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

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Best Clare Arts Events in 2011 - My Selections

Top Clare Arts Events 2011 A personal selection

Although I have travelled far in pursuit of excellent arts events, some of the best events were right on my doorstep in Clare. Here is my personal selection of the highlights of 2011. Click on the highlighted text for my review.


Best Opera   Dublin Youth Opera Co. Jukebox Opera
A company of teenage opera singers at  Ennis Friary (including Ennis native Ruth Kelly) were stunning in their Jukebox opera , Thicker than Water       

Thom Moore
 Best Songwriter Thom Moore at Island Music Club. This is tricky, on one hand  Declan O Rourke, writer of my favourite 21st century song ever brought his Mag Pai Zai tour to Glór but after some deliberation my prize goes to Thom Moore after his charming gig at Minogues, Tulla as a guest of the Island Music Club when we were reminded of how many hit songs he wrote for other performers.

Best Blues   Johnny Fean House Shakers Blues. 
Well ok.  I didn't hear very much blues and I am not  particularly a  fan but I enjoyed this gig at Shannon . In fact I heard Fean twice in 2011, the second gig with bass player Stephen Travers. If anyone could make a case for the Blues, Johnny Fean could. Catch him at his Limerick gigs
Johnny Fean

Best Trad Gig Zoe Conway John McIntyre at SMB Folk Club
A pleasure to hear unamplified music of any genre but Zoe and John McIntyre were charming at the Courthouse as guests of the Sixmilebridge Folk Club. Superb violin technique and charming songs and a mix of genres with sympathetic guitar accompaniment. An accoustic delight.
Zoe Conway, John Mc

Best EnsembleCornets by candlelight  Ennis Brass Band
Vladimir Jablokov brought his quintet to Glor as part of the Classical Twist tour and was my favourite small ensemble of the year
There is something thrilling about the sound of brass instruments en masse and the Ennis Brass Band are a super enesemble.  Even if they were only half as good they would still be my pick. I admire very much their sense of civic duty and they remain an honest to goodness marching band getting out in all weathers to cheer  Ennis folk. Listen back to the post concert interview with PRO Darragh McAllister in my report. I was very proud to be a guest performer at their 40 th celebration concert. Long may they prosper.

Best solo artist Peggy Seeger  
Peegy Seeger , a living legend was simply extraordinary at the Courthouse as a guest of Sixmilebridge Folk Club. Witty, charming and playing a fascinating collection of instruments.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

La Savoy at Sixmilebridge

There was a double bill of bands with American roots at the Sixmilebridge Folk Club Festival last night. From Eunice, Louisiana, via Paris, Sarah Savoy  brought her blend of cajun, country and rockabilly to Sixmilebridge, Co Clare last night as part of the.Shannonside Winter Music Weekend The Francadians are a very photogenic group and look the part. Front woman  Savoy,  was  an imposing presence with a strong sassy contralto voice and the boys, while not quite as handsome - well they had great hats.  The band lacked a drummer   (a plus in an intimate venue)  but were sorted in the percussion dept by a very young cherubic triangle player who despite her small stature, upstaged everybody in the band.
The first thing that must be said about this gig is that it was unamplified apart from a small unobtrusive  microphone suspended from the ceiling to aid spoken links. This meant there were no unsightly metal stands acting as a barrier between performers and audience. This is so rare that it deserves special mention and added enormously to the pleasure of the evening. (Other artists  /promoters in suitable venues please copy!). Vocals were shared between Savoy and excellent accordion player David Rolland. Cajun bands  are a  something of a novelty in the West of Ireland. Not since the Red Stick Ramblers played Glor, Ennis in 2009, (who I believe also have had  a Savoy from Eunice  in their line up), has their been cajun music of this quality in the Clare. The songs, as Sarah said in her terse, wry introductions are mostly about drinking, being broken hearted or hung over.  We were not really a hooping and hollerin' type of audience and the set does lend itself to dancing  with waltzes and polkas a mainstay of the set list including the wonderfully alliterative, Eunice Two Step. The usual hospitality of tea and cake was served between the sets, again another remarkable feature of this venue.