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

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Fidleir's Airs: Easter Snow

On any given Easter Sunday, I would normally gravitate to a church whether at home or abroad.  I feel privileged to have experienced wonderful sacred music on travels to Europe. In recent years, Misteria Paschalia, a festival of Baroque Sacred Music in Krakow in the city's sacred spaces was a highlight. In Munich, while opera was the draw, it was the wonderful liturgical music in the Bavarian capital's churches that  lives longest in my memory. This time last year, I found myself at the Basilica Notre Dame du Roncier in the picturesque Breton town, Josselin on the Nantes-Brest Canal. A little burst of the bells heard there As a musician, it was wonderful to be part of the liturgical music at home be it in the parish church at Dunboyne, Ennis Cathedral and more recently at Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in the wonderful Georgian Cathedral in Waterford. This year, I couldn't quite reconcile myself to broadcasts from empty churches and contented myself with a gawk at the Archbishop of Canterbury's kitchen during his skype address on BBC TV.

For  my home recording on Easter Sunday morning 2020, I looked for a suitable air  and turned to no 105 in Traditional Slow Airs of Ireland .Easter Snow seemed on the face of it to be appropriate. The air, I learned was a favourite of piper  Seamus Ennis, and he named his caravan home in the Naul after this air. I listened to a recording that  his daughter Catherine made playing organ with  piper Liam Og O Flynn. I couldn't find a vocal version that closely matched the tune in my volume of Irish Airs in Tomás O Canainn's collection.  I particularly liked Hull based multi instrumentalist Wolfy O Hare's  brisk version on tin whistle and at the other end of the tempo scale, Fiachra o Corragáin has a beautiful languid  version on harp all available to watch on youtube. More information on the air from the Clare Library website here.
The title however  has nothing to do with Easter but is an anglicisation of an Irish placename in Co. Roscommon. The original name Diseart Nuadhan (St. Nuadha's Hermitage) evolved through Issertnowne to Estersnowe and now quite frequently Easter Snow. Christy Moore wrote a song titled Easter Snow as a tribute to Seamus Ennis.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Fidleir's Airs: Caoineadh na dTrí Muire

With some time in hand, I have it in mind to embark on a musical project that has been percolating for a while. I have always enjoyed playing the slow airs associated with the Irish bardic tradition. I plan to take a closer look at this treasure trove with a view to expanding my own repertoire and delving a little into the provenance of the tunes and so on. My main source is Tomás Ó Cannain's Traditional Slow Airs of Ireland which has over a hundred airs . The first video specifically for this project was recorded on Good Friday and looking for a suitable air to chime with  the day, I chose No 10, Caoineadh na dTrí Muire. I think it was Séamus Ennis who said the key to playing slow airs was to know at least a couple of lines of the sean nós version. I tried to match the phrasing of Iarla O Lionaird's version. The song was particularly associated with Joe Heaney and I include an extract from the Joe Heaney's archive website. A different air appears under the title in the Veritas Hymnal but the tune turns up later in the volume in another Easter hymn, An tAiséirí. In a verse in the Veritas version, Mary calls on two women who share her name,   to assist in the keening "Gabh i leith a dhá Mhuire go gcaoine sibh mo ghrá liom"  

The video setting was a Marian Grotto in Tramore in my neighbourhood. I hadn't visited this garden before the corona virus made me look more closely at what was on my doorstep. The garden is a lovely tranquil space tended by Mr Tony Hanlon.

"As Angela Partridge points out, the title by which this lament is known in Joe’s native Carna is Caoineadh na Páise (The Passion Lament). However, he accepted the title Caoineadh na dTrí Muire, which was given to the song following his first public performance of it in Dublin (Partridge, op. cit., 31). Caoineadh na dTrí Muire was a title associated with the song/poem in County Mayo. Versions from Donegal, Clare, Cavan, Kerry and Cork have also been recorded.
The song is best understood as a conversation between a number of participants including Peter, Jesus, the Blessed Virgin, and the Roman soldiers. This device advances the story with the greatest possible economy, allowing us to focus on the emotional intensity of each moment, from the viciousness of the soldiers to the disbelief and distress of Mary and finally to the quiet stoicism of Jesus, offering comfort to his distraught mother.
This is surely the most famous of the songs that Joe brought to public notice, and one of his own favourites. Along with Amhrán na Páise and Oíche Nollag, this lament reveals his deep reverence both for the spirituality of the subject-matter and for the tradition that his grandmother and others like her held up for her grandchildren and her community every year. As Máirtín Ó Cadhain wrote following Joe’s first public performance of this song in Dublin, In Caoineadh na dtrí Muire he brings home to us the joys and sorrows of Mary with the intimacy and poignancy of a Fra Angelico painting (quoted in Angela Partridge, Caoineadh na dTrí Muire: Téama na Páise i bhFilíocht Bhéil na Gaeilge, Dublin 1983, 4)."

Detail of vVctorian stained glass church window in Fringford depicting St. Mary with two other women under the cross on the first Good Friday

A Pheadair, a Aspail,
An bhfaca tú mo ghrá geal?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Chonaic mé ar ball é,
Gá chéasadh ag an ngarda.
Óchón agus óchón-ó!

Cé hé an fear breá sin
Ar Chrann na Páise?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
An é n-aithníonn tú do Mhac,
A Mháthrín?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!

An é sin an Maicín
A hoileadh in ucht Mháire?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
An é sin an Maicín
A rugadh insan stábla?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!

An é sin an Maicín
A d'iompair mé trí ráithe?
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
A Mhicín mhúirneach,
Tá do bhéal 's do shróinín gearrtha,
Óchón agus óchón-ó!

Cuireadh tairní maola
trína chosa 's trína lámha,
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Cuireadh an tsleá
Trína bhrollach álainn.
Óchón agus óchón-ó!
Óchón agus óchón

Monday, February 24, 2020

Midterm Ramblings

Stormy weather and inertia put plans for an excursion on hold. So I stayed at home for the midterm break. However there was plenty of diversion in Waterford and I enjoyed that sense of being on holiday at home. Here is a roundup of the highlights.

Piano Virtuoso at the Large Room. Belfast native, Michael McHale was in Waterford on Thursday and it was heartening to see a a good turn out of 80+ patrons in the Large Room for a terrific performance. McHale addressed the audience adding some asides to the programme notes. The Chopin pieces, we learned were all dedicated to Charlotte Rothschild. It was a busy day for McHale with two recitals in different counties. Fortunately he had a driver and he acknowledged the support of his parents in fulfilling his engagements. It added to the general cheer to have Carmel and Noel McHale among the audience. I have on occasion, turned pages for Michael but there was no need for a page turner on Thursday as the entire programme was performed from memory. As we have come expect from a player at home in the best international venues, the playing was wonderfully
colourful and expressive. The jazz flourish of McHales's own interpretation of Danny Boy was a thrilling close to
the evening.

Check out McHales' tips for practicing pianist taken at the Steinway C piano in Waterford City Hall

Programme: Beethoven Moonlight Sonata;  Chopin Waltz, Mazurka, Ballade;
                     Beethoven Apassionata Sonata; John Field Nocturne; Irish Airs arr McHale My Lagan Love, Cailin O Cois tSuire Me ; Rigoletto paraphrase Liszt  Encore Danny Boy

The Mall was a hive of activity on Thursday. Across the road in the Waterford Crystal Centre, I caught the final stage of a spoken word event.  Ex-RTE presenters, Ciana Campbell and Michael Murphy  were reading from Murphy's book of poetry, The Ministry of Dreams as part of Project Music's programme of events. There was good stuff too in the Reg where a young man with a guitar was singing soulful ballads for midweek patrons.

10 Dark Secrets of 1798 Paddy Cullivan

While the Blues conceded to Bohemians, Paddy Cullivan formerly of the Late late Show House band was in action at Central Arts. His show wasn't quite what I was expecting. Opening and closing with a song performed to a backing track, Cullivan delivered an detailed illustrated lecture. The device of covering a lot of material in ten chunks worked quite well. There was no doubting the lengthy research or Cullivan's passion for the subject but I found it too long  for quite depressing content and yes, I think  I would have liked another song or two. With this format, I wondered might Cullivan fare better on the regular history talk series say in the Medieval Museum rather than at a less attentive Friday night gig audience.

Guitar Night
Duo Cry Monster Cry

Navan native Pat Coldrick brought an easy listening set list to the Theatre Royal. Down the road in  Central Arts, two brothers Jamie and Richie Martin AKA  Cry Monster Cry dropped off on a nationwide tour to present a sombre set tinged with nostalgia. There was a smack of the Everly Brothers in the effortless close harmonies and the jangle of mandolin and banjo gave it a folkie edge. It was all very mellow. A cover of Springsteen's Dancing in the Dark was one of the few uptempo numbers. Check them out here

Radio Highlight of the week. 

Monday, February 10, 2020

Hansel and Gretel at The Abbey

Weather warnings for Storm Chiara were up as  Walsh and Irish rugby fans sheltered in the pubs around Abbey Street, I made my way to the Abbey for the opening of INO's latest production, a collaboration with Theatre Lovett in Engelbert Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel at The Abbey Theatre 
A film-noirish set, a hardworking ensemble and a lively translation were the strengths of Irish National Opera’s new production of Hansel and Gretel. Directors, Muireann Ahearn and Louis Lovett move the Grimm Brothers’ dark tale from a traditional woodland setting to a surreal hotel occupied with residents dressed in Jamie Vartan’s post-Edwardian period costumes. Musicians make an entrance taking up their positions in the ‘foyer’ salon ensemble in tightly choreographed movement. A spotlight falls on a French Horn player (Liam Duffy) as he appears on a balcony delivering the most exposed of solos in the overture. The roles of Sandman and Dew Fairy are combined in the guise of an cabaret singer a la Dietrich sung by Emma Nash. Raymond Keane’s silent antics as Night Watchman added to the spooky, dreamlike mood.

The singing is good across the ensemble although the dry acoustic in the auditorium seemed to rob voices of some of their warmth. Amy Ní Fhearraigh and Raphaela Mangan play the children who are banished to the Haunted Woods Bar. Miriam Murphy and Ben McAteer’s bring a comic horror physicality to their portrayal as the feckless parents. Carolyn Dobbin has the most fun as the Witch revelling in David Pountneys’ colourful libretto. Richard Pierson directed the six other musicians from the piano in his own reduction of the score. The acoustic here favoured the wind and brass timbres with strings sounding  a bit thin without the oomph of a cello or double bass. The eerie pre-recorded voices of RTE Cór na nÓg worked very well in representing the disembodied voices of the Lost Children.

There was an enthusiastic reception from the first night audience that included a substantial proportion of youngsters.  This is a novel production, on the dark side but unlikely to give anyone nightmares. There are 5 more performances at the Abbey this week followed by a nine-venue nationwide tour. It is puzzling that given the target is a family audience that there are no matinée performances scheduled. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

History Matters in Dunhill

By John Hartery

It was  noted before in this blog that history talks bring crowds and it was proven again  at Dunhill Multi-Education Centre, no mean achievement on a dark and wintry January evening. Dunhill is an example of a community that's vibrant with a large range of local education and entrepreneurial activities amongst other initiatives. 

The lectures  come under the banner of The Julian Walton Winter Lecture Series and is now in its 14th Year. Walton is of course the doyen of historians in the region with an impressive track record of broadcasting and writing on historical topics many with a local flavour.

The Dunhill schedule  of talks run on a weekly basis on Thursday nights with a fiver admission charge and a cuppa and chat afterwards. Topics tend to have a local bias but placed  the context of wider history.

Tony Benn's memorial to Emily Davison
Last week's talk by Niamh Crowley had a full house for 'Women, The Vote and Waterford'. it was quite a wide-ranging talk tracing  the Suffragette movement in the UK and USA to local Waterford women who helped smash the glass ceiling. Archive footage and pictures illustrated the path taken to secure votes for all women (and some men) finally  in the late 1920s. Ireland in fact in the vanguard in granting the franchise to everybody. 

The Epsom Derby event and Emily Davison was noted and an interesting clip of what happened  

Davison was also famous for hiding out in the House of Commons to feature there in the census. An occasion finally acknowledged there by a plaque placed by Tony Benn an act  subsequently chronicled by Reg Meuross

Many women used the census of 1911 to voice their views on no votes for women. Crowley illustrated the census returns of a trio of Waterford women active in pursuit of the vote; Lily Poole, Dr Mary Strangman and Rosamund Jacobson.

There's plenty of talks coming up  in the Dunhill lecture series and something for all tastes

Dunhill History Lectures with Julian Walton - Series XIV - 2020

The series will run for ten weeks, every Thursday from 9 January to 12 March. Lectures are held at Dunhill Multi-Education Centre (opposite the GAA grounds).
Starting at 8 p.m., each lecture lasts about an hour and is followed by a question & answer session and light refreshments.
9 Jan Julian Walton: “Eaten by a hog”: The early history of Kilmeadan
16 Jan Liam Suipéal: Coastal Place names from Dungarvan to Youghal - an illustrated talk on our coastal heritage.
23 Jan Niamh Crowley: Women, the vote, and Waterford
30 Jan Julian Walton: The Hore family of Dungarvan
6 Feb William Fraher: Visualising the past: Waterford County Museum’s photographic archive
13 Feb Julian Walton: Charles Newport Bolton (1816-1884) – artist, genealogist, and historian of Waterford Harbour
20 Feb Christina Knight O’Connor and Eddie Cantwell: Investigations at Gallows Hill, Dungarvan - a community archaeology project
27 Feb Dave Pollock: Finding medieval Stradbally
5 March Eugene Broderick: Thomas Meagher (1789?-1874): the forgotten father of Thomas Francis Meagher
12 March Julian Walton: A surprise!

Friday, January 24, 2020

London Calling 2020

Every now and then, I pine for the buzz that a big city can offer and can't resist the impulse to jump on a plane for London so conveniently close to us on the east coast of Ireland. The appeal was explored in this BBC radio programme by Mark Tully quoting a diverse range of authors in a celebration of the big city from William Blake to Suzanne Vega and from New Orleans jazz to William Wordsworth. London seemed the same as ever. Brexit wiped off the headlines by the announcement of Harry and Meghan's departure. I spent four nights in central London visiting old haunts and finding some new ones. A little roundup of my experiences here.

Play at Kilburn:  The Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn High Road has had a name change. The complex housing a cinema, bar and restaurant as well as a theatre with a town hall feel was lively on Thursday night. It is now  known as The Kiln. I saw Mike Bartlett's play Snowflake here. Although it was well reviewed, I found this three-hander based on the rift between a father and daughter with a Brexit theme a bit yawn inducing. Guardian review by Michale Billington here The Black Lion across the road is an impressive pub for a post show pint.

Pete Atkin at Pheasantry wity songs of the late Clive James

The Songs of Clive James and Peter Atkin: A bittersweet evening as Clive Jame's song writing partner accompanied by pianist Simon Wallace played  some of the songs the duo had produced in five decades of collaboration at the clubby ambience of the basement lounge of, The Pheasantry- a Pizza Express venue on King's Rd Chelsea. The staff managed to deftly serve pizza and drinks without interrupting the flow. A radio programme on the duo here.

Troy Exhibition at The British Museum; With a magnificent atrium, The British Museum is for my money the most impressive public building in London. A special exhibition of all things to do with Troy. Lots of ceramics, marbles and paintings. Best of all were the books, early print editions of translations of Homer's Iliad and hand written volumes with notes in the margins, many from a collection at Buckingham Palace.

Shopping: Enjoyed browsing in the Victorian building housing a Waterstone's branch on Gower Street. Lots of literary events listed

Ballet: The Red Shoe's based on a Hans Christian Anderson tale was playing at Sadler's Wells in Islington. A gorgeous production to a Bernard Hermann score. Ballet Rambert were showing off what they could do at an open rehearsal of a forthcoming production (Aisha and Abhaya) at the Royal Opera House. The house is open during to the day to have a wander around. The viewing balcony allows views over the area and a peak into the costume workrooms. I enjoyed a pie and a pint in the Red Lion in Islington near Sadler's Wells amid punters in  to watch Saturday football.

Pub Theatre
Canal Cafe Theatre has a long running revue programme in the style of Beyond the Fringe over a pub in Little Venice. It was hilarious. with topical sketches riffing on the latest news.

Cast here 

Edward Bartram, Gabrielle de Saumarez, Luke Francis and Emily-Rose Clarkson.
Directed by Sam Sheldon.
Musical Direction by Richard Baker.

Curtains: Musical
I saw Curtains by Kander and Ebb on the last night at Wyndham's Theatre in the West End before it went on tour. It was very charming and witty. There were strong performances not least from Jason Manford as the stage struck detective. Mark Lawson's review here Definitely worth seeing if not a must-see.

Westminster Cathedral: Music for the 10.30 liturgy included a motet from Handel's Messiah- And the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed; settings by Renaissance composer Christopher Tye and an organ voluntary by Buxtehude. All was not happy it seems in the Cathedral Music Dept and the newsletter carried news of the sudden departure of music master Martin Baker, it appears in a clash over changes to the timetable. More here in a Guardian article

The magazine carried a feature on the late Colin Mawby who was of course well known from his work with RTE choirs in Dublin. Artcicle from Oremus here

Busker Trafalgar Sq
The newsletter also carried a list of raffle prizes still to be claimed included; champagne, chocolates, M&S vouchers, 'Festive Pandoro Cake' and a 'donkey'! I suppose might be hard to house a donkey in your average London dwelling.


Pooch, Pie and Pint in Islington