I was pleasantly surprised to find a Wexford church packed to the rafters today for an afternoon concert of contemporary music. New music events in venues more accustomed to the familiar can be prone to be be preceded by a sense of mild trepidation but in St Iberius Church in the South East coastal town, the mood was all buzzy anticipation for the celebration of the work of a single composer. Given that the composer in the limelight was Liam Bates, locally based and the musicians performing were some of the best professional players in the country it shouldn't have been a surprise really. This combined with a sustained multifaceted pr effort seems to have paid off in maximum bums on seats for unfamiliar work, I was in the audience for the performance by the Wexford Sinfonia of Bates symphonic homage to the heroes of the Helena Blake last year, when Wexford folk filled the County Council HQ to salute the local heroes, living and dead. A report and a link to my Irish Examiner review here
Today's event featured a salon ensemble augmented with a choir, solo voice and flugel horn. There was a satisfying range of contrasts in timbre and style in the selection of work presented over an hour and half. Opening with the hyperactive rhythms of funk/disco inspired, Vivo. the mood was calmed by a plaintive Elegy featured Shaun Hooke on the all too rarely heard flugelhorn. Hooke, principal trumpet of RTE CO also featured in the premier of a jazz influenced Urban Monday. The minimalist style of Abundance created a contemplative mood with sustained slow moving lines on viola accompanied by Piano and accordion. Premiered in 2014 in a version for symphony orchestra, the Heroes of the Helen Blake was presented in a three movement version for chamber ensemble. Although lacking the high emotion and sweep of the original. the piece gained greater clarity in the interplay between solo violin and ensemble with the sea shanties woven into the score easier to discern. A solo voice, Cillian Byrne of group, Basciville replaced the male voice choir in the song of the lifeboat men
Finally , the Valda Chamber Choir joined the ensemble for a serene Agnus Dei and canticles inspired by Bates' sojourn in Togo reminiscent of the syle of Welsh composer, Karl Jenkins.
They say a prophet is never recognized in his own land. One couldn't say that of this Wexford composer on this jubilant gala occasion. To conclude , I repeat a comment from my last report on this man's work 'By any standards, this is exciting and well crafted symphonic writing, teeming with ideas that deserves further airing on a national platform'.
Elegy featuring Shaun Hooke on Flugelhorn
A Beautiful Heart
Heroes of the Helen Blake Chamber version 3 movements Mia Cooper vln and. Cillian Byrne
Dancing with Gioconda Cello and Pno Wm Butt Orla McDonagh
Out of the Blue Suite
A Pure Heart
Agnus Dei featuring ensemble with Valda Choir
Liam Bates and Shaun Hooke