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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Review of the Year - Some of the best musical moments of 2010

Looking back over the blog I have selected some of the most memmorable moments of 2010. Reviews on all items can be found in last year's years blog and can be found using the search button.

Conductor  David Chase conductor gave a memorable performance with the La Jolla Chorus from San Diego at Glór, Ennis. They were wonderful and he had a charming  and commanding presence.  His erudite vocal introductions to a most interesting programme added much to the pleasure of the occasion.

Performance The Good Friday concert by Limerick Choral Union including a performance of Jenkins Stabat Mater was a highlight. Conductor Malcolm Greene created a hair raising experience combining many unusual elements. It was perhaps the performance I most enjoyed participating in I  can't give a fully  unbiased review as I was playing in the viola section!

Composer  I was impressed with Sean Tyrrell's setting in a trad idiom of  The Midnight Court at the Highway Inn  in Crusheen

Best  Pub Gig  We really enjoyed Vladimir Jablokov  Classical Twist  gig upstairs in Dolan's Limerick .  He is wonderful to watch and we look forward to seeing him in the Midwestern region again.  Another Slovak young musician also impressed me at this venue, young Andreas Varedy is also one to watch

Best Debut The debut performances of the Blazing Bows and Swinging Strings String Ensembles in their school halls for fellow students, family and friends were one of my favourite occasions of the year.

Best Venue  NCH It is hard to beat the festive and grand air of the National Concert Hall. It gave me great pleasure to see assist in bringing two youth ensembles from Colaiste Muire Ennis and St Peter's College Dunboyne to perform at this prestigious venue at the IAYO Festival of Youth Orchestras. I was  especially thrilled to see some of my beginners coming through from instrumental programmes I  initiated in both schools. I enjoyed playing there  in December myself as a member if the 1st violin section of the former Irish Youth Orchestra players under Gearoid Grant

Best Musical  Shannon Musical Society for their production of Beauty and the Beast.  The school hall was again as if by magic transported to a magical place for this scintillating production which was up to the usual high standards for this company  with a  wonderful band under direction of MD Carmel Griffin

Best Male  Singer
Clarecastle tenor Dean Power gave a wonderful farewell evening before he headed off to the Bavarian State Opera to join their Young Artist's Programme . It was an evening of arias and high emotions as his local community packed the local church to hear Dean and other fine singers perform. 

Best Female Singer
I didn't post on this evening in Glor but Eddi Reader  was a wonderfully relaxed and witty performer with a  varied mix of repertoire and I look forward to hearing her when she returns in February

Best Newcomer  Bilkees Saidi    for her role as Reno in Anything Goes at Colaiste Muire  Ennis .  Geat poise and voice  from this teenage performer .

In My Thoughts  Friends of Anne Grennan were shocked and sad to learn of Anne's  untimely death  earlier this year. A wonderful teacher and choral director , she is much missed.  Remembering also Josephine Healy  who passed away in 2009 , also a wonderful teacher from whom I learned much by looking at her in action in Dunboyne

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Night at The Bavarian State Opera

Bavarian Staatopera House, Munich
Orchestra Pit Munich Opera House

We travelled to Munich on Stephen's Day and stopped off in the Bavarian capital for a couple of nights. We arrived late in the evening in an unusually  quiet city and we were disappointed to see the shutters drawn everywhere including  in Voglers , our favourite jazz venue.  The following evening we enjoyed a production of La Boheme  at the magnificent opera house.  As the performance was sold out punters hovered hopefully on the steps hoping to snap up returns some bearing cards saying "Besuchen Karten" which added to the air of anticipation .  The Bavarian holiday audience were a very well turned out lot with lots of  family groups, children on best behaviour,  women in party frocks and men in Austrian style wool suits and lots of people changing out of Winter shoes for something more elegant to promenade around the magnificent mirrored and chandlere bedecked  spaces.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ecumenical Advent Carol Service at Ennis Cathedral

Everything went off smoothly at the annual Ecumenical Advent Carol Service held this year in Ennis Cathedral    The church  was full  to hear the combined Abbey  Cluster choirs and orchestra, conducted by Michael Hennessy and all numbers went without a hitch. I always enjoy the band in this accoustic and the Ennis Brass Band added a festive air to the occasion and sounded splendid.particularly the shimmering percusion provided by father and son team Kieran and Gary McAllister.

Personally I would like to see an emphasis specifically on Advent material during the week before Christmas and it would be nice to see an Irish input in the carol selection next year to balance the Germanic chorale strand , maybe  one from  excellent liturgical Irish composers, Colin Mawby or Ronan McDonagh would be nice for a change  .  Mind you, having been at four services/ concerts this week where Christmas material has featured , I probably am more ready for alternatives than most and it is specially a time for old favourites.

It was good to see a squad of organists in the loft ready for duty including  brothers Leon and Dylan Walsh, Nigel Bridge and Megan Byrt. There was a pleasant buzz in the Cathedral as peopled lingered to meet and greet following the event , no one seeming in any particular hurry out into the cold night air.

Given the proximity of several sacred  spaces  in Ennis of both traditions,  it would be good to see the ecumenical spirit  ongoing at a regular  monthly  Sunday evening liturgy when  the festive season  is over.
Michael Hennessy Director Cathedral Choir
Violin Section

Friday, December 17, 2010

Swinging Strings: Review Debut Swinging Strings at Ennis NS Hall

Swinging Strings: Review Debut Swinging Strings at Ennis NS Hall: Check out how this programme is going. "SWINGING STRINGS’ CONCERT  THE ‘SWINGING STRINGS’ CONCERT The Fourth Class students of Ennis N.S. p..."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Andy Irvine at Glór

Travelling Troubadour Andy Irvine
There is something timeless about Andy Irvine  who appeared in Glór last week; a travelling troubadour with a collection of lute like stringed instruments  to support his voice , his penchant for singing to drone accompaniment creating  a wire strung  accoustic  soundworld that would not sound out of place in another century  alongside say  a 17th  century English balladeer like  John Dowland, (leaving aside occasional interludes on harmonica evoking folk giants Guthrie and Dylan).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ag Canadh Le Ceile at Glór

Bad weather and icy road conditions had forced the rescheduling of this event showcasing the work of an  inclusive music project in West Clare schools
I was delighted to catch  it having heard good reports about Máiréad Ní Chondúin's work and it was fortuitous that I met Maireid and husband Jim Armour at a choral event the previous day  .

There were two concerts lasting an hour or so  and I heard the older group made up of 3rd to 6th classes from  5 West Clare schools.  The Junior Group under the theme title Songs From the  Music Ark  included familiar songs  Shoe the Donkey,  Dilin O Deamhas, Ill Tell me Ma, The Big Ship Sails, Bingo and Tingalayo in a set list of more than a dozen songs. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Limerick Chorale Union Christmas Baroque Favourites 2010

 Limerick Choral Union and Orchestra 

'Your 5 minute call ladies' .
 Conductor Malcolm  Greene 

Hungarian Cello Duo Livia and Peter
   Soprano Mary O'Sullivan
 Mezzo Soprano Pauline Frizelle
Bass Eunan MacDonald

Vivaldi Magnificat
Bach Cantata 140 Wachet Auf Bach
Vivaldi Magnificat
Handel Zadok the Priest
Handel Arrival of Queen of Sheeba
Bach Jesu Joy
Handel Halleluia Chorus

Limerick Choral Union gave its' annual Christmas performance at UCH Limerick last week on 9th December.  It was a warm and convivial evening and there was  the usual full house for the annual Christmas offering of this large choir. I always enjoy playing for this well organised outfit and the choir sounded well.  I most enjoyed playing the Bach canata   a work I knew well as it was on  my school music syllabus  back in 79 ( Who can forget Leo McKern and the Lloyds Bank TV ad; yes, the one with the black 'horse outside'! ) I have not had much opportunity to play a complete cantata and the music is glorious. More of these Malcolm please! The soloists are splendid and husband and wife team Eunan and aptly named Mary, clearly expecting a happy event add a Nativity air to the proceedings

The oboe section shine tonight , Peter and young Lucas who I remember  hearing in a youth orchestra about 5 years ago when he must have been about 10 or 11 and being impressed by. I was glad to meet John Daly of the eponymous Big Band who was on timps tonight. Livia on continuo  is the lynchpin of the string section for this repertoire and  Oonaghs solo violin obligato    aound  soprano and bass vocal lines in the third movement  aria of the cantata is beautiful .
An exciting year ahead, it seems for the LCU with plans to play with Karl Jenkins and I am looking forward to Mendelssohn's Eli,jah in April.

Viola duo Me and Joacim

                                                   Cello Warm Up Exercises
Oboe Duo Peter and Lucas

Oboe warm up exercises

John O'Conor at Glór

Haydn                       Sonata in b minor Hob XVI no 32
Beethoven                 Sonata in c minor Op 13 'Pathetique'
 Field                         Three Nocturnes  no 5 in B flat ; no 6 in E; no 18 'Le Midi'

Chopin                        Berceuse in D flat op 57
                                   Barcarolle  Op 60
Ginastera                    Argentinian Dances

John O Conor gave a solo piano recital at Glór tonight. The auditorium was respectably full  and it was encouraging to  see a row of youngsters towards the front of the auditorium. In the absence of programme notes, the soloist gave very interesting and humourous spoken introductions to each set of pieces and this was added much to the enjoyment of the repertoire and demonstrated his excellent  communication skills.

The programme was laid out cronologically and one had a sense of the excitement of the new sound possibilities of  the romantic  piano  released by the Romantic composers,  Field and Chopin  following the briskness of the Classical  Haydn sonata.

The audiuence included many Ennis  cognoscenti, including Kieran and  Breda O Gorman of Clare Music Circle,  soprano Maret O Hehir, Archie Simpson of Lismorahan Singers and tenor Peter O Donoghue Mary Ellen Nagle of Clare Music Makers  , Marie Corley of Ennis Cathedral Choir and Terence Mangan  Governer General of the Lions Club  and his wife Maureen . I was delighted to meet my neighbours Veit and Rania Kuhn of Penguin Pianos who tuned the piano for the performance .

I do like it when performers come front of house to meet and greet patrons .  I believe John O Conor did greet many of the younger audience members  backstage but I believe  this very important aspect of the evening might be better  taking  place  front of house in the foyer or the red room. There were quite a few people hovering in the foyer who would like to have met the artist and reluctant to find  the route backstage,

John O Conor's  personal remuneration package has been under some scrutiny in the press this week and while his rather plummy D4 tones do rather set my culchie teeth on edge, I was impressed with him tonight  and enjoyed the performance rather more than I thought I might.  I think John O Conor , as one of the country's most successful performers and teachers ought to be well remunerated.

One quibble, as TV sitcom character Frazier might say, a  tee shirt is an undergarment, I feel a proper shirt collar is required for a  performance, but hey, call me old fashioned .

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Final rehearsals at Swinging Strings Ennis NS

Santa would have a job getting one of these down the chimney

The Ennis NS crib  Well done Ger!

Sing Out With Strings  Concert Southill Limerick

Monday, December 6, 2010

Anything Goes at Colaiste Muire

Last night was the final night of the four night run of the annual musical at Colaiste Muire . I love playing for  musicals and given a choice between a symphony or a show , I would choose the latter any day .  I joined the brass and reed dominated pit to add a string component to the band at Danlann on Chlair for the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes . This was a light and frothy production with much to admire. The string parts are not quite as lush as those for Kiss Me Kate, the last Cole Porter show I played for but there was plenty to get stuck into . The brass playing from husband and wife team , Dermot Gorman and Sharon Brooks was particulary well executed  I loved that wah wah muted trumpet sound and the descending line on trombone in title number.

The stand out performance came from Bilkees Saidi who demonstrated a poise and stage presence far beyond her years. I think this is not the first we will hear of this young lady. I laughed out loud every night at Caitlin Hamilton Jones whose comic timing  as Moon Faced Martin was pretty impeccable and quite a revelation. Siobhan Sexton was sweet and lovely as debutant Hope Harcourt and she wore those dresses so well. Madeline Arkins Heavenly Hop was one of my favourite numbers and the chorus including Alice Foley performed their dance routines with aplomb .    It is quite an achievemnent for a school to have mounted 25 continuous years of musical and I am glad to have been associated with 4 of the last 5 years with MDs Carmel Griffin and Michael Hennessy.
Photos John Kelly

The sets designed and executed under  Niamh Ni Mhuirí was worthy of the West End and the costumes and particularly the dresses were such a riot of colour and so glamourous and worn very well by the young actresses.  Humour , great tunes , lovely dresses and a bit of tap dancing and all done under two hours -- a  perfect tonic for winter blues!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

140 years of Band Music in Waterford

On Friday 26th Novemnber I travelled to Waterford for the celebration concert of 140 years of the Barrack Street Brass and Reed Band now named the Barrack Street Concert Band . The concert took place in the Good Shepherd Convent, their first time at this venue and was very well attended despite the arctic conditions.   Guest artists were Donna Roche, Ray Collins, the fine De La Salle Boys Choir with their conductor, Ben Hanlon  and playwright , Jim Nolan . A fantastic achievement to have survived two world wars , a civil war  and the various economic upheavals  and Waterford people are rightly very proud of this stalwart group of musicians, conducted in recent  years by Mark Fitzgerald.  Coincidentally earlier in the day , I met Danny Ryan of the Tipperary Music Shop and Accordion Orchestra and he recalled the band meeting the annual expedition to the coast and serenading the day trippers into Waterford.

Leviathan Political Cabaret at Dolan's

 12 year old Andreas Varedy  with jazz quintet

Mick Dolan makes a point
 Is Music Worth Paying For? This was the question  adressed at this evenings cabaret/ debate at Dolan's Warehouse, Limerick. This format of a mix of music and discussion is new to me and has something of the spirit of a Renaissance Camerata about it .  We made our way in to the Warehouse which was a little slow to fill up. A Roma family occupied one of the top tables with a number of young children playing games. Eventually, a jazz quintet  made up of sax,  bass guitar , electric guitar,  f hole guitar and drums .  struck up.  They were very good but most remarkable was the presence of 12 year old Andreas Varedy who was just extraordinary, very accomplished and mature in his stage performance and wordlessly  taking his cue from the saxophonist. Later looking at him walking around with his skateboard , he looked like any other 12 year old and you couldn't believe he had just performed like a seasoned and mature  performer. I note he is from a Slovakian family. Coincidentally, we had heard another remarkable young Slovakian (Vladimir Jablokov)  musician at this venue less than a fortnight ago.

Paddy Cullivan of Tubridy's Camembert Quartet fame comes on with the 'Leviathan Archestra', keyboard  drums and bass guitar to do a set of very funny political songs.  'We Are Where  We Are ' and 'Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel'   very much up to the minute satirical songs exploiting some of the more innane utterances of the present political clique.

Friday, December 3, 2010

School Music Projects 1 Sing Out With Strings Limerick

Although very cold and icy, I braved the elements to hear the Christmas concert offered by the Sing Out With Strings Programme running in primary schools in the Southill Area of the Limerick city.  I took every turn off the Roxboro Roundabout except the one I needed and the concert was in full swing by the time I arrived at the large modern Holy Family Church. The ladies and gentlemen of the  Irish Chamber Orchestra were in place and accompanying a childrens choir  in a set of engaging jaunty songs on a Christmas theme, directed  by Tony Hunter.