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

Monday, June 20, 2016

Rejoyce for Bloomsday

Opera scene at Martello Tower

Thursday was Bloomsday and I ventured to Sandycove to join the annual literary shenanigans .  There was a nip in the air but a hardy cluster of swimmers gathered at the 40 Foot swimming spot to bathe in the 'snot green sea'. In the Martello Tower,  there was a profusion of straw boaters and blazers among the audience gathered to hear the premiere of the first of four  scenes from  an operatic version of Ulysses by composer, Eric Sweeney to a libretto adapted by Andrew Basquille . The harp like accompaniment played  by David Bremner with a sprinkling of  sprechstimme gave the piece the feel of a rhapsodic epic There was an cheerful party atmosphere on Main Street in  Glasthule with tables and chairs set up under awnings outside each premises. Bemused Japanese tourists, giggling schoolchildren in bonnets and painted moustaches , celebrity chefs and Mollies galore in their best Bloomsday attire made for a bustling gaiety. The jolliest gathering was outside Quinn's Funeral Home. I hadn't heard Oleg Ponomarev Russian violinist of Loyko fame for a long time but there he was outside Caviston's adding a whiff of the Hot Club de Paris to the proceedings.,

 On Sandymount Green, strolling players performed dramatic scenes under the gaze of a bronze WB Yeats for an audience fuelled by hot chips from  Borza's.  Books Upstairs on D'Olier Street has a lovely tea room upstairs where student thespians did their Joycean thing. Finally it was om to Davy Byrne's where sips of Burgundy soothed the palate.

So what that most of us can't claim to have read Ulysses from cover to cover.  I think writer Micheal O Domhnaill writing in the Irish Times on Thursday introduces a note of pretentious snootiness when he refers to 'the profoundly cynical philistinism  of Bloomsday'. Why shouldn't everyone be  a Joycean on this one day in June when dressing up is encouraged and we take fresh delight in the power of language and words renowned all over the literary world.

Viintage transport 

Books Upstairs; D'Olier Street

Monday, June 13, 2016

Schubert & Shakespeare at Dublin Castle

Tenor, Robin Tritschler with pianist, Graham Johnson, gave the concluding recital in the Festival of Great Music in Irish Houses yesterday. The event was part of a day of musical events under the general title, The Dublin Musical Saunter. The title suggests an element of  nonchalance but there was nothing casual about this duo's programme of Schubert Lieder and songs associated with Shakespeare. With it's eye watering, creamy stone and mahogany interior and perfect acoustic, the bijou Chapel Royal was a spectacular space in which to see and hear every nuance and  crisply enunciated syllable from this exceptional duo.

The first half was an all Schubert, mostly from 1815 when the composer was still in his late teens.  The Gothic stone ambiance seemed just the right setting for the Romantic flavour of medieval yarns and tales of  heartache and youthful passion. Texts were provided but you didn't want to take your eyes or ears off the soloist for a moment and there was plenty to take in  in the melodies and the changing emotions conveyed with Tritchler's  fine range of dynamic control and Johnson's delicate accompaniments. His is a most beautiful voice, one that makes even the dullest lyrics seem bright and shiny.

The second half was a compendium of song associated with Shakespeare plays, most were by 20th century composers. Here Tritschler's showed a surprising versatility of voice and gesture in all sorts of characterizations. I loved his gravely Caliban and cynical  grave digger in settings by Mario Castelnuovo Tedesco. I can't have been the only audience member who had to restrain myself from hooping and cheering throughout the Shakespearian selection, specially after the merrily raucous, Jog on from Winter's Tale . The Chapel Royal is a very fine venue but not one to hoop and holler in.

Solo recital of the year so far. For a combination of exceptional performers, sunning architecture and rare programming, I can't imagine it being surpassed.  Sending virtual applause and a hoop and a holler to the artists and programmers.


Earlier in the afternoon, I was was at the General Post Office for the National Chamber Choir.  I can now say that I was in the GPO in 2016. There was a sense of occasion in the iconic space, at the heart of the site of the Rising  with composer Stephen McNeff was in attendance to hear the premier of his 1916 themed work, A Half Darkness. In the washy acoustic though, the programme was heavy going. Of the varied works, I most enjoyed Samuel Webbes witches songs from Macbeth and the final two contrasting works by Finnish composer, Jaakko Mantyjaarvi.

Related Posts: Irish Gala at Wigmore Hall

My wrap up piece on the festival will be in tomorrow's Irish Examiner

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Jazz from Now at Garter Lane

Kevin Lawlor with his Jazz from Now Quartet at Garter Lane

You know how it is. You don't hear any jazz for ages and then two gigs come along. This week, I heard jazz divided by a century. On Wednesday, The Hot Sardines brought their vintage jazz set to the grand portals of the NCH. Last night, at Garter Lane , Waterford it was all about newly minted 21st century jazz. They were both remarkable gigs from accomplished jazz collectives.

Kevin Lawlor is a Wexford based drummer who assembled a quartet that comprised, Adam Nolan on sax, Steve Tierney on bass, and Patrick Molitor on keys and lead us through a catalogue of modern work by Bad Plus, Go Go Penguin, Joshua Redman. Lawlor introduced the pieces giving a note on their provenance and a sense of where they fitted in the modern jazz world. The work had elements in common with minimalist composers with improvisations layered over repetitive rhythmic keyboard riffs and frenetic multiple time signatures. Lawlor's own piece, Goodbye Again was one of the more mellow contributions of the set.

The event was remarkable for another factor. To say the audience was meagre would be an understatement. Between audience and ensemble we just about made it to double digits. Where was everybody? I have been at several jazz gigs in this formal theatre space and can vouch that low attendances for jazz is not unusual here. Jazz buffs are perhaps more comfortable in the less formal spaces in closer proximity to the bar. But this event had a sponsor. The evening was supported by the Three Sisters 2020, designed to showcase the best of jazz in the SE and presumably to project the region as a lively cultural hub. You might have expected at least one of the single nomenclatured bid team not to mention the 20+ Cultural Steering Group to have put in an appearance and introduce their invitees.

'Jazz is the only genre that openly accepts a broad spectrum of influences ;' said Lawlor in his concluding remarks. Perhaps more than any other genre, jazz musicians needs that energy and response from their audience to spur them on. I hope this quartet get that from their audience in Wexford tonight and following that in Kilkenny. They deserve it.

Related post Jacob Deaton's Tribulation at Garter Lane

Friday, June 10, 2016

Venetian Soirée at Theatre Royal

There was something delightfully cheesy about 'A Night in Venice', a loosely themed evening of Italian music and song presented by World on Stage Productions at the Theatre Royal, Waterford last night.  Gathered around and aboard a pantomime gondola, the generous forces of  a trio of singers with a seven piece ensemble presented operatic favourites by Puccini, Rossini and Verdi with a selection Neopolitan songs.  With the warm  red brick walls acting as a backdrop, the music hall ambiance of the Victorian venue was nicely in sync with  the old fashioned style of the production.

Tenor, Jonathan Ansell who came to fame as part of G4, an Il Divo style boy band, exuded a cheerful willingness  to engage with the audience and to ham it up as chief gondolier. The Neopolitan numbers suited him best and I would like to have heard  a little more sotto voce in the operatic arias. Li Li, soprano had a great range of dynamic control and excelled in the big Puccini hits. A duet, Offenbach's Barcarolle with Maria Kesselman was one of the first half highlights. They were well served by The European Baroque Ensemble.  A flautist added much to the string arrangements.

Between numbers, the singers added personal anecdotes from their own lives.  While the device did help create an informal soirée mood and connect the singers to the audience, it didn't work that well for me. I would have preferred to hear something more in keeping with the theme of the evening. A few gossipy  scripted notes about the works, a tale or two from the opening nights reports  perhaps.

Remarkably good value at less than €20 a ticket, this was a most enjoyable, fun night out and it was good to see the stalls at the Theatre Royal full on a midweek night. The hard working ensemble are at The Everyman Cork tonight and Drogheda on Saturday before they return to the UK for a month of dates. 

(Set list not complete)
O Sole Mio
Una Doce Poca Fa Rossini
Barcarolle Offenbach
La Matinata 
Funniculi Funnicula
Che Gelida Manina
Vissi d'Arte
Parigi Caro
O Mio Babbino Caro
Luefan le stella 
Nessun Dorma
Un Bel Di 
Thieving Magpie
Santa Lucia
La Traviata Prelude
La Donna Mobile 
Be My Love 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Hot Sardines Debut in Dublin

The  Hot Sardines sounded fun when I heard them  on the BBC Radio 3 afternoon show In Tune recently. I was looking forward to hearing them live on their debut in Dublin as part of the Walton's World Music Series. No 'scrappy little jazz band', this 8 pce ensemble were a sharp, sophisticated , sassy outfit How could you not love a band with a tap dancing ukulele player in the line-up. In a flame red trouser suit, Miz Elizabeth acted as MC and lead vocalist (and principal washboard player) and did a good job of making the rather grand space of the NCH a more intimate, laid back salon. The band are on a mission to showcase vintage jazz for a modern audience.  The set list included jazz standards, a show tune or two and more recent musical goodies You can read more about The Hot Sardines here.

If you were at the gig, you may remember Miz Elizabeth refer to her encounter with Bernie and Orla of the NCH staff and the important matter of scones and what to put on them. You might enjoy this video of that

Among the audience were  jazz afficionado and broadcaster, Gay Byrne. (What a shame that RTE currrently has no programme dedicated to jazz on the Lyric FM schedule. Bring back Jazz Alley and Donald Helm)

 A great gig. I could only have enjoyed it more were I in a  speakeasy 'eating french fries and sipping champagne'. I'm off to order my new washboard!