|St Columba's Choral Gathering|
|Baritone Owen Gilhooly|
Twilight prevailed all day on the shortest day of the year in Ennis making the candlelit Gothic interior of St Columba's Church seem all the more cheerful decked out in all its Christmas adornments. There was a good house for a concert of seasonal repertoire by soprano, Helen Houlihan and baritone, Owen Gilhooly with the Ennis Cathedral Choir under director, Michael Hennessy accompanied by Irina Dernova. The programme was a classy affair, a blend of sacred and secular, rare gems and familiar favourites.
The opening solo of the first half was a baritone aria from Christmas Oratorio by JS Bach, very likely a premiere in Clare of this sacred repertoire. It seems an Avé Maria attributed to Caccini may be ersatz Baroque but it is glorious nonetheless and Helen Houlihan delivered the slow moving melody with a beautifully sustained tone. There was touch of Hollywood in Malotte's setting of the Lord's Prayer with which she opened the second half. The choir answered an aria from Handel's Messiah with a jaunty rendition of the chorus For Unto Us a Child is Born. How lovely to hear an Irish carol (Wexford Carol) in the selection, a very effective collaboration between soprano and choir. The mixed voice Cathedral Choir fitted snugly under the Gothic arch and sounded confident in the less familiar secular repertoire.
The reverberant acoustic was not always kind to the piano in the florid baroque lines more usually heard on strings and harpsichord and one wonders if the organ might have fared better for the this repertoire. This is the second occasion that I have reported on this line up. In Songs for a Summer Evening I commented that the presentation would have been improved if the vocal introductions had been trimmed.Tonight I felt the opposite and a sentence or two setting the context of the less familiar repertoire would have enhanced the presentation. The evening was a fund raiser for the Society of St Vincent de Paul and all performers had generously donated their time.
The audience lingered quite a while for mulled wine cups and minced pies in the vestry for a convivial mull over the lovely evening.of song in Bindon St
Venue Notes: As always the beauty of the many lit candles created a magical ambiance in this beautiful venue which has served several musical evenings in this month alone. I suggest that lights in the nave could have come down even more to enhance the effect of candellight.
Owen Gilhooly ’ on Audioboo
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