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

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Imagine Festival Waterford

The Imagine Festival Venues

Jordan's American Bar
Study Hall, De La Salle College
The Church- United Presbyterian and Methodist Churc, Patrick St.
Theatre Royal

Power White, & Dower at Jordon's
What's rare is wonderful and a Francie White gig is a rarity ocurring once a year  like some unusual arrangement of stars . The performance by this well known local artist was one of the highlights of   Imagine 2010  and  we looked forward to a repeat performance.  On this occasion he was accompanied by Dunmore East based guitar player Gerry Power and bass player Michael Dower. There was quite a mellow vibe  to the evening with the audience willingly crooning along with Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and John Martyn numbers with Piaf's Autumn Leaves a real hit with the audience and good dollops of blues to shake it up a bit.  There was much to enjoy both in the vocals and the skillful guitar accompaniment of Power who sang a John Prine number himself. Jordan's is a tight  venue as less than twenty gig goers can occupy the space where you can see the performers and it was the  smallest of the destinations I attended over the weekend.

De La Salle Entrance
Eibhear Walshe

The lofty study hall of De La Salle College was chosen particularly for its resonance with the past for former student Éibhear Walshe who read from his  memoir,  Cissie's Abbatoir, a rare account of growing up in Waterford in the 60's and 70's.   The Saturday morning audience audience included family members,  teachers  and old school pals who took the opportunity to search the walls for photographs oftheir images from the past. Eibhear spoke about the buildings as  the starting point for constructing his memoir where  most of his locations  are visible form the spot where we were assembled.

The best thing about the Katie Kim gig at The Church in Patrick St was the venue. The subdued lighting created a late night feel for perfomances by Burrows and Katie Kim's band. The fairy lights all along the sides were a nice touch and the enormous window must surely be one of the most impressive in the town's many fine buildings. and  venue was well filled with an enthusiastic audience with admission attractively priced at  €10. I felt the amplification robbed her voice of it's best qualities and reverb effects were overdone.  Leaving aside the considerable technical problems that beset the performance, my impression was that that the artist was wrestling with her equipment  and not always winning, diverting her energy away from conveying the message in her songs.
Gateway to The Church at Patrick St
 The striking  backdrop of the newly exposed city walls in the Theatre Royal  set the stage for Penguin Café the reconstitution of legendary ground breaking ensemble Penguin Cafe Orchestra and quite a coup  for the organising committee to have brought them to Waterford for the Imagine Festival this year.  Most people in the audience were card carrying fans with well worn recordings of  PCO in their collection.

Arthur Jeffe has assembled  a diverse multi-instrumental ensemble to recreate the work of his late father Simon Jeffe who created a quirky style of purely instrumental music that borrowed inspiration  from many diverse genres and the principles of physics alluded to with references to mathematicians  Fibonacci and Pythagoras.  Music for a Found Harmonium had particular appeal for Irish musicians and Sharon Shannon and Frankie Gavin are among the artists to cover it. 

The two musical figures that came to my mind throughout both  sets were the unlikely pairing of George Formby and  Michael Nyman(who played in Waterford earlier this year). Both halves opened with ukulele solos and at least four members of the group played ukulele at some part of the performance. George Formby who will be forever  associated  with the ukulele would have felt quite at home in this Victorian theatre space. He took to the music hall stage to recreate his own father's stage routines and there is a resonance surely with Arthur Jeffe recreating the sound of the iconic  instrumental ensemble which had hits in the 80's and 90's.  As with the Nyman, there is a minimalist approach with an emphasis on patterns and textures rather than melody and there are similarities in the playing techniques used by the string players who number high profile stars Nigel Kennedy and violist  Roger Chase amongst the roll call of former members.  We enjoyed chatting with band member Tom Chichester Clarke who kindly spent some time with audience goers following the gig.

Penguin Café (The dog sadly didn't appear)
Theatre Royal

Tom Chicester Clark of the Penquin Cafe Orchestra (mp3)

Congratulations  and thanks to the Imagine  Festival organisers. There was much to brighten  these late October  days of gathering gloom. I am conscious returning to Waterford of the confluence of architectural elegance in the town and the excellent ongoing work in restoring and enhancing the many lovely buildings. Rather than choose an artistic highlight I have chosen the venues as the focus for this post.  Our only complaint is that there were too many events and we couldn't get to all of them. We missed the imaginative programming of the silent movie Vampyr with organist Morgan Cooke at  Christchurch Cathedral another of Waterford's architectural gems.  Looking forward to next year already.

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