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

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Michael Nyman at Waterford New Music Week

Nyman Band
Michael Nyman at Waterford New Music Week 2011

There was a bit of a buzz around the appearance of film composer, Michael Nyman at Waterford New Music Week, with the composer himself interviewed on RTE’s flagship arts magazine programme, Arena in the week of the festival.  So with my diary clear, daylight hours getting longer and the prospect of a sunny weekend ahead, I headed South East from the Banner County.

Nyman is lauded as one of  Britain’s most innovative and celebrated composers, with numerous film soundtracks and opera scores to his credit.  His work can elicit strong reactions and  as I write, twitter updates  report 'loud booing  for Nyman's bouncy gleeful score'  at Maerzmusik, Berlin. The long queue at the Good Shepherd Chapel on the WIT campus boded well and I made my way to the top to the ticket desk just as the doors opened and carried on to sit in the front row to get a good view of this ‘fascinating and influential cultural icon’.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Off to a flying start at Ennis Educate Together NS

Rosining the bows

5th class lesson 1

The "Flying Fingers " music programme got off to flying start at Ennis Educate Together National School with 4th class and 5th class taking part in their first lesson on Thursday 24th March . The meeting room was transformed into a music studio for the afternoon and each class in turn came in for their session. To begin, twenty mats were placed on the floor with a violin on each.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Gadding about at Waterford Writers' Weekend March 2011

Sean Dunne

Following fast on the heels of the Ennis literary event , I find myself at another  wordy weekend, this time in my childhood home city of Waterford, the event rebranded as the Waterford Writer's Weekend after several years under the name of the late Waterford writer, Sean Dunne.  The sun is shining in Waterford on Friday and the town is busy with lots of people milling around. The bookies are doing a roaring trade on  the final day of Cheltenham . 

Thomas McCarthy

 A good crowd, including Mayor Mary Roche wearing her chain of office, is gathered at the Central Library for the opening event where Thomas McCarthy reads from his several  collections interspersed with some reminiscences of growing up in Cappoquinn.  Whilst this is a pleasant open space, there are some problems with background noise of a busy city centre library  and  traffic noise  is something of a distraction. Both McCarthy and the young poet Leanne O Sullivan have a style more suited to a more intimate venue and it is difficult to hear much particularly of the last speaker.

Downes Pub

Reading at the Writers' Evening
 Later, McCarthy is on MC  duty at the rather more intimate Open Mike session in the back room in Downes Pub and this is a more fun in some ways than the afternoon gig.   I like this venue with its dim lights and patterned carpets and most especially, the grand piano that once graced the  living room of my childhood home. I suppress  a soupcon of regret that I left Waterford in my late teens when I might have enjoyed hanging out in Downes which has the distinction of offering an own blend whiskey.  The MC collects names of willing volunteers and assuming it is a poetry reading, I volunteer to add a tune by way of punctuation. As the speakers begin and  it becomes apparent that a variety of forms are being presented , I change my mind and opt to do something I haven't done since I was at school - read my composition, except on this occasion  I read not from a dogeared copy book but from my 21st century ipod which does make it a little difficult to look at my audience. Fintan Power from Tramore Writer's group, Compass, M Foley  Joe Falvey, Linda Gough , Mary Grehan  and McCarthy himself are among the contributers. Among the attendees are Jane Cantwell of Waterford Central Library and Nick Bankes, chairman of Imagine Festival who I am excited to learn is connected to The Ukelele Orchestra which must augur well surely for another Deise appearance by this quirky ensemble. 

On Saturday night I call to the Dunmore Room in the Tower Hotel for Tall Tales and Torch Songs .  There is a pleasant blues band and what a relief it's  not overamplified.  Arts Office Conor Nolan is MC but some of his introductions had me somewhat baffled as to what to expect next. Although tempted to stay, I head over to hear the second half of Ad Hoc Chorale concert at Christchurch Cathedral. It is good to see a very good crowd  in for this local  chamber choir, conducted by Niall Crowley and they work their way through some adventurous contemporary repertoire. I recognise some familiar faces of local music teachers and there is also a large contingent of younger voices.

Sunday is another lovely day in the sunny South East and there is an air of  expectation in the Waterford Central Library as  we wait for former taoiseach, Garret Fitzgerald.  Dr Garret spoke about his long career and  the process of writing his biography  and was in very good humour. I find his views on education somewhat refreshing in this era of specialisation . Although the venue is quieter, there is a section of the  audience who can't be seen but can be heard, a feature of this lovely space seeming to amplify young voices  to a greater degree than older ones .

Dr Garrett Fitzgerald

Finally I nip down the road to hear Professor emeritus of NUI Maynooth, Gerard Gillen  playing the Elliot organ at Christchurch Cathedral. Gillen remains my favourite organist and coaxes the widest variety of sounds from the eerie flute like to the grotesque bass pedal notes particularly in the set of variations by Bohm . There was a charming suite by Roccoco composer CPE Bach and some more contemporary fare by Frank Martin and Guilmant . Professor leaned down to introduce his works and was assisted in the organ loft by Eric Sweeney . There was some consternation over sticky keys but c'est la vie.  It is not that long since I enjoyed hearing David Connolly, student of Professor Gillen and it is great  to hear these world class  performers in Waterford on this new organ. The audience for these recitals tends to be small and I think it might have helped if the event was dovetailed with the Sunday morning reading. I think some of Garret's audience might have been persuaded to come down the road following the morning reading.  I think it is a great idea to market a  range of events happening on a give weekend under one banner and this was very successfully done by the Imagine Festival team . I suggest musicians and writers could benefit from   a merging  of  events. Why not offer a  poetry reading with an organ recital . It worked for Liam O Flynn and Seamus Heaney . All in all ,lots to enjoy in the Deise this weekend

Monday, March 7, 2011

Gadding about at Ennis Book Club Festival


Ennis Book Club Festival Mascot

 I had an early start at the Ennis Book Club Festival and joined the 40 or so early revellers for coffee, buns and papers at the elegant  space of  the Rowan Tree Cafe  with it's walls adorned with literary themed paintings.  There were some very striking ones by Jean Regan. The one shown here recalled for me Amhran na Leabhair  or Cuan Béal Inse by Tomas Rua about the shipwreck and loss of a schoolmasters book collection.  Colette Reddington was our host and guided the groups through a loosely structured conversation  around books . At my table were Marie and friend from Connemara and Helen a librarian from Donegal. Colette expertly exrtracted nuggets of conversation from various tables and offered them for general savouring, Topics included, 'the most contentious title and 'to Chardonnay or not to Chardonnay'.  I thought this was a neat event and anybody coming alone was easily  included in a group discussion and it was terrific value at €5 for coffee, a bun AND a newspaper courtesy of local newsagent, Kellys.
There was a sharp dose of realism as  a young Clare Champion prize winner read her  prize-winning short story based on the gritty topic of underage drinking . There was no denying the power and strength of her writing but it was a little too sobering for me at this time of the day and I remain painfully conscious  of the tragedy besetting  a UCC undergraduate last year, a contemporary of  my own  young son .

Brian Mooney launches poetry collection of Brendan O Beirne
Although I had every intention of attending 10 Books You Must Read at Glór, I was sidetracked by the sign at Colaiste Muire  'IABS'  indicating the presence of singers, lots of them, and of the barbershop variety. I met my friend Regina Gilley a member of the Champagne Corks and drifted about various workshops where coaches were drumming in the same message, 'connect with the words and put your heart and soul into it.'   

I got back on the book trail at  a lecture by Éibhear Walshe at the Temple Gate where he made  good case for the forgotton novels of Katherine Cecil Thurston, Paul Smith and the early work of MJ Farrell,  aka Molly Keane.  He gave an interesting account of the life of Cork born,   Katherine Cecil Thurston nee Madden, a highly successful writer in the early part of the 20th century. How extraordinary that she had two books simultaneously on the New York Time's best seller list in 1905, the first time any author had achieved such a feat.  I wondered if there was any family connection with our host  family at the Temple Gate Hotel?

Chatting with Mrs Walsh

When I get around to reading books again I certainly will dig out The Fly on  the Wheel on Dr Walshe's recommendation.  Paul Smith was another author I had not heard of and his book Annie published in 1972 was recommended .  Molly Keane's early novel, Two Days in Aragon was the third book recommended in the lecture. Eibhears own memoir, Cissie's Abbatoir is an enjoyable read particularly for those of us who shared his  puddle grey Waterford mileu.  A beautifully produced note  sheet bearing the classy looking  Book Club  Festival logo was distributed to accompany the lecture and I am grateful to have it to hand to recall some of the details used in this post.

Éibhear signs his memoir Cissie's Abbatoir
I   found this venue a little  warm and stuffy in the the afternoon. There was quite an amount of background music  that was irritating  and patrons further back reported problems hearing the speaker.  We enjoyed catching up with fellow Déise man Eibhear following the lecture and had a chat with his mother  about our school days in Waterford and reminisced about student concerts in the Municipal Theatre.


The highlight of the day for me  was the posthumous  launch of a collection of Brendan O Beirne's poems,  Reality The Graveyard of Dreams by The Three Legged Stool Poets . Friends of the poet gathered to talk about the poet and to read many of the poems.  I reprised the air, The Coolin that  I had played when I had joined the late poet as a guest at a monthly gathering last year. I was delighted to meet Marcia, his niece who had accompanied him that day and Deirdre, his sister who had hosted his last birthday party.  As always I was glad to share in the sense of collegiality amongst this group of writers and honoured to contribute something myself to the occasion.

Well done to the members of the Festival Committee.   There was much to enjoy in the  events that this excellent niche festival had to offer and great credit is due to this hard working  group under chairperson Ciana Campbell  who bring such an enjoyable weekend of letters to our corner of Clare.

The late Brendan O Beirne

Best TShirt  Fred  'Life is too important to be taken seriously'