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

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Florentine Hive of Activity at Waterford Writers Weekend

Lto R: R Coady, B Knowles, Marion Ingoldsby, J Loftus , P Sirr, M Roper, M Nolan,  J Ennis , E Sweeney , B Hanlon , N Crowley  M Coady upper Poets , composers, musicians

The ebb and flow of tides
and bedded silt
by wharves and quays
M Coady

Following fast on the heels of the Ennis Book Club Festival, I travelled to the South East for another literary event, the annual  Waterford Writers Weekend. As I drove down, I tuned in to Arena, the arts magazine programme on RTE radio1 where local producer, Jacqui Corcoran had assembled a gallery full of interesting guests in the semi public space of the the Book Centre, a bookshop housed in a former cinema, all with a connection to the festival . Beginning with academic and author, Brian Keenan,  he told presenter Sean Rocks in a compelling interview, why he returned recently to the Lebanon, where he was incarcerated for four and a half years. Will we ever forget a pale and gaunt Keenan emerging to address the media so eloquently after his release in 1990. Poets, Peter Sirr, Mark Roper and writing consultant and festival organiser Vanessa O Loughliwere among the writers who gave an insight into the festival. In contrast to the Ennis Book Club Festival the emphasis is clearly on the writer as opposed to the reader with a large selection of workshops facilitating active participation in the craft.
Gourmand et gourmets 

The Book Centre was also the venue for a discussion on food writing with popular local chef, Martin Dwyer now happily relocated to the Languedoc where he runs a Chambre d'hote . An active writer, Martin writes a very entertaining blog about his French experiences. Also on the panel were Catherine Cleary, restaurant critic of the Irish Times and author Jane Travers who did a good job of posing open questions to generate some good talking points although at times there was stiff competition from the nearby junior reading area.

Publishing Supremo O Loughlin

While they don't call it the sunny south east for nothing, the weather was simply stunning,  the sort of weather where your mother might hunt you out to play rather than sit in a corner reading a book, much less writing one. Nevertheless, there was full house at Vanessa O Loughlin's insightful 'Getting Published' workshop which was a mine of information on the whole business of publishing.

The real draw of the  weekend for me was the performance of the choral piece celebrating Waterford's enduring maritime tradition, specially commissioned for the opening of the Tall Ships Festival in Waterford 2011 and  one of my selected highlights of 2011 With all the international sailors returned home, there was a sense that this reprise was for Waterford people to savour . In the elegant space of the 18th century Christchurch Cathedral, the stirring and eloquent lines of five poets were heard clearly,  read by each poet in turn and then sung by the 200 strong choir with representatives from no less than 40 choral groups in the region, to settings by five composers. The original orchestral score was  reduced for piano to good effect . Finally there was a screening of a  short documentary by John Loftus with interviews with the poets and composers on their creative experience. (This is soon to be available on line, I am told)  A truly wonderful collaboration of the spheres of literature and music ,  one I was proud to be associated with at the first performance .   In the words of conductor Niall Crowley,  'Waterford waa veritable Florentine hive of activity' for  the  endeavour and the event was  a worthy finale to round off  a splendid Waterford Writer's Weekend.

My review of the first performance of 'Come the Sails' at the opening of Tall Ships Festival here

here, now, this very moment
in flowing time,
within this harbour
and this haven  Ml Coady

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Authors, Actors and Anglophiles: Ennis Book Club Festival 2012

Authors and Actors ; Kevin Barry, Sean Rocks  & Reid Banks. 
We read a lot less than we might - because we still often can't find our way to the books that truly speak to us.

Irish Times Review Ennis Book Club Festival 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

Jovial Judges, High Heels and Emotions: Clare's Got Talent at Glór

Judge Brian Flynn

Time! To Face ! The Music! Part X Factor, part Macra na Feirme Talent Competition, the Clare FM event pitted dancers actors and singers against each in their bids to secure a coveted  place in the final of Clare's Got Talent 2012. In the  full  Glór auditorium, partisan supporters and family members witnessed a show of 12 acts performing one turn each followed by comments from the judging panel of broadcaster and entertainer, Brian Flynn, Tracy Crawford of Ballyo Promotions and musician & entertainer Nigel Bridge fresh from playing in Cahercalla

Happily, there were no Cowellesque  histrionics here with all acts getting a well deserved verbal pat on the back  and no wrangling among the trio. The event was compered by Gavin Grace of ClareFM

The evening opened with a montage of clips of video images but no sounds from the audition process, the audio element sadly replaced by pulsating rhythmic backing track. Female vocalists were the largest category of entertainer with  trio Skilled Mulah, and singer Dan O'Halloran adding some gender balance. Most  vocal acts opted for backing tracks over  live accompaniment.

Judges and sponsor 
A J.B. Keane  monologue, a dance troupe and a junior comedy routine added the variety show element.
The winners were Louise O Rourke from Kilkee and the Breakthrough Crew from Ennis with the Lissycasey Lunatics voted best by the audience.

Judge Tracy Crawford
Partisan supporters
A tough job to choose but did the judges get it right?  There was no question that the dance troupe had to go through. The largest group of the evening and bursting with energy, one felt exhausted looking at their high octane routine. I realised with a twinge of regret that among the things I will not get around to in this life is hip hop dancing. The audience prize is a great incentive for an act to bring in a crowd and while the juvenile comedy routine was not my pick one couldn't argue with a large Lissycasey contingent taking up a sizable proportion of the stalls.

Regarding the singers I had two issues. One of the best things about the evening is that it is in live entertainment and I feel the use of a live accompaniment should be rewarded and encouraged.  How lovely to see Claire McDonnell accompanied by fellow student Caoimhe ( a Lissycasey lass herself) at the piano.  In general, I found the collaborative efforts more entertaining than the solo voices. The best costume award had to go to the AbbaTribute act Sub Zero from Newmarket on Fergus in their charming  retro paisley dresses and knee high white boots. Skilled Mulah added a bit of contrast with three chaps on guitar on beat box and proper grand piano and the Burke Sisters accompanied by dad had potential. My pick  were trio Bel Canto, Mary and Alice Healy accompanied by Jillian Bridge. The ladies looked glamorous and sophisticated, were accomplished vocally and in contrast to most of the other girls, they could walk in their high heels!

Sponsored by Clare FM and St Francis Credit Union, this is a great  initiative, providing a platform to encourage local  entertainment and getting people out to support  live acts. It was good to see it attracting a wide range of genres and I was  heartened to see the wide range of ages participating.  Now in its second year, it seems set to become an annual fixture. The final takes place at the weekend. Check out  Glór website for details
Maybe I'll have a go myself next year. Now where did I put those tap shoes....!

1 Skilled Mulah Beat Box  Rolling in the Deep Piano Guitar Vocal harmony 
2 Singer  Aisling Shannon Valerie                   Backing Track
3 Singer  Ciara Normoyle Hey Soul Sister   Backing Track 
4 Singer Dan O Halloran Guitar 
5 Breakthrough Dancers   
6 Singer Claire McDonnell     Ar Eirinn Ni eosfhainn Ce Hi Live Piano Caoimhe accompanying
7 Bel Canto       Mary &Alice Healy  Jillian Bridge accompanist
8 Singer Louise O Rourke     Backing Track 
9  The Field  Drama Pat Cusack O Brien's Bridge
10 Sub Zero Trio  Singers  Backing Track Mamma Mia
11 Lissycasey Lunatics
12 Burke Sisters Dad on guitar   Duo

listen to an appraisal of ‘Clare's Got Talent at Glór’ on Audioboo

Sunday, March 18, 2012

St Patrick's Day Serenades at Cahercalla

John Gavin and daughter Pauline  photo by  John Kelly
Singer, Maret O Hehir put together a lovely programme of entertainment for a concert  for patients at Cahercalla Hospital Co Clare yesterday. There were singers, dancer,s flutes fiddle, harmonica  and a harp for the day that was in it .  Fr Fergus McEveney sang one of my favourite numbers  Kreisler's The Old Refrain. John Gavin , ace harmonica player had them up dancing with a selection of waltzes. Sineid White visiting from Cork gave us a lovely version of Red is the Rose and  my selection included the queen of Irish airs, an Culfhionn.  The happy feet of Lissycasey Set Dancers gave us all a lift  and the versatile musician and 'Clare's Got Talent' judge, Nigel Bridge was accompanist. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Swinging Strings: Departure Suite Serenades: Shannon School Band Sp...

Swinging Strings: Departure Suite Serenades: Shannon School Band Sp...: Swinging Strings 2012 Harp, Sax , Cello Fiddles at the ready Pizz perfect Group 1 Mr Maloney Director  Ms McMahon's Bo...

This blogpost is from one of my education blogs and features a highpoint in the beginners violin programme at Ennis NS, County Clare, the participation in the Shannon School Band Spectacular. The inititiative aims to give primary school children the opportunity to perform in  a non competitive environment purely for the joy of it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Nuns' Chorus Part 2: The Sound of Music by Ennis Musical Society

In my last post, I reported from  the balcony of Sweden's Royal Opera House as I watched the  Carmelite sisters  marching to the guillotine in Poulenc's setting of a dark revolutionary tale. This week I was in the pit of Glor theatre Ennis in west Clare for more nuns' choruses but it ended rather more cheerfully with the von Trapps escape as the Ennis Musical Society mounted their second production of The Sound of Music after a gap of twenty years. I really enjoyed playing for this production. The Rodgers score is richly scored for the middle  string parts and with full houses almost at every performance there was a great atmosphere as friends and family gathered to support the performers.

There was much to enjoy from Audrey Banks opening solo plainchant Dixit Dominus to the the mother abbess' Deirdre Browne's closing anthem Climb Every Mountain. Ken Shaughnessy gave Max  an edgy quality as the expedient concert promoter and Edel Heaney imbued the baroness with a degree of pathos that she almost made you feel sorry for her. Barry O Loughlin was suitably sinister as the Gauleiter and Geraldine Westwood wrung every bit out of her cameo role as second prize winner at the Kaltzberg Festival.  Of couse the youngsters stole the show but how lovely to see proud mammy Edel Bluett making her musical society debut among the novices in the ladies choir, mother of Adam(Rolf)  and Nathan (Kurt).

There was an added piquancy for some in the audience as former cast members came to relive their stage experience of two decades ago . Sheila Bunce from Clarecastle was an erstwhile Maria while Anna Monaghan a former mother abbess was on hand nightly to serve as prompter and  it was lovely to see president Ita O Shea in the audience who told me that she also played the role of mother abbess during her long career. The audioboo features patrons and musical society stalwarts, Aidan and Anne White from Shannon.

Cast:Captain Von Trapp       Morgan Lahiffe                        Leisl           Madeline Arkins
Maria                             Zoe Halpin                             Louisa        Elaine Brennan
Max                                Ken O'Shaughnessy               Fredreich    Conor Coughlan
Elsa                                Edel Heaney                          Kurt            Nathan Bluett
Mother Abbess              Deirdre Browne                      Brigitta       Katie Gleeson/Emma Purcell
Rolf                                Adam Bluett                          Marta          Sinead Coughlan/Emma Haran
Margaretta                    Kate Corrigan                         Gretel         Rhona Kearney/Ailbhe Haran
Berthe                            Marina Mulqueen
Sophia                            Marie Griffin
Herr Zeller                     Barry O'Loughlin
Admiral                          Neil Haran
Franz                              Richard Donnellan
Frau Schmidt                 Catherine Brigd

Me with afficionados Anne and Aidan White 
 Whites (mp3)