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

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Declan O 'Rourke at Glór 2011

Declan O Rourke Taking a closer look at local  Ennis landmark

Rory Faithfield Genn Cal Alice

Irish singer songwriters seem to be enjoying a heyday at the moment and one of my favourites was in  Glór on Saturday night. Declan O Rourke has been enjoying some international media spotlight particularly since his wonderful song Galileo has been recorded by Josh Groban and the subject of laudatory remarks by iconic rock musician, Paul Wellar . There are numerous covers  but the original is still my favourite and I remember very well hearing it on PK show aptly following an interview with astronomer Patrick Moore.

In his last appearance here he sang to his own accompaniment with support on cello. On this occasion he was supported by a band consisting of drums , bass guitar, violin and cello.  He had an impressive array of stringed instruments  to accompany a set of songs many of which appear on his new album Mag Pai Zai.
There were some very good things about the gig. O Rourke himself  was relaxed and genial on stage without being too nonchalent. There was a sense of some forethought in the sequence of songs and pacing of the gig. The songs are mostly lighthearted and whimsical in the best sense of those words,  my favourite of the set being the uptempo  Lightning Bird and River Man with some very beguiling lyrics although there were some sombre  moments with Langleys Requiem, a song about two isolated brothers in Harlem  setting  a darker mood.   The quintet, although they were well spaced across the wide stage connected well with each other . They smiled at each other a lot  which was rather cheerful.  

Friday, May 27, 2011

Dancing Days in Ennis

Dancers from Dinan School Corps photo Declan Monaghan

Greystones ladies stepping out

Pat Mac

Brock Maguire in the Great Hall
What a hotspot of eurhythmical activity, the Banner county town was yesterday.   In the Hall of Scoil Chríost Rí.  6th class were busy putting the final touches to their presentation of the Haka  and out on the Gort Rd  Ennis Educate Together NS, Fatima di Lucia was busy preparing her group of dancers for  their forthcoming performance at International Day Fair. In the Old Ground Dick O Connell  was guiding dancers through their paces at the second Foinn Seisiún.

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly the stunning show presented by the Dinan School of Ballet on the Glór Stage.  The show was a delightful series of  dances in a broad range of styles with classsical ballet at the core  in a presentation of  story of the Wizard of Oz . The costumes were  in a dazzling range of colours with no sparing of  sequins and glitter and the performers ranged from tiny tots to experienced mature performers. The backing tracks included songs from the film interspersed with other numbers in an  eclectic range of styles . I really enjoyed the tap numbers and  we loved the marriage of classical ballet complete with psychadelic purple and green tutus to Me No Speak Americano, a number which itself combines different genres.  Siobhán Sexton in the role of Dorothy  had  a very graceful  stage presence and had the tough job of opening the show with a solo turn.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Foinn Seisiún with Frank Custy at Fleadh Nua Ennis

MC and Dance Master Dick O Connell

I called in  to the Old Ground Hotel to catch some of the late afternoon Fleadh Nua activity . I expected to find a few visiting musicians ploughing through some dance tunes in a corner of the bar . I was pleasantly surprised to see the upstairs room full of an audience of all ages  young and old. I went along to see the legendary teacher Frank Custy in action and both he and Fear an Tí, Dick O Connell  guided the aftenoon of music mixing dances with slow airs and songs calling on the individuals in turn.

Stepping Out
The wonderful dancing feet of Stephanie

We had  amongst other numbers the Boys of Barr na Sráide ,  a slow air on the uilean pipes, a lovely unaccompanied  duet  from husbad and wife duo. There were mazurkas sean waltzs and polkas . The highlight for me was the sheer exuberance of Stephanie from Bodyke with her steel capped dancing shoes . What a great noise she made on the wooden floor.  I was delighted to meet Frank Custy  himself and Catriona from Sixmilebridge Folk Club  and Phil Jameson from Norh Carolina . I recognised some faces from a visit to last years Fesival Club Fleadh Nua 2010  and had a chat with Margaret from The Netherlands who was on a return visit..  The presence of an Asian camera crew added an exotic air to the procedings.  It was like an old fashioned party and Dick O Connell did an excellent job as MC.    The central venue is great and I love the time 4pm  to 6pm is very good slot. You can nip in after work and on the way home for tea. 
Post session interviews

Liturgy to celebrate retirement Bishop Walsh

    I enjoyed coordinating this event last week at Ennis Cathedral

Press Release
Songs of Praise for Bishop Willie Walsh at Ennis Cathedral.

More than 500 school children, many bearing fiddles, harps, flutes and drums representing eight schools in Ennis converged on the Cathedral last Thursday to participate in a Thanksgiving service in honour of retired Bishop of Killaloe , Willie Walsh. The event was an initiative of Ennis Parish Education Forum which was set up in 2005 by Bishop Walsh . The children were welcomed by Isobel O Dea, Chairman of the Forum who said ‘ it is a great credit to the teachers to have so many children here to acknowledge the contribution of the Bishop to Education in Ennis ‘

Musicians from Gaelscoil Mhíchíl Cíosóg opened the proceedings with their rendition of Slán le Máigh . Choir directors and accompanists in turn led the groups from Holy Family Senior School, Ennis National School, CBS Primary School , Scoil Chríost Rí and St Anne’s School in a selection of hymns reflecting the themes of praise and thanksgiving. A group of dancers from St Clare’s School delighted the congregation and Bishop Walsh with their presentation of a dance routine titled ‘Love Can Build a Bridge’ and parish representative on the Forum, Fr. Tom O Gorman read from the Letters of St Paul . Three young students from Holy Family Junior School, the youngest representatives in the Cathedral thanked the Bishop and expressed the wish that he would continue to have lots of adventures in his retirement, including some interesting facts of achievements by famous people in their 80’s and 90’s in their reflection.

Bishop Walsh in his own address praised the wonderful work done by the teachers in schools in Ennis. He thanked all present for the very special occasion and he finished by reprising his message treasured by countless Confirmation candidates that each one of the students gathered was unique and special in their own way. The many musicians accompanying the groups filled the vaulted space with the strains of Mo Gile Mear and the proceedings closed with rousing rendition of Give Me Joy in my Heart.

Fr. Tom Hogan, Administrator said the Ennis Parish was delighted to facilitate this service. Any occasion where we have all the diocesan schools gathered is a very special event and we have posted of photos of the event in the Gallery section at ’

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sing Out With Strings

Full House

Teachers group

CEO John Kelly with group
I went along to St Mary's Church, Athlunkard St Limerick to hear the summer concert of the Irish Chamber Orchestra's  local school's  initiative 'Sing Out With Strings' .  Following a burst of McAnanty's Reel from the ICO ,  the concert opened with a set of charming songs from junior classes in SouthHill Junior School  complete with actions.   Kathleen Turner  has a lively energetic presence with her young groups and has a relaxed easy manner in speaking to the audience in  a situation that must not be easy given it involves moving large groups of kids around.  The Galvone string group then played the Four and Twenty Blackbirds rhythm to accompaniment from the ICO.
An older group from Southill  Junior sang a set of new self composed songs and were followed by a group of 4th class boys from St Mary's Boys School.  The teachers ensemble  backed by ICO violinists played the chorale bit of Jesu Joy and this was very effective .  The highlight was the massed group of choir, teachers and what looked like 60 or so violinists in a rousing version of  the World Cup Football Anthem Wave Your Flag .  This was a terrific number . I liked the way the violins had a sequence of actions with their fiddles and bows when they weren't playing . CEO John Kelly adressed the assembly and there was time for a final encore of Wave Your Flag . Bravo tutti !

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The All Star Wars - a hurling musical at Cork Opera House

Linda Gough Obi Wan Camogie
There were resonances with I Keano the musical in this production  we  recently saw at the Cork Opera House subtitled,  An Epic Saga of Hurleys, Heroes and Hang Sangwiches. Here the separate spheres of music and hurling  collide in a highly  entertaining evening.
Hugh Cullen

The ALL STAR WARS follows the adventures of Hugh Cullen, family man, club man and descendent of -you guessed it- Cú Culainn. Any musical featuring a hefty middle-aged hero is already onto a winner in our book.

Our hero with the Chicks & Sticks
After getting a knock on the head from a hurley, Hugh Cullen is visited from the future by the enigmatic Obi Wan Camogie played by Linda Gough.  The promotional material promises  'what  ensues from Obi Wan Camogie’s apparition to Hugh is two hours of top shelf comedy script, punctuated by fun filled comedic musical production numbers and hilarious audio visual sequences'  and I certainly wouldn't disagree with that analysis.  Writers Kevin McCormack,  who also plays Hugh Cullen, and Bryan Flynn present a variety of thinly disguised personalities  from the world of hurling; players,  pundits, commentators and managers.  The cast of Dragons Den or should I say  'panel of entrepreneurs' were  ripe for parody and are drawn into the lampooning pool. The cast of  local characters are reminiscent of Ballymagash inhabitants with the parish priest, the Minor B teamates, the GAA widow etc

Richie Hayes clad in pink velvet track suit plays the dance mad son intent on perfecting his X Factor routines but upstages himself  by a thinly disguised  impersonation of Davy Fitz including a spoof of  the infamous YouTube Leak from the dressing room.
Richie Hayes play 'Davy Fitz'
Davy Fitz's rant captured perfectly by Hayes

The helter skelter action is punctuated with very funny songs in pastiche mode with recorded backing tracks of arrangements by David Hayes although ensemble numbers were  a tad overamplified for my liking.  The production featured very clever use of video insets and we loved Kevin McCormack's take on Dragon's Den occupants.  There are several cameos by  commentators Micheal O Muiracheartaigh and 'Smarty' Morrissey  via video link. We loved   Lady GAA GAA's hairdo a la Princess Leila with Sliothars in place of plaits.  The fast paced production was directed by theatrical wizard  Bryan Flynn.

Writer and Director Bryan Flynn

Hurling  afficionados in our party from Waterford and Cork declared that the hurling references were spot on and they  and loved the humour, characterisation and how the writers captured the essence of the great game. They identified closely  with the cri de coeur monologue at the end that applauded coaches of  Saturday morning juveniles and poked mild derision at the 'yummy mummies' arriving in tinted windowed SUVs who dropped their kids and at the gates to the pitch and dashed away.

This was a musical rural Ireland could take to its heart and in some senses hit the mark missed by      D'unbelievables in their recent show. At the heart of both productions is the  gentle lampooning  of  rural community life  but here the humour   was firmly placed in a contemporary  context.  This show should have a longer shelf life than I Keano which drew on the  events of one particular season.

Fans of Waterford man Bryan Flynn will never forgive him if it doesn't do a run in his native county with stalwarts Riche Hayes and Linda Gough in the cast. Deise fans will lap it up despite the jokes at their expense. (Why is Waterford called the Déise? Because THEYshudda  won this and Theyshudda'  won that!). I believe plans are afoot to bring it to Waterford in the Autumn,

There was a surreal mingling of audience and stage personas as several pundits and commentators were spotted in the Crush bar during the interval.
We were delighted to meet Bryan Flynn after the show and great to see him building his national reputation in the musical. world. I remember well his early stage ventures on the stage in the Theatre Royal Waterford. He tells me that his musical  Michael Collins may also be on the way back. I am  and still waiting for an opportunity to hear his musical Pentimenti of which I have heard wonderful reports.

Best wishes to all involved. Highly recommended !

Don’t miss this epic saga of Hurleys, Heroes and Hang Sangwidges!!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Ger Wolfe at the Market Tavern Miltown Malbay


Shaken by low sounds Kevin Murphy on cello
Three generations of Malones at the Market Tavern
Paul Frost's Airline Friendly Bass

There was a mellow vibe to the set offered by Ger Wolfe and his quartet at the intimate space of Sean Malone's Market Tavern, Miltown Malbay, Co Clare  in Friday night .  Essentially  backed by a string band with the unusual low string combination of cello and double bass ,Wolfe himself on guitar made  occasional forays on fiddle. Richard Lucey on accordion  leavened the string sound .   There were occasional solo dance tunes on accordion and fiddle but just enough to give respite to the voice and it was songs we had come to hear delivered in Wolfe's distictive Leeside  tones.  Paul Frost on bass added solid rhythmic support and Kevin Murphy on cello added sympathetic understated   accompaniment to the songs.  It was a winning combination with the tempos and metres nicely varied.  With a cello in the line up , solo  opportunities might have been exploited more. In this environment it would have been as welcome to hear a slow air as reels and slip jigs and the former would have served just as well to give vocalists a breather.

The Market Tavern  on the mainstreet of Miltown Malbay offers a convivial performing space for visiting acts  and attracts a loyal band of regulars to the historic building  in a village whose name is synonomous with traditional music. The stage backdrop is an impressive  mud  brown cast iron structure which Sean informs me is some form of weighing scales from market days of old  offering  a  pleasing resonance with the past.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Thom Moore at the Island Music Club Clare

We enjoyed a lovely gig in Tulla  tonight where a trio combining a good blend of youth and experience entertained a gathering in the backroom in Minogues pub . 

Elder statesman of contemporary Irish Singer songwriting Thom Moore  ( not to be confused with  the other prodigious Thomas Moore, 18th century songwriter of many classic Irish songs)* was joined by young Australian singer Aminah Hughs and multi instrumentalist Shamie O Dowd . The group threaded their way through a range of  tuneful material , mostly original  taking turns to introduce and lead a number and offering sympathetic support to each other's selections.   The mix was eclectic opening with a Robbie Burns song and finishing with A Rory Gallagher number As the Crow Flies which had the mature bespectacled , bearded brigade if not exactly rocking in the aisles at least humming along  mouthing the lyrics  and smiling to one another  at the shared reminiscence .