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

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Harps, Statues and String quartets: A Dublin Saunter

Brenda Molloy
Queen of Dublin Buskers

It took me quite a while to navigate my way down Grafton Street on Friday such was the distraction by numerous buskers lining the route. There were earnest  young men with guitar, animate statues, a  one armed pan pipe player, a  professional string quartet and several gypsy jazz outfits- some were very good indeed and some made up for a lack of experience with charm and enthusiasm. Dublin City Council are currently drafting new bye laws to tackle the issue of on street busking as a code of practice was  unsuccessful with '15-20 problematic performers refusing to sign'  I like  buskers and occasionally take to the pavement to play myself but with one caveat-no amplifiers please.  I believe that the sounds  should  pervade only the space in the immediate vicinity of the busker. This would allow more of them to operate without  overpowering the listener. After all  as a passerby going from A to B, you haven't chosen to hear their offering. The lack of impact Joshua Bell had on passers by in new York was an internet sensation but was it such a surprise really?

Statue sextet

Living statues are a common feature on the busking scene  but I've never really understood the appeal of this particular kind of silent street artist. It is too easy to pass them by.  In a tribute to the legendary street artist The Diceman, poet and academic, Brendan Kennelly gave this assessment of the art  "Thom McGinty's magic has to do with his ability to mesmerise his audience, to lure them out of their busy city selves and to take them away into that land of perfect stillness where marvellous dreams are as normal as Bewley's sticky buns." Usually they are found standing  alone  but this unusual sextet caught my eye. More a pond of stillness than a pool to misquote Paula Meehan in her homage to McGinty, I am not sure what the theme was or if they were a random assortment. 

A band of  brothers, the Broadbents aka Stringfever, a  quartet from the UK were dominating the middle stretch of Grafton Street. Veterans of the corporate after dinner entertaining scene, they were not a typical string quartet. Replacing the standard wooden instruments with electric ones I am afraid they broke my wireless rule but they were very entertaining . 
Similar in many respects to Graffiti Classics, their blend of  virtuoso classical string technique with comedic capers was very popular with the crowd. 

Stringfever grips Grafton Street 


Out in Phoenix Park, the Mellowchords were warbling their way around the Bloom Garden Festival popping up all over the place with their barbershop vocals .

At the bottom of Grafton Street, I met Brenda Malloy who was in her spot across from Trinity College where she has sent  the strains of her gentle harp into the city soundscape for the last 13 years. Amid the profusion of musical styles proliferating  in the capital's busking scene, it seems very important that the sound of the Irish harp, our national symbol is heard  and Brenda is Cathy's Reviews' pick for best  Dublin busker For the record,  Brenda was the only artist bearing the Approved Performer Badge. Brava!

 I was very taken with these two youngsters who were ploughing their way through Delibes Flowers Song. Their sign explained that their dream was to be NBA players and were saving up to go to basketball camp

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