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

Monday, February 28, 2011

Upstairs Downstairs: Irish Chamber Orchestra and Showband Show at the City Hall Waterford

Full House at The Large Room Waterford City Hall
  We arrived on Friday night to find Waterford a hive of musical activity  with all sorts of ensembles performing within a stones throw of each other.  In the Tower Hotel, there was a glam rock theme in the ladies outfits on their way in for a reunion of 70s local rock band, Simon  while across the road in the Theatre Royal,  showband fans had further opportunity to indulge in nostalgia    and upstairs  a gap of   centuries was bridged in a programme of Baroque  favourites paired with contemporary Finnish music

Oonagh Ken Cathy fiddlers three  
  We made a beeline for  City Hall  where The Irish Chamber Orchestra were ensconsed  in the Large Room upstairs. Being a little too late for the opening  we bided our time and listened from the lobby  downstairs where Ronan Collins looking a little sombre in a black suit was hosting the showband show 'Reeling in the Showband Years'. Both groups had tall portable screen signs at their respective entrances to ensure patrons didn't get mixed up and find themselves in the wrong  time zone .

Upstairs for the second half, the Irish Chamber Orchestra  looking very at home in the elegant  surroundings of the Large Room with young Finnish violinist, Pekko Kuusisto,  gave an interesting  and energetic rendition of familiar classic Vivaldi's Four Seasons . Here the continuo part was played unusually by harmonium and the emphasis was on bringing out the rustic peasant  quality of the music.  The rough  vulgar sounds drawn out of Joacim Roewr's viola  drew a few chuckles and the addition  of vocal humming in  places worked rather well I thought.  The approach reminded me of that of English group Red Priest Baroque .  While it was a novel approach  and Kuusisto was a most compelling and engaging soloist, I misssed the  sensuous elegant duet elements very much to the fore in Katherine Hunkas reading of the work heard earlier in the season .There were shades of a young punky Nigel Kennedy in the young Finn described as 'appealingly chaotic' in a recent Guardian review  who  literally reached out to the audience, rubbing shoulders with members in a middle row when he sat in an empty seat during an extended ripieno section and chasing after a pre encore departee .  I do feel that pleasant and all as this repertoire is, one of these concertos is plenty for one evening and wonder that they are so often programmed with all four in one programme .  The encores, a Finnish folk infused piece and a short Sibelius piece were refreshing

The venue was packed almost to capacity  and there was a good buzz in the room. During the interval we chatted to fiddlers, Oonagh Keogh and Ken Rice, all three of us members at one time of the same youth orchestra .  Ghosts  of  the past were recalled when I entered  the venue where I remember appearing myself at student concerts when it was the Waterford Municipal Theatre and there were some familiar faces in the capacity audience from those days.  It was great to see a full house  with Waterford Mayor, Mary Roche present in her mayoral chain of office lending to the  sense of  a civic occasion and composer Eric Sweeney. The committee here ( I think Symphony Club of Waterford) obviously work hard to ensure the Waterford events  are publicised and all runs smoothly with  a convivial glass of wine at the interval and teas for the artists etc.   Manager Gerry Keenan looked quite happy,  a full house and he didn't have to pack up a capricious harpsichord.Reeling In The Showband Years

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