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

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Barbershop Quartets, a Thrupenny Piece and Sacred Songs all in an October weekend

Barbershop Quartets , a Thrupenny Opera  and Sacred Songs.

‘How do you know there is a lead at the door- They don’t know when to come in and can’t find their key’ Just one of many gags delivered by the cheery Yorkshire Lady  who acted as MC  for an audience at the Theatre Royal Waterford on Friday  Cognoscenti among you will of course recognise that the audience must have been singers of the barbershop variety  and indeed the 2013 Irish Association of Barbershop Singers Convention  was held in the medieval port city this weekend. If the world of choral singing is a lake, barbershop singers constitute a significant rockpool and 600 or so  of the Irish members with guests from overseas gathered to indulge in their vocal passion. It was quite an heady blend of great good humour, glorious four part harmony and show biz pzazz , part X Factor and part Phoenix Nights. No programme was available, so I can’t credit any individuals or name the event but Friday night’s competition was won by the Bray Ladies Chorus, Serendipity for their rendition of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The Ladies must have been in make up for hours to get the striking impasto  effects in their monster stage make up  Stephen from the Cambridge explained to me the distinction between a choir and a chorus.  Special Guests  The Gateway Chorus from San Francisco and The Old School Quartet were superb and threatened to list the roof of the Victorian auditorium . The party continued after the show at Tower Hotel  where the Festival Club was delightfully named Afterglow where the group gathered the chat and warble I into the small hours.

Venue Notes: I arrived at the Theatre Royal a little late to find one of the front of house staff standing in the doorway as if to deter anyone casually strolling in off the street.  I wondered for a moment if it was a private  event but on enquiring about ticket availability , the young man gestured towards the Box Office . I can’t say that I was impressed by the welcoming attitude of the Theatre Royal Team on this or recent visits.

The Threepenny Opera  by with libretto by Brecht and music by Weill is  most famous for the standard, Mac the Knife . A rare chance to see the emblematic 1920’s work was presented by the Gate Theatre production  for the Dublin Theatre Festival. I was lucky to secure a cancellation on Saturday night. The press reviews have been unanimously positive about the production and expectations were high. I did enjoy it but found almost two hours for a first half without an interval a little arduous. The forces assembled were impressive almost thirty players between cast and musicians. Among them an eight piece ensemble lead by Cathal Synnott supported the 20 or so actor/singers. I loved the real harmonium and among the pit players placed on stage, Karl Ronan on trombone excelled as the predominant voice in the pit. Not for the first time, I note the role the Artane Boys Band has played in producing superb professional brass players. It was good to hear  Brendan Doyle from Waterford in the ensemble.
Venue Notes. The Gate especially when packed is not the most comfortable theatre especially if you come in last and your seat is at the end of the row. Get in early and don't count on being able to get out easily.  I am always impressed by the authoritative presence of the Front of House Manager 

Palestrina Choir

Sunday Palestrina Choir Director Blanaid  Murphy Organist Gerald Gillen.  11.00 Sung Mass Pro Cathedral
As ever , the best music with superb musicians was to be heard for nothing, no ticket required and open to all in the capital ecclesiastical spaces. The Palestrina Choir sang a varied programme of old and new in a programme including Herbert Howells, Mozart and a new work by Scottish composer James McMillan, with responses by Colin Mawby and plainchant all executed with skill and style. The ceremony opened with the choir processing up while singing the opening hymn, All Creatures of our God and King, the words provided to encourage congregational participation . At the close , the choir lined up at the altar and their efforts were acknowledged and the new  senior positions were announced. The proceedings closed with a splendid organ voluntary by Widor by  Gerard Gillen on the Pro Cathedral Organ. Excellent! 

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