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

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Thatcher & Benn at the Edinburgh Fringe


By Guest Blogger : John Hartery

Conviction politicians seem as rare as hen's teeth in the modern world of sound bites,  focus groups and consensus  driven politics.
Two of the big beasts  of British politics from the 2nd half of the last century  albeit with quite contrasting political beliefs featured in the Edinburgh Fringe 2015.

First up was a Nottingham Playhouse Production Tony's Last Tape. This was a monologue capturing the close to  last recorded tape of the Labour veteran Tony Benn, who died recently. Played by Philip Bretherton the piece mined the extraordinary lifelong diary that Benn kept via a series of daily recordings. The accoutrements we are familiar with from Benn all featured; recording equipment, bananas, smoking pipe and a flask of tea. The huge influence of his wife Caroline, his mother and mother were a constant feature. Benn's political career stretched from the 1950's into this century as he continued to speak on his political beliefs all over the country. 
He was at his political peak in the 70's in the Wilson and Callaghan governments and there was a nice devise to allow the character  reflect on the power cuts that bedevilled his government. Written by Andy Barrett,  directed by Giles Croft with lighting and sound by Martin Curtis this was a very enjoyable work that lasted a little over an hour. Those familiar and unfamiliar with the diaries will get a fine illustration of the man and his lifelong beliefs. 



Over in the Assembly Rooms probably the most divisive politician of recent years, Margaret Thatcher, was played by Pip Utton in a novel format. Thatcher the Conservative Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990 imposed huge change in Britain and was never backward with her right wing objectives. The format was novel in this way; initially Utton is dressing as  an impersonator of Thatcher, then delivers a speech that illustrates the individual very well. Then he switches to a question and answer whilst remaining in character. The audience is invited to ask questions of 'Thatcher' who answers in that familiar way. Utton has researched well and addressed all questions asked with the certainty we remember  of her. Frivolous questions were faced scorn. My question about Thatcher's highlighting  of the importance of a Willie received an icy-stare that would have terrified any Wet from the era. 
Utton  is an accomplished character actor and has covered; Churchill, Chaplin and Hitler. 
There was an interesting device at the end that, whilst not executed perfectly,  enhanced the overall performance. 
 Two great shows. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Edinburgh Festival: 48 hours at EdinburghInternational Festival

After dallying in the fringe,   I set out to visit as many of the six main venues of the Edinburgh  International Festival as possible. I got to four of them. Here is a round up of the highs and lows of two days at EIF

Queen's Hall: Iestyn Davies with Ensemble Guadagni. The acclaimed  countertenor Iestyn Davies

was joined by a  lively period instrument  ensemble under Richard Egarr in a programme of English Baroque music mostly by Purcell at Queen's Hall. It was thrilling to hear the beauty of tone and immaculate ennunciation of Davies' otherwordly voice in the packed 19th century wedgewood blue hall.  The concert was skillfully paced to maximise the capacity for varying sonorities within the instrumental ensemble. The ensemble of eight ncluded a quartet of strings with Croatian violinist Bojan Cicic, two recorders and theorbo/ baroque guitar showed their flair and agility in a suite by contemoporary, Blow.  Thrilling ***** Listen to the BBC Radio live broadcast here  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b065xbqtStunning






Festival Theatre: Israel Galvan LO Real. The best thing about

this show was the venue, a large modern theatre space with a curved glass front. Experimental flamenco is likely an aquired taste. The show with a Holocaust theme of Nazi extermination of gypsies but it would have been hard to pick that up unless you read the notes. The piece appeared to be an very self indulgent vehicle for leader, Israel Galvan who opens the procedings with a fidgety  unaccompanied sequence that lasts for twenty minutes or so before he is joined by a singer and a guitar.'He likes to use objects on stage' said a foyer afficionado. Well so did Fred Astaire- remember him  dancing with a hat stand?. Galvan does spend a lot of time twanging a beat up piano carcass before he moves on to get maximoun sonic value out of  four  metal beams. When he leaves the stage to two other female soloists he retreats downstage to play  a second drum set to augment the bass drum pedal of which there is  already a lot threaded throughout the score. Tedious  **

Edinburgh Playhouse: Edinburgh Playhouse is one of the UK's largest theatres. The former cinema based on the Roxy in New York has a charming faded elegance about it and there was quite a buzz for the first night of a performance of Seven, with choreography to Mahler's Symphony no 7  presented by Ballett Am Rhein. The large  troupe from Dusseldorfwere accompanied by the home team Royal Scottish National Orchestra. The style was modern, quite elegant nothing flashy, the costumes monochrome black and white. I note Cork School of Music Mark O Keeffe was listed in the trumpet section.

Impressive ****

EICC Conference Centre: Edinburgh's Conference  Centre is conveniently located in the town centre. Simon McBurney's
piece reminded me of one of those immersive  theme park experiences but without the visual element. McBurney, looking like a stage hand in jeans and teeshirt  stands on the grungy stage littered with plastic bottles and discarded unreeled video tape and begins by explaing the technology before telling the story of National Geographic photographer who gets stranded in the jungle and his encounter with an indigenous tribe. A long sit for a two hour monolgue, a feat of endurance for audience and performer. More a high tech radio than a theatrical experience

 ** Underwhelming

Still to visit the Usher Hall: 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Navigating the Fringe at Edinburgh: Supertown

I
 I am in Edinburgh on my first visit to Scotland drawn by the magnetic pull of the month long extravaganza of high class arts festival and sprawling fringe which sees hundreds of pop up theatre spaces all over the city. Having skimmed through  the programme, a weighty tome about the size of a telephone directory, I decide to leave it to chance and  set off through damp streets to get my bearings and sample the Edinburgh fringe.  Just down the road from my hotel is venue 45, a church hall which seems to have a respectable queue forming. A musical?- with more than one person?- that'll do nicely Anxious to lose my festival neophyte status as quickly as possible, I buy a ticket and thus stumble on Supertown.



Supertown is a new  musical by the delightfully named team of , Sidgwick and Sanders - It is bright and breezy spoof based on superhero comic genre presented by members of LIDOS, which appears to be a company drawn from Insurance industry folk based in Leeds. Supertown is peopled with superheroes,  soft centred villains and ordinary people, -crawlers. One geeky guy sets out to prove that the town's favourite Superhero is not all that he seems and the moral of the story is that you don't need superpowers to be a superhero.  A company of generous proportions of over a dozen sing and dance with panache. A trio of Susan Boyles and a Jamiacan Bob Sled quartet are among the hilarious cameos. It is  fast paced, witty and funny. The tunes are catchy, the arrangements slick. I note later that the librettist, Sigwick plays the role of slovenly superhero, Zapper in a style that reminds me of Hugh Fearnely Whittingstall.

Later,I catch a comedy benefit night at the magnificent Assembly Rooms which has the advantage of hearing a half a dozen or so comics in the space of an hour or so which is plenty. I don't really like that style of improvised comedy that riffs on front row audience members but I have to admit that Jason Byrne did get the crowd going.  Scottish comedian,  Fred McAuley and the quirky  Paul Foot appealed most to me of group.

Finally a nightcap in Whiski,, a terrific bar where a table of musicians sent strathspreys and airs into the mellow evening air

.https://audioboom.com/boos/3482436-edinburgh-pub-session

Now whatever to choose tomorrow.



Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Steinway Piano Man arrives in Waterford

Piano Man Ulrich Gerhartz photo Guardian pic




One of the single most important figures in the piano world visited Waterford last week but you'll struggle to find his name on the programme. Steinway surgeon, (piano tuner seems too mundane a term) Ulrich Gerhartz artrived in Waterford on Thursday  to overhaul one of Waterford's treasures-the house Steinway housed at the Georgian Large Room. I was sorry to be out of town to miss seeing one of the 'key' figures of pianism in action. I am grateful to Pat Grogan of Waterford-Music for this report on the service history of this much admired instrument.  You can hear it next when Finghin Collins to open the 74th season of Waterford-Music recittals
Steinway, Model C, s.n. 525785.
    Manufactured 1995, Hamburg factory. Purchased February 1996 from Steinways of London, having been vetted at Steinway Hall, by Philip Martin, John O’Conor and Jan Cap, during visits to London, on our behalf. We had intended replacing our old ‘D’ model with a similar second-hand instrument, on grounds of cost, but on urgent advice from Philip Martin, who found that the sound from the 9 foot D model would be too big for our venue, we bought the smaller 7’ 5” instrument,as being more suitable venue with it’s bright acoustic. The price was  49,350 sterling, with 5,000 ‘institutional’ discount, and 5,000 trade-in allowance on our  1908 American Steinway. The Arts Council of Ireland and Waterford City Council had agreed to help in the purchase with matching funding of 17,222 Irish pounds each, with loyal Waterford~ Music members making up the balance. This was achieved only after intense lobbying with City Council, in the persons of Manager Michael Doody and Asst. Manager Terry O’Sullivan, and The Arts Council through Dermot McLoughlin, and Government Ministers of the day, Michael D Higgins and Brian O’Shea.
     The new piano was delivered 6/2/1996,and prepared for first performance by Alex Jeffers of Bandon, by Dearbhla Collins, with Michael d’Arcy, violin, Annette Cleary, cello, on 7/2/’96, who performed Beethoven Trio E flat, op.1, no.1, Rachmaninov Trio op.9, Shostakovich Trio E minor, op.67. It received a free inspection and tuning by chief Steinway technician, Ulrich Gerhartz, on 11/4/’96, who has continued to look after our piano ever since. Specially prepared by Gerhartz for the much publicised visit of Vladimir Ashkenazy on 18/5/’97 [who due to arthritis in his fingers was unable to perform], but whose last minute replacement Finghin Collins, well prepared for the Dublin International Piano Competition, who performed brilliantly. Just a few of our sell-out audience accepted refunds rather than hear Collins perform.
    Mr Gerhartz has been to over-haul our piano in April 2000, October 2003, November 2006, and November 2010. This is an expensive but necessary operation to maintain this valuable instrument in perfect condition.The  recommended interval between overhaul of 3 years could not be adhered to in recent  years, due to severe financial constraints on our funds. He has just completed the overhaul on last Thursday, 13th August, at a cost of €1794.00, and which would be even more expensive if he made a special trip to Waterford only. He found the piano to be in excellent condition, due to the perfect storage conditions at the Georgian Large Room, and the fact that the instrument is not over-used or indeed, abused. For the record, it was used in 20 full performances in the period 3rd November 2010 and 16th April 2015, as part of our regular recital seasons, with 15 bookings by other groups [generally for a tuning fee], in the same period. The piano is made available free of charge for charitable fund-raising purposes, and for purposes connected with City Hall—as part of the original funding agreement.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Kilkenny Arts Festival 15

I pressed 'publish' a little prematurely yesterday. I am republishing with some additional comments regarding inequity in  public funding for arts in South Eastern counties.

I spent two days at Kilkenny Arts Festival last weekend. My reviews appeared in the Irish Examiner last week . You can read my review of Opera Theatre Company's production of a pair of short works here . I love the welcoming atmosphere in the Watergate Theatre with it's cheerful cafe and Cleere's Bar across the road. There was a lot of love in St Canice's for the return of French Baroque specialists but  I was a little underwhelmed with headliners Les Arts Florissants. You can read that review here .

The nature of the programming was a subject of some debate this year.  On the ground, I did hear grumbles about the  worthy high brow nature of much of the festival fare. The lack of variety with an  emphasis on the music of one composer, JS Bach came in for some criticism. with not one but three sets of Goldberg Variations. High ticket prices  and the scaling back of the art exhibition element were other negatives that came up in conversations.
 No question, the festival team  brought an almost bewildering selection of luminaries to the city . The festival was clear in it's direction and didn't try to be all things to all festival goers or to please a broad range of palates. For me though, it lacked an element of fun. Walking around the streets, there wasn't a sense of a town en fete. On Sunday afternoon,  Kilkenny natives seemed to have decamped en masse to Croke Park for the semi final clash with Waterford and a sound that fills me with dread drifted down Main St- the wheezing of amplified Peruvian pan pipes pervaded the eerie Sunday afternoon hush.

Amendment:  The main funder of the Kilkenny Arts Festival is the Arts Council which put up €390,000 for this years' festival. Neighbouring county, Waterford also mounts a 10 day  multifaceted arts festival. This year, the Arts Council withdrew it's meagre funding (€11,000 in 2014) for the Waterford's  Imagine Festival.  The fesyival  held on the cusp of Winter with a mix of all sorts of events draws in at least as many local punters as Kilkenny does.. As a regular attender of ImagineFest, I find such striking inequity in funding hard to fathom. Read what chairman, Nick Bankes had to say in this piece from the Irish Times here http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/waterford-s-imagine-arts-festival-has-funding-cut-by-arts-council-1.2219448.


Councillor Mary Roche also voices some concern. The Waterford independent councillor carried out an exercise on Arts council  funding streams comparing funding for arts in Waterford with Wexford , Galway and Limerick. Again, the inequity striking and a cause for ennui for anyone involved in the arts in Waterford.. http://cllrmaryroche.blogspot.com/2014/08/demise-of-red-kettle-theatre-company.html

Press Notes :The Irish Times coverage included no  less than three whimsical pieces by Arminta Wallace in the Irish Times over the course of the 10 days in addition to Michael Dervan's reviews. 
http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/kilkenny-arts-festival-fast-fun-and-unpredictable-1.2311696

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/unhappy-harpsichord-opens-kilkenny-international-arts-fest-

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/9-things-we-learned-at-kilkenny-arts-festival-1.2313528
1.2310522

Next year's festival is due to focus on the work of Mozart.



Friday, July 31, 2015

Hapusrwydd at Fishguard: Pianos, Pasties and Tapestries


I am just off the boat after a 24 hour trip to Fishguard. Following years of travelling through the Pembrokeshire ferry port en-route to London, I decided to make the Welsh coastal town my end destination rather than merely a pit stop. I was encouraged by an extremely  attractive programme at the 10 day annual classical music festival and the prospect of  discovering new territory practically on my doorstep,.  But  the excursion hit the rocks early  on Tuesday when the meaning of the term 'missing the boat' was  fully impressed on me. I found myself on the wrong side of the rising gangway contemplating an Indiana Jones style leap onto the soon-to-depart ferry. I made a second attempt on Thursday and at 9.00am I was afloat and on my way to catch the last day of the Fishguard Music Festival. I was glad that I did.  I had a terrific day. There was sunshine and  exhiliarating performances. I met interesting people,  discovered some extraordinary venues and upstairs in the Town Hall, I found a local treasure that  would have  merited the trip alone.





Pianos: In the afternoon, Peter Donohoe and Martin Roscoe shared  the second and third of Beethoven's opus 31 sonatas as a prelude to an evening of piano duos. The magnificent oak timbered concert hall in the rural retreat, Rhosygilwen was a stunning, light filled venue. There was a pause for supper in the orangery  and picnics in the courtyard before the evening programme of piano duos performed on two pianos. We heard SaintSaens Variations on a Theme of Beethoven's Sonata no 3 picking up a thread in the afternoon programme. As the evening wore on, Mozart  and Brahms gave way  to the impressionist, Debussy, In the fading evening light of the fine Summer evening,  Prelude de'lapres midi d'un faune' shimmered with the luxury of two sets of piano strings before all hell broke loose in a visceral performance of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.. Peter Donohoe's evocative context setting introductions conjured up images of Debussy and Stravinsky playing through the work in Paris salon. Debussy's nocturne Fetes, was an  exuberant celebration rather rather than a shadowy affair heard at a  adistance.



I was thrilled to meet performer and joint artistic director,  Peter Donohoe who  generously gave me a post-show  interview. Do listen to Donohoe talking about the importance of Spring to the Russin psyche and about the recent stepping up of  his involvement  in becoming joint Artistic Director of  the Fishguard Festival. Hear his  eloquent insights into the bond between Stravinsky and Debussy and his changing view of the groundbreaking 'Rite of Spring'.

'Build it and they will come' At the interval, a gentleman was delivering fliers on forthcoming events at the venue. I discovered later that he was in fact  our host, Glen Peters, MD of Western Solar who built the  striking concert venue on the grounds of his home. He spoke to me about how the decision to build came about and the inspiration for the design. Listen to Glen Peters on the architectural design of the concert hall. https://audioboom.com/users/102528/boos












The venue was full with 300 or so patrons for the closing recital.   I enjoyed talking to composer Geraint Lewis about the arts in Wales. It was good to meet  Gaye Williams, the face behind the  digital marketing platforms at the 2015 festival. The bus to the concert was full but this was Pembrokeshire and I was not left on the side of the road. I am grateful to Boyd Williams for getting me there and back.


Have a listen to Festival team member Boyd Williams summing up of the event at https://audioboom.com/boos/3424637-boyd-williams



Tapestries: The Last Invasion Tapestry:  Inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, the tapestry tells the story of the last invasion by the French forces and the formidable  Jemima Nicholas who captured a battalian with her pitch fork (that may be overstating slightly but you get the picture) This woman should have her own opera written about her. We don't know who stitched the Bayeux tapestry but you can watch the video and hear many of the seventy ladies involved in this marvellous community project.I was struck by the parallels with  another community tapestry unveiled about the same time. The port side town New Ross is home to the Ros Tapestry.and also host of a  music festival shaped by a pianist. The New Ross Piano Festival takes place on 24th-27th September under director Finghin Colllins

Pasties: I spnt a happy hour in  Ffwrn Meaning oven, an amazing bakery, cum bar, cum bistrot. Pianos  in various states of repair are arrayed around. The central piece is the oven out of which emerge pasties of Finn McCool proportions. Listen the Rod Smith about the Ffwrn and the  forthcoming bagpipe festival at the venue. Coming back for the crab hammer plank.




What else is on? The event schedule for Rhosgilwen Retreat  includes a literary weekend in September and a weekend Schubertiade in October. Check it out here  Fishguard is home to the weekend  Aber Jazz Festival in August  and a Folk festival  in May. FFwrn hosts a Bagpipe Festival in October
 http://www.visitpembrokeshire.com/explore-pembrokeshire/towns-and-villages/fishguard-and-goodwick/

Fishguard International Music Festival is a ten day festival that runs at the end of July. Events were very keenly priced there was a good spread of events to suit a range of tastes. Tickets for final day concerts -£18 combined price for two recitals, remarkable value.

How to get there:  Boat is best. Some of the venues are walking distance from the ferry. Stena Line operate twice daily sailings to Fishguard from Rosslare. (9.00am  and 9pm returning at 2.30am and 2.30pm )  There are great value short hops with or without car. A return 24 hour ticket costs €42 booked online with a €5 supplement booked as a roll up at the terminal


Getting around: The festival runs a bus to some of the larger events in the festival but for a longer stay, I would recommend taking your car.

Where to Stay: There are lots of attractive options.  For a high end B&;B experience try Cefny dre . Cefn-y-Dre Country House, who offer evening meals with a Ballymaloe trained owner.




Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Wexford In the Picture at Europe's largest Plein Air Painting Event






A little preview piece on a painting extravaganza in Wexford. Fingers crossed for the weather, but there is always the contingency of 'The Sky and The Ground' one of Wexford's many taverns to retreat to

Wexford is accustomed to hosting international visitors. For more than six decades, the town has been a magnet for discerning opera buffs during the annual festival held in October.  Artexhibitions are a substantial element of the fringe activities of the opera festival.  From the 27th of July , art takes  centre stage as  an influx of arty types of a different hue is expected to descend on the South East seaside town when ‘Art in the Open’, Irelands international plein air festival gets under way.  The annual event , devoted to the practice  of painting outdoors, an activity associated with the French Impressionists,  is in its’ eighth year and ‘thankfully going from strength to strength’ according to festival organiser, Alma Hynes.  Last year, around 200 artistsfrom across Europe and the US set up their easels in some of the most picturesque spots in the county.  Six  ‘Paint-Outs’ are again the core of Art in the Open 2015 featuring some of the most stunning scenery, charming villages and historic towns the South-East Ireland has to offer. This year the locations include New Ross, Wells House and Gardens, Kilmore Quay, Hook Head, The Irish National Heritage Park and, of course Wexford town. 
The participants, a mix of amateurs and established artists can participate in a range of workshops, lectures and walks over the six day festival.  There are picnics, barbeques and designated pubs for painterly pints .
 ‘Quickdraw’,   a timed  charity event where artists have just two hours to complete a painting is expected to ‘draw’ a good crowd of local observers  to the Bullring on Sunday August 2nd. There are several sponsored prizes from local businesses.  At the sound of the steward's horn, participants put down their brushes and line up their easels for half an hour of judging, prizes and an on-street sale of paintings before the paint is even dry. Proceeds of an affordable entry fee (payable on the day) and 10% commission on sales will be presented to a local charity.
If you are not of an artistic persuasion yourself, you can come and watch paint dry and perhaps acquire an artistic impression of local landmarks.  Each artist may submit two works for the final exhibition. The works are framed and sell for between €100 and €500.  A   €5,000 prize pot will be  awarded .  Last year’s winner of the Gold Mayoral Prize of €1,000 was Mary Duffy for Purple Rasta Tree.
Let’s hope for all the plein air enthusiasts, the canvas stays dry and the sunny South East lives up to it’s reputation .
Art in the Open runs from July 27th – August 3rd More details on the festival websitewww.artintheopen.org

Monday, July 27, 2015

Andy Irvine at Waterford Folk Club

Impressario Garry Walsh with Irvine's string arsenal
Song in 5/8
Spirit of Mother Jones

Wreck of the Dandenol
Lillebjorn Nillson
Only a Miner
O Donoghues Song 
Bonnywood Hall
Folk Song
Sweeneys Men Song 
Sweet County Clare

3 Huntsmen Mick Hanley

As I roved out ( Brigid Tunney)
Death of Ben Hall
Empty Handed Greek author Pappageris
Song about Frank Ryan Spanish Civil War
The Rangers Command
Farewell to Kellswater
Encore 


'I am delighted to be here . This is exactly like a folk club' said Andy Irvine  in the atic room of The Cove Bar, at the recently launched Waterford Folk Club last week. The bazouki balladeer extraordinaire appeared in his element in the intimate venue, more conducive to his style  than the black box theatre and bar room venue in which  I had previously heard him. My report  on his Glor gig in Ennis is here http://cathydesmond.blogspot.ie/2010/12/andy-irvine-at-glor.html Accompanying himself on assorted strings and harmonica we heard a selection of songs from swashbuckling ballads. homages to political heroes and whimsical biographical songs. The selection was peppered with reminiscence and observations drawn from his five decades in the business since he crossed the rubicon that divided the beery thespian worlds of Nery's and folkie O Donoghue's.

 He has had an amazing long lived career with so many collaborations  and there was no sense that he is flagging yet. There were new songs mixed with the old in the repertoire.  I had a lovely chat with Irvine after the gig. He tells me he will at some point take a couple of months off the road and write his memoir. In the meantime his notes on his unusual journey and many collaborations  make interesting reading and are on his website http://www.andyirvine.com/bio/bio-10.html

'I'm still learning, still enjoying myself and when people sometimes say to me ''Jaysus, it's well for you''.
I smile and nod my head.
Because they're dead right.
It is.'





Next guest at Waterford Folk and Roots Club Club is Buddy Mondlock August 26th




I had a chat with John Buckley about forthcoming events he is promoting


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Bel Canto with Emma Kirkby and friends at RIAM

Emma Kirkby Heather Tomala Nicholas Clapton at RIAM 
Simone Colavecchi
There was a teeny note of consternation at the door of the Organ Room at the RIAM in Dublin last Thursday. The performance by the tutors of the Bel Canto Summer School was sold out!. And no surprise really when the line up included  renowned early music specialist Emma Kirkby in a rare performance in  Ireland.
Thankfully , nobody was left outside the door of the elegant period drawing room and we were treated to a wonderful evening of singing and shared insights into the genesis of a  selection of  English and Italian early music by KIrkby and countertenor Nicholas Clapton .


When a performer is as lauded as Kirkby, you are a little apprehensive about hearing them , given the weight of expectation that accompanies the encounter. Kirkby was wonderful live. Added the purity of her voice was her  stance, the  graceful  gestures and facial expression  that animated her delivery. She wasn't just  performing -she was it , whatever iy was be it star crossed lover or the ghost of a little girl !  Particularly lovely with lute accompaniment by Simone Coalvecchi were two numbers by John Danyel to words by his brother Samuel. As an encore we heard participants Angie Hicks and Lauren ?  in a tender duet as a taster for the studnet showcase the following evening. A smiling Heather Tomala at the piano and harpsichord was excellent.throughout . I am facinated to read that in her spare time she indulges in a spot of Irish dancing. There now!

The organ room at the RIAM, Westland Row  is a most elegant double cubed space and a perfect size and acoustic for a chamber music concert.
 


Pride and Prejudice at Curraghmore Gardens



Any attempt at outdoor arts events is a perilous venture in  capricious Irish weather. But when the sun shines, it is a triumph of hope over experience and a glum muddy-field event becomes a glorious al freco spectacular. So with an eye on the sky, I made my first visit to the gardens  of Curraghmore House for Chapterhouse Theatre Company's touring production of Pride and Prejudice. The combination of fair weather and an opportunity for a  first glimpse at one of hidden Ireland's grandest houses was a compelling enough draw .  Add in all the  fun of fine spirited performances from the eight strong cast of Chapterhouse Theatre Company, whose theatrical presentation of Jane Austen's classic resonated in such perfect harmony with the grand setting that we could well imagine that we were sitting on the lawn at Mr Darcy's Pemberley.

There were a couple of aspects of the performance that impressed me particularly. I hadn't expected to be able to hear the dialogue so clearly in the open air setting. The voice projection and diction of the entire cast was impeccable. As you'd expect, some of the nuances of the more insipid of Austen's genteel characters were lost but the pantomime quality of the buffoons and baddies had the audience of all ages  chuckling on the lawn and  engaged over the two hour duration.

The  effectiveness of a solo flute to add a pastoral touch with music interludes was simple and delightful and much preferable to any  backing track, however sophisticated. The rendition of The Ash Grove  in a drawing room scene elicited a genuine ripple of applause.

And  if all that confluence of  elegance and harmony in architecture, horticulture and prose wasn't enough to ensure a memorable afternoon, there was cake too. We enjoyed  the best Victoria sponge in the newly opened Curraghmore House Tearooms in the courtyard. Have a listen to audience memberand local resident Alice O Brien's reaction in the audio clip


Jane at the Curraghmore Tearooms
Chapterhouse Theatre Company are touring a number of productions in Ireland until the end of August. You can catch them at Fota House on Wednesday , Mount Juliet Kilkenny on Thurs. They return in August to Wexford to Kilmokea and Wells House.  Catch them if you can. I wish them fair weather.
Best dressed lady: Jane Desmond in her beautiful  empire line gown on steps of Curraghmore House

CAST AND CREDITS


FERGUS REES – Mr Darcy, Mr Bennet
JOSEPH GALE – Mr Bingly, Mr Gardiner, Col. Fitzwilliam
FERGUS LEATHEM – Mr Wickham, Gentleman Friend, Mr Lucas, Mr Collins
JANNA FOX – Elizabeth Bennet
AMY FORDE – Jane Bennet, Gerogiana Darcy, Miss de Borogh
EVELYN SHAW – Lydia Bennet, Caroline Bingley
LAUREN MILLS – Mrs Bennet, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mrs Gardiner
ELLA SAWYERS - Mary Bennet, Charlotte Lucas, Mrs Reynolds


DIRECTOR – REBECCA GADSBY


Wednesday 22nd July - 7.30pm Fota House, Arboretum and Gardens - Fota Island, Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork 021 481 5543  
Thursday 23rd July - 6.30pm Mount Juliet Resort - Thomastown, Co Kilkenny 056 777 3000 
Friday 24th July - 7.30pm Malahide Castle & Gardens - Co Dublin 0181 69 538  
Sunday 26th July - 3pm The Gardens at Rathmullan House - Co Donegal 074 915 8188 
Tuesday 28th July - 7pm Carnfunnock Country Park - Larne, Co. Antrim - BT40 2QG


1st August Wells House and Gardens. Saturday 1st August, The Jungle Book.