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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

'The Queen of Connemara': A Tribute to Delia Murphy

 'Without Delia Murphy , there would have been no Christy Moore' was the claim made by actress and writer Carmen Cullen in her tribute act to her aunt Delia Murphy , one of Irelands best loved singers and song collectors at Glór this afternoon. The event  was part of the Bealtaine Festival as a guest of Clare Arts Office.  Decades before the Clancy Brothers , Delia Murphy popularised many Irish Folk Songs bringing them to the attention of international audiences giving them a respectability at home . And what pearls were the songs she unearthed, so simple and charming that once heard they are never forgotton.  Standard party piece favourites for my parents' generation, they are ingrained in our subconscious.  The show was a mix of songs , illustrated lecture with a  slide show of old photographs with the songs delivered by Mairín O Donovan with a great degree of charm accompanied by Gerry Anderson on guitar. Carmen also read from her soon to be published biographical novel, Two Sisters Singing using a simple prop of an on stage wind up gramaphone to evoke a past era. (Carmen's mother and Delia were sisters)  Opening with The Queen of Connemara, included in the set list Courtin' in the Kitchen, The Spinning Wheel Song, The Connemara Cradle Song, Three Lovely Lassies , Down By the Glenside, Thank You Ma'am Says Dan , If I were a Blackbird and of course The Moonshiner from which the delightfully assonant title for the show, I'll Live Till I Die is taken .

There was a sizeable enthusiastic audience including many residents of Carigoran House, several of whom took to the stage to sing a couple of songs themselves before departing.  Musician and entertainer,  Nigel Bridge, County Librarian , Helen Walsh  and Clare Arts Officer, Siobhan Mulcahy were also among the gathering.

Gerry Anderson Carmen Cullen and Mairin O Donoghue
This was a delightful afternoon of entertainment  setting in context  the contribution of this colourful and important artist.

Oh if I was a blackbird, could whistle and sing 
I'd follow the vessel my true love sails in 
And in the top rigging I would there build my nest 
And I'd flutter my wings o'er her lily-white breast

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Prussian Russian Duo at Cois na hAbhna

A charming and varied musical pot pourri was presented by the faculty members of Maoin Cheoil an Chláir  yesterday evening in Cois na hAbhna, Ennis Co. Clare. Announced in faux Eurovision style by pairing of piano teacher Tatiana  Timofeeva and director Hans Boller,  we heard a selection of classical, traditional and jazz numbers all well executed as one would expect from this team.

Star of the show though was the elegant Tatiana whose rendition of Mozart's Fantasy in A minor on accoustic grand piano was superb and who showed what a versatile artist she is, deftly accompanying trad numbers and offering a jazz number in the second half. The accoustic seemed to favour reeds and Elvie Millars solo air on piano accordion by Michael Rooney was very effective . Elvie was joined by her husband, Denis Liddy for a few numbers from their latest album, Traderee. Violin teachers Bryonie Hopper  and Roisin McMullan showed their virtuosity  in Monti's Czardas and Bartok' Romanian Dances and Pat O Connor and Michael Grogan added airs, reels and hornpipes to the folk dance  contributions.

Other guests included pianist David Zsabo, singer Helen Brooks and Shannon Burns of the Redemptorist Music Centre , Limerick.  Guitar teachers Terence O Reilly and Eamonn Kenny and  piano teachers Eithnne Heaney, Michael Quinn  and Mick Willis contributed to the extensive programme disproving the old adage that those who can.... also teach.  Among the audience were Jean Guilfoyle, Midori Hayes,  Ann Jones Board member of Maoin Cheoil and Sean Conlan  of Clare VEC.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Unholy Haikus, Great Glee and Brilliant Buskers

What a Sisyphusian task directors of school choirs undertake.  No sooner than they have rolled the metaphorical boulder up the hill and achieved their task of moulding their young charges and and coaxed   gorgeous sounds out of them, the ungrateful so and sos leave to pursue other avenues and they must begin all over again with a bunch of new recruits. I met  , Björn Johansson from Sweden  conductor of fine Vocal Ensemble of Risbergska High School and  he remarked that although he had visited Cork International Choral Festival  several times in recent years, his current choir were all entirely new to the festival.  They were just one of 100 or so choirs with a staggering 5000 participants  visiting Cork for the annual singfest in the Leeside city .  

I arrived at City Hall, Cork  in the midst of festival fever  in time to hear the afternoon segment of the post primary schools' competition on Thursday. The large space looked surprisingly intimate with the house lights dimmed in the auditorium. There is something about the sight of all those assembled earnest  young faces singing as one , that I find very moving and gives me hope and cheer for the future. How wonderful to see Ben O Hanlon lead his splendid De La Salle Waterford boys' choir, sadly one of a only a handful of all male  choirs in the schools' competition. But my highlight of the day was seeing and hearing the 100+ strong Colaiste Muire Choir from Ennis led by conductor Carmel Griffin.  'Is there a schoolgirl left in Ennis today?' a patron remarked as the enormous choir, twice the size of any other ensemble took to the stage, a logistical feat in itself.  Singing a modern work by Rhona Clarke and  The Blue Bird by Stanford , the choir were simply sublime.  In some ways, young choirs achieve a form of perfection that young instrumental ensembles rarely do, their artlessness adding rather than detracting from their renditions.  Judge Shane Brennan,  in his summing up expressed a wish that the participants would continue to raise their voices in song when the left schooldays behind them. Hear, Hear!

The King's Singers 

Later in the evening, a packed Opera House lapped up the stylish  close harmonies of the all male sextet, The King's Singers . Sadly I missed the first set but I caught the second which consisted of lighter fare of pop and folk song arrangements and opened with a long humorous pastiche piece by Paul Drayton  It was a bit like being offered a gorgeous pudding when really you're in the mood for steak and chips. In our overamplified era of concert experiences, it is cheering to see a large auditorium  in thrall to a small ensemble of unamplified accappella voices. Amongst the afficionados, were many  movers and shakers on the local and national music scene.  It was a good week for Cork Opera House with Ballet Ireland  attracting a very good house on Monday night to their minimalist production of Romeo and Juliet .

Cork streets abounded with buskers not particularly part of the festival but no doubt drawn by the buzz in the city.  My favourite was Damien Guilfoyle playing a real honky tonk piano on the corner of Caroline Street . It is not often you hear Beethoven followed by Boogie Woogie. Have a listen to him on the audioboo.

The Triskel Arts Centre is a elegant ecclesiastical space with a stunning interior just a year into operation as a live music venue and it was packed on Friday for a free lunchtime performance by   Ensemble Vocal, just one of many free events in venues all over the city during  the course of the festival. Later in the day, The National Chamber Choir, one of a very few professional vocal ensembles in Ireland  attracted a good following to St Finbarres' Cathedral for a highbrow choral event featuring a premiere of the winning entry of the Sean O Riada Composition Competition, Two Unholy Haikus by Frank Corcoran among other contemorary Irish works. 

Outside the main events, my sources tell me that great fun was had at the late night sing songs  around the lobby piano at Festival Club in The Clarion Hotel with ceili dancing lessons in the generous foyer space as part of the informal cultural exchange.  My brothers appeared  at the more informal Atrium sessions as members of community choir, Voices of Cork and jolly good they were too! 
You would have to be delighted for the first prizewinner of the Fleischmann Prize, Ateneo Glee Club, all the way from Manila in the Phillippines .   Check out their festival performance here . Forget your sombre black and white , these  are  what I call  costumes.

Prize Winners Fleischmann Trophy

Begun under directorship of Aloys Fleischmann in the 50's , the Cork Choral Festival has always been a unique and special event with an international dimension.  I feel my musical year is not complete without a visit to some of the events.  It manages the rare feat of being inclusive and accessible to   community choristors  while also catering for the elite of the choral world.  I asked Bjorn Johansson if the figure of 65% participation in choirs by the Swedish population was accurate and he confirmed that it was about right. I wonder what the Irish statistics are.   

 Bravo to director John Fitzpatrick  who appeared to be ubiquitous during the festival  for his excellent stewardship  of this remarkable festival . Looking forward to 2013 already . 

Amidst all the chanting, another Cork  festival was launched at the Bodega last Thursday. I am looking forward to  in June . Launched in fine style by Cork's own favourite songbird, Cara O Sullivan and what better number to launch a summer festival, Gershwin's Summertime of course

Ensemble vocal GERMANY

Effortlessly Love Flows (No. 1 from Ecstatic Meditations) Text: Mechthild of Magdeburg AARON JAY KERNIS (1960-
Der Falke (op. 93a, 5) (The falcon) JOHANNES BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Deh, come invan sospiro (Sixth Madrigal Book – 1611) (Ah, how I sigh in vain) CARLO GESUALDO DA VENOSA (1566 – 1613)
A new song of love (Text: Song of Solomon) SVEN-DAVID SANDSTRÖM (1942-)
Ubi caritas et amor (Where charity and love are, God is there) MORTEN LAURIDSEN (1943 -)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Battle leads ecclesiastical troupe to Ennis

St Mary's Cathedral Choir
St Columba's Ennis
Sing We Merrily onto God our strength
make a cheerful noise unto the God of Jacob
Take the psalm, bring hither the tabret;
the merry harp with the lute  Psalm 81 Exultate Deo  

Love Divine , all loves excelling 
Let all the World in every corner sing
Organ Recessional :Le Febure-Wely Bolero de Concert

The following  article in a recent Clare Champion alerted me to a rare and  significant musical event in Clare.
Thursday, 26 April 2012 11:01
The Choir of St Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, comes to Ennis this weekend as part of a new policy of sharing their Anglican music.
Under choirmaster and organist Daniel Battle, the choir will lead Evensong at St Columba’s Parish Church, Bindon Street, at 5.30pm. Ennis rector, Canon Bob Hanna, a member of the Chapter of St Mary’s, will act as precentor and sing the responses.
Canon Hanna said, “This is the first time in living memory that St Mary’s Choir have come into Clare. It should have happened long before, because they have built up over the years a very fine reputation for choral singing. Their Advent lessons and carols are a key feature on the Limerick City calendar.
“Our own organist, Nigel Bridge, is a member of the Friends of St Mary’s Society. It was he who asked them to share their talents.  We invite all Clare people to what should be an enriching moment of devotion, using the ancient Book of Common Prayer service.”
The permanent organist and choirmaster, Peter Barley, is on study leave and has been replaced by Mr Battle, an accomplished organist in his own right from Surrey, who was born into the Roman Catholic tradition and who had Irish roots.
St Mary’s Cathedral has still to announce the appointment of their new dean to succeed the Very Rev Maurice Sirr, who was 25 years in the post.

I enjoyed this service. The singing of the psalms of the  Office from the dozen or so choristers was very fine . The congregation were clearly  invited to participate at points. There was a thoughtful sermon on the place of music in worship from Canon Bob Hanna who demonstrated a rather good baritone voice himself. Both Canon Bob Hanna in this service and Rev Tom Hogan in a recent Easter address referred to Ita O'Shea, Cahercalla resident ( who I met on St Patrick's Day in Cahercalla) and who has contributed so much to music in Ennis in sacred and secular veins.  Today's musical director Daniel Battle showed himself to be a highly skillful organist particularly in the closing voluntary and no verse of the congregational hymns were given the same organ treatment with a variety of modulations adding interest to the chorale tunes. There was time for tea and cakes before the visitors climbed into their minibus for the journey back to the Shannonside city.  Among the choristers I met Paul Ryan and Peggy Carey who talked to me about their busy  rehearsal schedule. Also in attendance were father and son Michael and Harry Howes  well known in choral music circles in Limerick. 
Paintings by Frieda Bailey on an Easter theme were displayed and  added a further dimension to the occasion.
A perfect meditative end to the weekend.

 **With its emphasis on singing of the Psalms of the Divine Office, Evensong  or Vespers is a  welcome addition to the liturgies  Sunday evening strikes me as a good time for a complement to the main services of Mass and Eucharist. A number of monthly Vespers services were conducted at EnnisCathedral in 2010 including an ecumenical service at St Columba's but regrettably, these services did not become an established as a regular feature in Ennis..  As I understand it, there is  little theological difference to divide the two traditions of Vespers and Evensong, they  would seem to lend  themselves to an ecumenical approach. I hope this visit from St Mary's Choir will  refocus on the merit  and value of this type of liturgy in my own parish and put the inclusion of such services back on the local ecclesiastical agenda. 

Related Posts Enchanted Evening of Major and Minor Choristors  at St Columba's 

                     Cornets by Candlelight  Ennis Brass Band at St Columba's

Friday, May 4, 2012

FlashMob Final Day Fun

This is an  abbreviated form of the post from one of my school blogs.  We had a lot of fun not to mention exercise yesterday with this finale to our Level 1 programme. A total 75 children in three classes took the programme and performed on the day.

Flashmob Fun 1 Ms McMahons class at Cathedral
Well ! What an exciting and energetic day we had today as the beginners module of Swinging Strings programme came to a close for this year . There is nothing like live music so we took our newly acquired strings skills on to the streets of Ennis  to add to the soundscape  and the busking scene of the Clare county town today. 

Venue 1 Ms McMahon and class took up their positions outside the Cathedral . There was lots of room and we loved the square paving stones . Among the audience was Fiona Walsh of Ennis Gospel Choir  and her lovely little dog .

Cornet Player  A Going Home Fanfare 
Venue 2 The rain held off as Mr Blake and his class took up position in Barrack Street outside The Gourmet Store.The accoustics were very good here and Anne and David the proprietors gave us a warm welcome.
Venue 3 Finally, Mr Corry and his class made their way to the Temple Gate .  All the windows opened to hear our set as an American  tour group had just checked in . A serenade under their window was not quite what they were expecting!

Our programme 
Ireland's Call

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Great Vibes and Super Sax : Limerick Jazz at Dolan's

Great Limerick Music Venue
I ran across John Daly, percussionist and chairperson of Limerick Jazz Society at a gig recently and he reminded me that there were a few events remaining in their Spring season. Despite having lived  for almost six years in the Shannon region, I have not heard much  jazz locally so with the evening bright and sunny, I was tempted by the promise of quality musicianship of international renown  to take the highway in to Dolans Pub Limerick city to hear the Duo Elegance, a minimalist pairing of David Friedman on vibraphone and Peter Weniger on sax.  I haven't heard a vibraphone live  since Lionel Hampton brought his band to Cork years ago and I was looking forward to this relatively unfamiliar timbre. The  duo as promised were indeed mesmerising,  casting a spell over the gathering in the upstairs room in Dolan's Pub on Dock Rd with a mix of newly minted composition and improvisations on jazz standards.

 Friedman particularly showed impressive virtuosity , so accomplished but not showy and there was a  sense of musical rapport between the two that comes from a long period of playing together.  Judge for yourself in  their take on Johnny Mandel's classic 'Emily' which was included in the set list tonight. The amplification was unobtrusive as usual from sound man, Sean Harrold . There was a mix of age groups in the respectable but  regrettably, not capacity house who listened intently to both sets. Musicians  in the audience included Finnish singer Laura Hilska, guitarist Alan Colfer and drummer Bart Kiely.

A great night of live music. I am glad the duo had sunshine for their sightseeing trip to the Cliffs. Bravo  Limerick Jazz !

Read more about Friedman and his many collaborations  in this excellent blog post by Doug Payne

The last session of the Spring season takes place Wed 9th May at Dolan's . Limerick Jazz Society