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

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Credo Amen: A Day at the Irish Church Music Association Summer School 2013

Cobh Cathedral Choir in St Patrick's Maynooth   photo ICMA website 

At long last – it's July and school's out, the sun is shining  and all roads lead to the beach. Not for everybody though. Granted temporary release from their  lofts, organists, choir directors and choristers made a bee-line for Maynooth where the  annual summer school took place in the leafy campus of St Patrick’s College.  I joined the gathering of 200 or so musicians on the 3rd day of the 4 day summer school run by the Irish Church Music Association. The format was the usual mix of formal tutorials, liturgical services and performances with meals and informal meet and greet sessions. The proceedings were conducted as usual amid the 19th century architectural splendour  designed by Pugin Here are my highlights of a packed day at the 44th summer school.

Russell Library 
‘Avoid the conductor’s sniff’ and drop your r’s’ advised Derek Mahady in the Renehan Hall to a group aspiring to more constructive arm waving.  In the chapel a small group of organ scholars were hanging on every word uttered by master organist, Columba McCann as he gave advice on best pedal pushing practice followed by a master class on a Bach Fantasias. How anyone masters even simple chorales with hands and feet  seems amazing enough but seeing and hearing Ríona Curtin transform the thick black spiders  on the page of  her  Bach manuscript to magical sounds on the chapel organ seemed almost miraculous to me. I could have happily sat and listened to them discuss the finer points of organ playing all day. There was time also for a peek at the ancient manuscripts hidden away in the Russell Library, an architectural gem which is well worth seeking out if you are on the campus.

A trio of contemporary Irish composers presented their work over the course of the week and I sat in on Ephrem Feeley’s engaging  afternoon workshop as he presented a selection of his  music and gave insights and advice on their best use. The young composer, based in Meath,  launched a newly published collection of his work in CD and manuscript form earlier in the week. The collection of 14 pieces has strong melodic content in a  range of keys and metres that will appeal to most choirs and  should be a useful addition to liturgical resources for schools. Instrumentalists will particularly enjoy playing the obligado  parts conveniently included in the publication.
Ephrem Feeley in Top Loftus 
There was ample  opportunity to flex the sight singing muscles as director of the summer school, Paul Kenny  steered the attendees through a rehearsal of  the mountain of music to accompany the afternoon liturgy. There is an emphasis generally on contemporary work  by Irish and American composers I was privileged to be invited to play a violin part for the Joncas settings, a  welcome opportunity  to play in the unique sacred space.

Cobh Cathedral Chamber Choir was a balanced 16 piece ensemble under director Dominic Finn. They presented an interesting  programme of ancient and contemporary sacred music. Irish composers Sean Davey, Liam Lawton and Ronan McDonagh featured and Tom Kendzia was in the audience to hear his piece Pieta performed.  There were several pieces by English composer  Phillip Stopford. There was impressive solo singing from several members but it was the extraordinary hush of the pianissimos that  made the greatest impression.  Lucky Cobh denizens to have such a high calibre ensemble to regularly enrich its liturgies.  It was a rich and satisfying conclusion to the musical offerings of the day.

You can read my report on my visit to the 2011 school here .
1939  Humbert Craig 'Going to Mass'  Illustration from Paddy Jones Input talk

Programme Weds 3rd July
As Easter People   Sexton
Penitential Rite Feeley
Gloria  St Chad     David Saint
Psalm 138 In The presence of your Holy Angels Feeley
Festival Alleluia  James Chepponis
A Prayer of Cardinal Newman  Joncas
Mass parts Joncas
Lamb of God  Oliver Hynes
This is the Bread Come Down from Heaven Sexton
Oh Sacred Banquet Joncas
Give Thanks to God  Stephen McManus

Organist Eanna McKenna 
Voluntary Riona Curtin 

Related articles Cathys reviews 

Priests and Pilgrims: Bloomsday at IEC

ICMA Summer School 2011 A report 

Clarendon Chorale with Mc Donagh

From Heav'n on High Wylde Brings de Regge Home to Ennis 

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