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

Monday, March 30, 2015

Musici Ireland Play Bates in Wexford

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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 

Image result for liam bates composerToday'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

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Cillian Byrne 
A different mood and timbre and mood opened the second half procedings with a lyrical piece for solo cello and piano played. There was light hearted whimsy and a Latin influence  in a suite of variations based on a theme from film score , Out of the Blue which featured some lovely lines for viola and duets between viola and violin.

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

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