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

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Friday Night Opera and Milonga in Kilrush

Reflecting Strings and Edel O Brien

Rondo Dussek                                                    Liebeslied Kreisler
Where'er You Walk Handel                                Habanera and Seguidilla from Carmen Bizet
Where Corals Lie Elgar                                      Meditation Massenet
Chanson de Matin                                             Oblivion Astor Piazzola
On Wings of Song Mendelssohn                         Nella Fantasia Morricone
Che Faro Gluck                                                  O Holy Night Adam
Voi Che Sapete Mozart                                       Coventry Carol
No 4 Scene from Swan lake Tchaikowsky           Theme for the Snowman Blake
Una Voce Poco Fa Rossini

Kilrush, Co Clare has a proud operatic tradition with artists from all over Europe in the 50's and 60's coming to the small town on the tip of the Atlantic coast to perform with the Kilrush Operatic Society . There can have been few finer voices than that heard in St. Senan's Church on Friday night for a lovely recital in the bel canto tradition by Kilrush native, Edel O Brien, accompanied by the Reflecting String Trio with instrumental interludes by the trio.

Edel O Brien, a multi award winning singer, has much experience performing in Ireland and in  premier French opera venues. Edel O'brienPart of her  impressive armoury is the personality she brings to the roles she sings. In addition to her powerful vocal technique, she has a relaxed easy stage presence drawing the audience into her confidence with charming introductions setting the context of the arias and adding points of interest about the material, every word audible in the large space. She sang with perfect diction in English, French and Italian using her face, body and hands as well as her voice to portray her various characters. You don't doubt for a moment that she is a heartbroken shepherd or a feisty tabacco factory girl basking in the sunshine even if most of us remained wrapped up in coats and bobble hats to keep the chill out. Only in the aria by Morricone did I feel she might offer a more understated interpretation in the opening section, the better to make more effect of a fuller sound in the latter stages. The song was adapted from the original instrumental version, Gabriel's Oboe, she informed us, at  the personal persistent request of the composer by  singer Sarah Brightman thus depriving oboe players of their exclusive monoploy of this enchanting melody.

Accompanied by a trio comprised of harp, cello and violin, the harp (played by Geraldine O' Doherty), filled the role of keyboard continuo in these arrangements. The instrumental pieces were mostly arrangements of violin miniatures. Of these, the most successful for me were Meditation performed from memory by David O'Doherty and the Scene from Swan Lake which needed little modification of the original orchestration which reduces to harp solo violin and pizzicato low strings. I enjoyed Oblivion, a milonga by Argentinian composer Piazzola, a genteel  Palm Court sort of milonga, without the merest whiff of a Buenas Aires bordello about it. The trio was completed by cellist Moya O Grady, mother of the O'Doherty siblings.

(This is the second ensemble I heard today with a  three syllable moniker, two siblings and  one parent. On Friday afternoon Sean Moncrief interviewed Crystal Swing on his radio programme, now catapulted to international notoriety and I feel a little envious of Moya O Grady and Mary Burke and their family ensembles. Any suggestion of  a little family music making to my own darlings at home is met with snorts of derision and talk of urgent appointments elsewhere and only to be humoured on special occasions like my birthday after considerable pleading).

Stained glass windoes from Harry Clarke's Studio
The artists dressed in black and cream and the imposing ebony concert harp stood out in sharp contrast to the frosted white 'wedding cake' altar panels with a backdrop of Harry Clarke designed stained glass windows making  a striking Winter tableau,(a very suitable setting for Blake's popular Theme from the Snowman). Edel and the Relecting Strings Trio have recently recorded a very pleasant album Where Corals Lie which features many of the numbers heard tonight. The concert was presented in aid of the St Senan's Church Restoration Fund.

View from back pew
The deeps have music soft and low

—When winds awake the airy spry
It lures me, lures me on to go
And see the land where corals lie.
—The land, the land, where corals lie

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