorus.  It was as if I'd  never heard this song before .  I don't think Bryn himself could have delivered a better version of All Through the Night delivered in Welsh by Mr Zwart with all male chorus.  Irish performers  among the party were Sarah Brady,  Eadaoin Copeland, Callan Coughlan and Sean Boylan. The Guildhall team were Claire Lees, Felicity Turner and Michelle Santiago and Rick Zwart.  Representing Juliard were Julia Wolcott, Dominik Belavy Adam Rothenberg Matthew Swensen.

More of this kind of thing please!

ps I was delighted to meet musical legend Brush Shiels in the foyer. Brush tells me he is busy gigging in Germany and Holland.


Monday, March 7, 2016

Tús Maith for Ortús

I caught the final recital of a weekend festival dedicated to chamber music by a young ensemble, some of whom are still in their teens. My review appeared in Wednesday's Irish Examiner.

The  finale was as Francis Humphreys comprehensive programme note eloquently put it ‘a triumphant blaze of sound’
Ortús have made a tús maith. With the support of mentor Adrian Petcu and the imprimatur of board members at West Cork Music Festival and pianist Barry Douglas, the future looks bright, a future these young players have shown  willingness and flair in shaping for themselves. We wish them well.

Vivre Musicale: Schumann Song Studio at RIAM

Mezzo Eimear McCarthy Luddy

On Wednesday, Vivre Musicale a collective of singers and musicians attached to the Royal Irish Academy of Music presented an evening of work by Clara and Robert Schumann. I regret I missed songs by Clara but there was enough of a feast in two song cycles from Robert's Liederjahr from two excellent young singers and a Fantasiestucke on clarinet from Berginald Rash. Baritone, Sean Boylan was an animated lovelorn protagonist in a rendition of Heine's texts  Liederkreis op 24. Boylan's ability to get to the heart of a text was apparent when I hear him in Ennis at a recital in 2014. My, Irish Examiner  review here. Sean tells me he is off to London to study at the Guildhall and we wish him well.

  Eimear McCarthy Luddy was a new name to me. The mezzo-soprano gave a moving and vivid rendition of Frauenliebe und Leben, composed shortly before his wedding to Clara. The eight texts tell the tale of  a woman's heart from the headiness of new love,  the joy of motherhood and a poignantly prescient final text on the pain of widowhood. We were reminded what a remarkable woman, Clara was to maintain a career as a concert pianist and support her eight children, the eldest who was in his early teens when Robert died. McCarthy Luddy's programme note concluded with this quote from Clara 'What have I possessed and lost! And yet how long have I gone on living and working. Where does one ...find the strength? I found it in my children and in art-they have sustained me by their love and art too has never played me false.

But back to our soloist ,  McCarthy-Luddy had a lovely purity of tone with an elegant  platform presence wearing a floor length, black and ivory gown.  Reading her biography, I note that she began formal training with Eimear Quinn and is currently working towards a Masters in performance with Owen Gilhooly.I am looking forward to hearing her again.

All were well served by Seho Lee on piano- Accompaniment Teaching Fellow at RIAM

Both singers, I believe are involved in Drums and Guns at The Lir Weds 9th March.

 The next Vivre Musicale  presentation is an Opera Gala Thurs March 24th 7pm Organ Room Tickets €10/5

For mother's day here are a few of the lines of Schumann's Woman's Heart, text 7 on the joys of a baby at the breast

Du lieber , lieber engel du,
Du Schauest  mich an und lachelst dazu
An meinen Herzen, an meiner Brust,
Du meine Wonne, du meine lust


Saturday, March 5, 2016

Wireless Folk: Reg Meuross at the Lord Edward

Photo Mik Kenny

I came across English folk troubadour, Reg Meuross  at a gig in Sheffield last year and found his gentle understated style and thoughtful lyrics  very beguiling. Hearing that he was on an Irish tour, I made a beeline for the final evening at the Upstairs Room at the Lord Edward Pub in Dublin. It was a rare and wonderful evening when artist, environs and  audience all seemed be chime to make a harmonious  experience on many levels.

First and foremost, the artist; with his mahogany hued, Mariachi style guitar held high across his chest, Meuross, singer and raconteur took us on a journey  through his well crafted songs and engaging stories laced with a wry self deprecating humour drawn from his life as a travelling troubadour. We heard songs from his back catalogue and some from his new album, December. Historic figures - pilgrim fathers, suffragettes , highway men, Wallace Hartley, the Titanic violinist turn up with figures personal; to Meuross. An encore 'Good With His Hands', was a moving tribute to his father who was a carpenter.What made the performance all the more thrilling and remarkable was that it was delivered without the aid of an amplification. Sitting quite close to the singer  I noticed his extra long nails. Wouldn't  18th century harpists have killed for  acrylic?.

The venue: The  famous Tavern is named after Lord Edward Fitzgerald who was the 5th son of the Duke of Leinster, C in C of the United Irishmen, who helped plan the Abortive Rebellion of 1798 against the Crown with Robert Emmet, Wolfe Tone and Napper Tandy. The upstairs room,   a cosy  space lined with leaded windows looks across to Christchurch Cathedral whose bells added an occasional counterpoint to the proceedings.

When we were greeted warmly on arrival  by our  host, fear an tí,  Peter Grogan. This is rare enough to merit mention. One of my pet peeves is being greeted by the staff at my local arts centre who peer at a computer screen and ask me yet again 'Have you booked with us before'? No-' hello, nice to see you' Aaagh!

Peter hosts a regular monthly folk session at the venue on the first Tuesday of the month. The pub houses a seafood restaurant and Beshoff's Fish and Chip Shop is next door.