'A mixture of O Riada, Wexford mumming and classical music' was how Fr. Aodhán Markham summed up the elements in a new Mass composed by Pierce Turner, heard at Bride Street Church as a pinnacle of a weekend of events featuring the Wexford musician. That the acclaimed singer songwriter sees his canvas in a global context is apparent in the listing of the event as a 'world premiere'.
The church was full with a mixture of regulars, local dignitaries, family& friends and fervent atheists to hear the work sung by the Bride Street Church Choir with organist Ger Lawlor, soprano Róisín Dempsey and the composer on keyboard. 'Powerful and beautiful' were the comments on the featured Communion piece, Union, composed to commemorate the 1798 Rebellion and recorded by Kathleen Tynan. The work included a gathering hymn, parts of the Mass Ordinary in Irish and Latin and a setting of the Our Father. It may not be very rock and roll but Turner has always acknowledged church music as a major influence on his musical style both in interviews and in song. No gig is complete without a sing along rendition of Faith of our Fathers as a coda to his song 'The Sky and the Ground'* and thus ended The Gathering Mass. It is
|Turner Family with Roisin Dempsey and Mayor Allen|
We're not in obscurity, but we're not top of the pops either' . So said playwright, Billy Roche somewhat ruefully at the forum on Saturday . Turner gets great press being generally referred to as being an unorthodox genius with his name bandied about with those of literary giants, Beckett and Joyce for the quality of his lyrics . A flick through his biography sees him photographed with the likes of Pete Seeger and Phillip Glass- major figures from stylistically very different musical worlds. Why he continues to fly under the radar of national consciousness, remaining relatively unknown outside an ardent but modest fan base is something of an enigma addressed by the forum on Saturday titled 'From Wexford to Manhattan and Back'. Chaired by Jackie Hayden of Hot Press, it opened with the screening of a short documentary by Colin Murnane. Billy Roche spoke about growing up in Pierce's extended family with wry self deprecating humour. Broadcaster Frank Phelan is probably Turner's most passionate advocate and you can hear my audioboo with Frank below. Editor of the Wexford Echo, Tom Mooney drew comparisons with Julie Feeney and spoke about the impact of the changing nature of the music business.
Critic, Liam Fay completed the panel. 'The most intrinsically Irish artist of our generation was his assessment. . While the panelists were well informed and made interesting observations, no interaction from the floor was encouraged as advertised.
For me Turner is a quixotic figure, An engaging live performer who somehow combines elements of a cosy parlour party with big stadium shapes. He takes the details of his life story from his early life as a working class boy, growing up in a musical family in an Irish coastal town, to his journey to America and weaves them into an eclectic and entertaining song set. The style veers from sophisticated introspection to cheerful schmaltz, interlaced with great yarns. His sense of glee and joie de vivre is rare and very appealing.
Turner has a few dates coming up . He will be in Coughlans, Cork on 23 May . More information on the website www.pierceturner.com
*Correction. The hymn Faith of our Father's is sung at the end of the song You Can Never Know, not the Sky and the Ground as stated. . Both songs include references to religious symbols.
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