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

Monday, May 2, 2016

Irish and European Elements Delightfully Intertwined - Centenary Gala at Wigmore Hall

A version of this report has been shuttling around various editors' in boxes over the last ten days and has not yet appeared in a print slot. So better late than never, here is my report on a wonderfully entertaining and historic event in London last week. 

Gala Concert at Wigmore Hall: A 100 Years of Irish Culture in Britain  *****
Performers at the Wigmore Hall Gala Concert  photo Simon Jay Price 

HE Daniel Mulhall photo Simon Jay Price 
'Centenaries are useful signposts in the landscape of our collective memory'.  With this pithy observation, Irish Ambassador to Britain, Daniel Mulhall opened an eloquent address at the Wigmore Hall, London's prestigious chamber music venue . The evening was the centrepiece of a week of events at the Victorian hall celebrating a century of Irish culture in Britain.  Over half an hour, the ambassador roved over the cultural landscape of the last hundred years in the context of the political upheavals of the Rising and WW1,  referring to many writers, both modern and retrospective.  Musicians, Aloys Fleischmann Snr and Jnr with roots in Cork and Bavaria were referred to as typifying the intertwining of Irish and European culture. Sport wasn’t side lined with the GAA cited as Ireland's most important sporting body -' Its continued success is one of the legacies of the tempestuous decades prior to the attainment of independence in 1922.' You can read the full text of the ambassador's reflective address here 100 Years of Irish Culture Daniel; Mulhall at Wigmore Hall

The concert which followed was broadcast live on RTE LyricFM, BBC radio and streamed live online. The performers featured a quartet of Ireland's finest young singers with pride of place given to mezzo soprano, Anne Murray together with Finghin Collins, the RTE Contempo Quartet and ensembles from Dublin’s RIAM and London’s RAM. During the concert, Ambassador Mulhall  presented  Murray with a Wigmore Hall Medal in recognition of her long and distinguished international career. ‘She personifies everything that is great about this hall. We salute her commitment to the song recital as a concert going experience’ said John Gilhooly.

 The European classical tradition was exemplified by an all Schubert selection.  An impromptu played by Finghin Collins served as a starter before a selection of nine of Schubert's best loved lieder. Murray dressed in an emerald green gown began with An Die Music . Tenor, Robin Tritschler joined her for a lovely duet, Licht und Liebe. Gavan Ring took a night off barbering duties as Figaro in Dublin. His selection included a dramatic rendition of the Die Erlkonig.  Ailish Tynan added the familiar Ave Maria but in an unusual German version. With a name resonant with the Irish history, clarinettist, Michael Collins joined Tynan for one of the highlights of the first half, The Shepherd on the Rock. Tara Erraught also on a night off from Rossini closed out the first half with a cheerful Serenade augmented by a male quartet from the RAM. 

The second half opened with Gerald Barry’s String Quartet No 1, a work begun in 1985 and revised for the occasion. One felt it wasn't quite the Wigmore audience's cup of tea but it was lively and interesting and the tricky harmonic sections were well executed by the RTE Contempo Quartet.   We heard a  miniature by John Field, arguably Ireland's most famous 19th century cultural export.

John Gilhooly: Arts Manager Extraordinaire  Simon  Jay Price 
If the first half had the ambiance of a 19th century Schubertiade, the second was a hooley in the parlour.  Having displayed their prowess at highbrow repertoire, the ensemble let their hair down with a selection of favourite Irish songs/ Two poignant Francis Ledwidge settings struck a sombre note among the cheerful drawing room ballads. The Ships of Arcady and A Blackbird Singing were most expressively sung by Robin Tritschler, a former BBC Young Generation artist.  The hard working accompanist, Jonathan Ware did justice to Michael Head's intricate piano arrangements.
'What did you most enjoy' I asked a 
gentleman in the next seat sporting a green tie for the occasion. Gavan Ring's barn storming rendition of The Kerry Dances had reminded him of his aunt from Kerry. It was her party piece, he said.
After the formal proceeding, a jolly party continued in the Wigmore Hall Bar where the Guinness was flowing and the canapés were every bit as good as you'd expect. There were informal addresses
by the Ambassador and  Mary McCarthy of Culture Ireland. Anne Murray replied to thank all for the accolade and the warm wishes and in self deprecating fashion recalled her first appearance the hall during the first round of the Ferrier Competition.

Where the Céiluradh event at the Albert Hall in2014 missed the mark in the stated aim of celebrating Irish Culture in Britain, the Wigmore Hall Gala Concert succeeded elegantly. It was terrific occasion, a night of words and music to remember and to be proud of. Maith sibh go léir!


Missed it ? Available to watch free online

Related post: Ceiluiradh at Royal Albert Hall Some Musings
Gala Set List 

1 comment:

  1. My only criticism is that I would like to have been able to hear the radio links on the night. BBC Radio 3 presenter, Sean Rafferty's introductions were not audible in the hall