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

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Gadding about at Waterford Writers' Weekend March 2011

Sean Dunne

Following fast on the heels of the Ennis literary event , I find myself at another  wordy weekend, this time in my childhood home city of Waterford, the event rebranded as the Waterford Writer's Weekend after several years under the name of the late Waterford writer, Sean Dunne.  The sun is shining in Waterford on Friday and the town is busy with lots of people milling around. The bookies are doing a roaring trade on  the final day of Cheltenham . 

Thomas McCarthy

 A good crowd, including Mayor Mary Roche wearing her chain of office, is gathered at the Central Library for the opening event where Thomas McCarthy reads from his several  collections interspersed with some reminiscences of growing up in Cappoquinn.  Whilst this is a pleasant open space, there are some problems with background noise of a busy city centre library  and  traffic noise  is something of a distraction. Both McCarthy and the young poet Leanne O Sullivan have a style more suited to a more intimate venue and it is difficult to hear much particularly of the last speaker.

Downes Pub

Reading at the Writers' Evening
 Later, McCarthy is on MC  duty at the rather more intimate Open Mike session in the back room in Downes Pub and this is a more fun in some ways than the afternoon gig.   I like this venue with its dim lights and patterned carpets and most especially, the grand piano that once graced the  living room of my childhood home. I suppress  a soupcon of regret that I left Waterford in my late teens when I might have enjoyed hanging out in Downes which has the distinction of offering an own blend whiskey.  The MC collects names of willing volunteers and assuming it is a poetry reading, I volunteer to add a tune by way of punctuation. As the speakers begin and  it becomes apparent that a variety of forms are being presented , I change my mind and opt to do something I haven't done since I was at school - read my composition, except on this occasion  I read not from a dogeared copy book but from my 21st century ipod which does make it a little difficult to look at my audience. Fintan Power from Tramore Writer's group, Compass, M Foley  Joe Falvey, Linda Gough , Mary Grehan  and McCarthy himself are among the contributers. Among the attendees are Jane Cantwell of Waterford Central Library and Nick Bankes, chairman of Imagine Festival who I am excited to learn is connected to The Ukelele Orchestra which must augur well surely for another Deise appearance by this quirky ensemble. 

On Saturday night I call to the Dunmore Room in the Tower Hotel for Tall Tales and Torch Songs .  There is a pleasant blues band and what a relief it's  not overamplified.  Arts Office Conor Nolan is MC but some of his introductions had me somewhat baffled as to what to expect next. Although tempted to stay, I head over to hear the second half of Ad Hoc Chorale concert at Christchurch Cathedral. It is good to see a very good crowd  in for this local  chamber choir, conducted by Niall Crowley and they work their way through some adventurous contemporary repertoire. I recognise some familiar faces of local music teachers and there is also a large contingent of younger voices.

Sunday is another lovely day in the sunny South East and there is an air of  expectation in the Waterford Central Library as  we wait for former taoiseach, Garret Fitzgerald.  Dr Garret spoke about his long career and  the process of writing his biography  and was in very good humour. I find his views on education somewhat refreshing in this era of specialisation . Although the venue is quieter, there is a section of the  audience who can't be seen but can be heard, a feature of this lovely space seeming to amplify young voices  to a greater degree than older ones .

Dr Garrett Fitzgerald

Finally I nip down the road to hear Professor emeritus of NUI Maynooth, Gerard Gillen  playing the Elliot organ at Christchurch Cathedral. Gillen remains my favourite organist and coaxes the widest variety of sounds from the eerie flute like to the grotesque bass pedal notes particularly in the set of variations by Bohm . There was a charming suite by Roccoco composer CPE Bach and some more contemporary fare by Frank Martin and Guilmant . Professor leaned down to introduce his works and was assisted in the organ loft by Eric Sweeney . There was some consternation over sticky keys but c'est la vie.  It is not that long since I enjoyed hearing David Connolly, student of Professor Gillen and it is great  to hear these world class  performers in Waterford on this new organ. The audience for these recitals tends to be small and I think it might have helped if the event was dovetailed with the Sunday morning reading. I think some of Garret's audience might have been persuaded to come down the road following the morning reading.  I think it is a great idea to market a  range of events happening on a give weekend under one banner and this was very successfully done by the Imagine Festival team . I suggest musicians and writers could benefit from   a merging  of  events. Why not offer a  poetry reading with an organ recital . It worked for Liam O Flynn and Seamus Heaney . All in all ,lots to enjoy in the Deise this weekend

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