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

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Finalists Announced For FBD Clare Business Excellence Awards

 I am delighted that my music tuition service Stringschool has been selected as a finalist in this years' shortlist in the category of  Best Use of  ICT (Information Communication Technology) . Check out the dedicated websites 

I look forward to meeting the other finalists on 21st September at the Ennis Chamber President's Dinner 
Header page of school project blog 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Launch of Irish Historic Town Atlas No 25

“To put a city in a book, to put the world on one sheet of paper -- maps are the most condensed humanized spaces of all...They make the landscape fit indoors, make us masters of sights we can't see and spaces we can't cover.” 
― Robert HarbisonEccentric Spaces

There was a  sense of 'centre meeting edge' at Ennis Buttermarket last Friday evening as historians, cartographers and academics  from the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin joined local councillors, business men, history buffs and local residents to celebrate the  launch of Irish Historic Town Atlas no 25 which condensed not only the dimensions of spaces but also the that of time in Ennis town onto an collection  of handsome A3 sized documents. County Librarian Helen Walsh  looking elegant  in emerald green opened the proceedings with words of welcome to the visitors and some background to the international dimension of the project . Secretary of the RIA , Tom Brazil spoke  about the institution dedicated unusually to the Renaissance ideal of excellence in scholarship of both arts and sciences . Howard Clarke, editor paid tribute to Brian O Dalaigh author of number 25, praising his enthusiasm, attention to detail and his pro-active engagement in the project before inviting the assembly to add a comparative dimenson in viewing some of the other atlas' in the the series on display that evening.

Author Brian O Dálaigh signs a copy for Fr. Tom Hogan .

O Dalaigh, son of the last cooper in Ennis spoke of his idyllic childhood growing up in Drumbiggle nd vividly recalled the characters and tradesmen he encountered in the market and streets of the Clare county town. Indeed as Walsh remarked , Brian has maybe a childhood memoir in him for  a future project
 The assembly was graced by not one but two mayors as mayor of Clare, Pat Daly added a few childhood reminiscences  of his own and made the point that the document would be much valued by the Clare diaspora. The atlas was officially launced by Mayor of Ennis , Peter Considine . The event went on for some time after as refreshments were served and the author continued to sign copies of the  opus for well over an hour.

Map 1787 by Henry Pelham

I met editors Colm Lennon and Jacinta Prunty  of the RIA team who were looking forward to returning to the West for no 26 which will feature  Galway. I spoke with Cartographic Editor, Sarah Gearty about the task of sourcing and selecting  the maps and photographs  All  the maps are included in digital form on a CD but the pleasure is in holding in your hand the tangible  printed form . Sarah and historian colleagues,  Angela Murphy and Jennifer Moore were busy manning the stand as demand was brisk for this splendid publication, a terrific addition to our local history resources.

RIA Editorial Team members
 Angela Murphy , Sarah Gearty and Jennifer Moore

Related article . More on the Irish Historic Town Atlas on Clare Library Blog here

More photos of the event here from Ennis Cathedral website

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Jacobean Stacks and Jostle Stones : Heritage Week Talk on Medieval Ennis

Medieval streets where we live

'The Stone Outside Dan Murphy's Door'  images from Clare Library website

Local girl Smithson
Jostle Stone, Ennis
As part of the events marking Heritage Week, Dick Cronin, Clare County Council Architectural Conservation Officer & Archeologist, gave a  lecture at the Old Ground Hotel, itself a historic landmark on the numerous surviving late medieval buildings in Ennis. The talk was accompanied by some interesing slides featuring all sorts of architectural details we pass every day but don't notice such as jostle stones and diamond shaped chimney stacks. Pictured above is one such stone, immortalised in song  by Johnny Patterson .Cronin  focused particularly on the discovery and restoration  of a timber framed house which had a musical association. The actress Harriet Smithson, renowned as the  inspiration for one of the iconic works of the Romantic era, the Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz , he reminded us was born in Ennis. Her parents being travelling theatre folk, arranged for the child to be fostered by Dean Barrett and she raised in Ennis and lived at McParland's House until she was nine years old.
The oldest inhabited house in Ennis .

There was a good turn out . We met Adrian Donnelly of Clare Roots Society and PRO for Ennis Book Club Festival and Jane O Brien , director of Ennis Walking Tours. Jane spoke to my roving reporter about Ennis history and her walking tour service. Also in attendance was Brian O Dalaigh . His publication, Irish Historic Towns Atlas no 25. on Ennis will be officially launched  at Ennis Civic offices , on Friday 24th August 

Related article . McParlands House 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Musical Bouillabaisse: Dán premiere gig at Glór

        Dán rehearsing at Glór Ennis for premiere performance

It is refreshing to go along to a gig where the music is so newly minted that you have no idea what sounds will be created with no recording or YouTube clips available  to preview the performance, The blurb suggested a pan Celtic ensemble with a bit of poetry thrown in. They may have had a diminuitive title but the fourteen members of  Dán spread out to fill the large Glór stage last night to form an impressive large  ensemble. The group  it appears are an amalgam of three groups from Ireland (Guidewires), England (Kan) and Brittany (The Breton Quartet) augmented further by a  Scottish female vocalist Alyth Mc Cormack .  The result  was a sort of spicy musical bouillabaisse with jazz and traditional  elements, a dash of tango over a base of  a counterpoint of minimalist instrumental riffs .

 The line up featured drums and bass guitar, two fiddles, two flutes, four guitar plus bazouki, concertina , accordion. I was reminded of Andy Irvine's Mozaik experiment with the Balkan cross rhythms and changing time signatures and also Penguin Cafe in the scale of the ensemble and the approach of layering musical patterns. While there was great energy in the whole ensemble segments, I enjoyed the smaller more flexible groupings .  Lively Breton box player Janick Martin  had a  pivitol role at the centre flanked on either side by twin flute and fiddles .  The occasional  poems worked very well  recited by McCormack with rhapsodic accompaniment from the reduced ensemble, Tola Custy's violin melodic line fitting very well with the meter of Theo Dorgan's maritime poem. In contrast,  the first half included a poem by Northumbrian poet Tickell, on a coal mining theme. All in all it mostly worked very well , sometimes hitting rich veins  and was never less than interersting .  There were some well known faces in the audience including  fiddler Siobhan Peoples and flautist  Kevin Crawford of Lúnasa. Dán will play at the National Concert Hall tonight (Thursday),  as part of Fleadh Cheoil in Cavan on Saturday and at the close of  Kilkenny Arts Festival on Sunday

**It would have been pleasant to linger a while at this convivial venue after a novel musical venture to guage reactions but sadly there was no post show mingling of performers and listeners.  Perhaps it was the lack of  the imperative of a CD to sell or  pressure of a gig at the NCH next day but no musicians came front of house following the perfromance.  As in UCH Limerick, the bar was closed and patrons left fairly promptly.

Related Article  Journal of Music :

Monday, August 6, 2012

'Listen to This' author and more at Galway Arts Festival

Familiar look to headliners

Alex Ross 'Pale Vampire' Aula Max NUIG
Galway Sinfonietta at Bailey Allen Hall
Tara Connaghan and Derek McGinley at Monroe's
An Aural Visual Affair by the T'ang Quartet St Nicholas Church 

On swift sail flaming From storm and south He comes, pale vampire Mouth to my mouth.
from Ulysses Joyce 

Wedged in between the departure of the yachting  crews and the arrival of the horsey set, Galwegians  play host to an annual arts festival and I paid my first visit  on Saturday.

Alex Ross of The New Yorker
It was quite a coup for GAF to secure prestigious writer and trail blazing  music blogger, Alex Ross on his first visit to Ireland. At NUIG, I wondered whether I had the right venue for a celebrity lecture as the largest group in evidence was a wedding party taking advantage of the photogenic  quadrangle and the festival signs were unassuming to say the least . I pressed on in hope of finding a buzzing literary hive and plumping for one of a selection of doors to the Aula Max, I entered to find myself in a lobby space with not so much a feel of a lively mix zone as a vaguely disconcerting sense of a staff common room before I was directed back outside  to the 'students entrance' of the upstairs lecture hall.

Tiernan Henry, lecturer in Geology at NUIG, gave a warm introduction to, Alex Ross,  author of Listen to This and The Rest is Noise  and music critic of the New Yorker, brandishing   a  copy of the 1999 magazine containing his essay ,  The  Wanderer on Bob Dylan. Anticipating his next book, Ross delivered a  paper, outlining some resonances in James Joyces' work with Wagnerian operas with particular reference to Ulysses and the |Flying Dutchman.   Ross's  passion  for the language  of literature shone through particularly in this live experience as he effortlessly peppered his talk with quotations  from a diverse range of sources including poetry by Douglas Hyde,  and the English translations of Wagnerian operas from the Carla Rosa Opera Co archives, regular visitors to the Gaiety in Dublin.  A fellow attendee remarked to me that the scale and diversity of cross  references in Ross's work are reminiscent of  the Wagnerian tome, Ulysses itself.  Despite Ross's efforts, the event felt a bit flat, with an air of a specialist post grad seminar rather than a buzzy mainstream literary event.  The venue with its huge elegant windows at each end  was rather large for the assembly and we could have done with  firmer anchoring to steer the event to a fitting close. Where is David Norris when you need him.

Nearby in the Bailey Allen Hall, the community orchestra, The Galway Sinfonietta,   performed a free concert under the umbrella of the Galway Fringe Festival. Opening  with a saxophone concerto by Glazunov  featuring Bertrand Fougeres and including works by Finzi, Romberg and Dvorak, there was a good attendance to support  the group conducted by John Roe. Anxious not to miss the first part of the  T'ang Quartet's presentation, I arrived just in time at  the packed St. Nicholas's  church and found a seat near the front all the better to appreciate the cinematic effects of the entertainment. However, maybe suspecting that less resilient  audience members might  slope off to the pub after the Buster Keaton segment, the order of the programme had been reversed to that advertised  and we had an hour of 20th century string quartet repertoire before the heralded cinematic element.
T'ang Quartet

 The cellist, Leslie Tan of the Singapore based ensemble gave cheerful introductions to  the items setting the context of the works drawing on less than cheerful  themes of funerals and  the Chinese Cultural Revolution. While quartets by Sallinen and Bright Sheng were well received as you might expect in  a city that boasts its own resident quartet and there was some thrilling string playing and a sense of joyful  communion within the ensemble,  it was rather too rich   for my palate . The score accompaniment by French composer, Baudine -Jam to the 1921silent classic, Haunted House was delightful and indeed there were peals of laughter in the aisles of St Nicholas. However for an event titled An Aural Visual Affair, the item  was all too brief with a running time of 15 minutes or so and one would have thought with the projector in place, we might enjoyed  another in the same vein. It was a bit like advertising a three course meal by leading with the promise of pudding.

I caught some of Tara Connaghan's and Derek McGinley's lunchtime session in Monroe's. Tara is well known in Clare as a former county Arts Officer. The duo, exponents of a Donegal style of fiddle playing, mixed jigs and reels, slow airs mazurkas and waltzes adding some personal anecdotes  for an appreciative audience. Both of them speak here  of their route in to fiddle playing and the role of family members in developing their skills.

Related posts

Movies at the Christchurch Cathedral Morgan Cooke and Faust

Wagner/ Joyce from Alex Ross' blog The Rest is Noise

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time at The National Theatre London

  Thanks to guest blogger John Hartery for this post.

Apparently there was some sporting event also on  in London last weekend. Despite this, the South Bank was, as ever, choc full of  arts events; exhibitions, live acts, and top class drama in the National Theatre.

The smaller of the three theatres in the complex,  the Cottosoe,  had as it's offering The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time. The play only opened last weeks and is  a staged version of the Mark Hadon book from 2003 adapted by Simon Stephens.

Father and Son
The play adapted by Simon Stephens  was staged in the round. Well, a rectangular floor space filled with squares that light up with mathemathical formulaes and pathways that signalled the mind of the protaganist.

The play kicked off with the killing of the dog in that  curious incident and the plotline soon drifted from what you might expect from  the title. Whilst the dog was definitely dead the corpse wasn't gory enough for my taste. After all it was brutally murdered, wasn't it!!

The key role of Christoper was played by Luke Threadaway and he was superb in the demanding role which required a defined range of emotions. The story was delivered partly through a narrator  with the storyteller played by Niamh Cusack who doubled as Christoper's teacher and the one  who understood him most.  The work  was directed by Marianne Elliott who codirected the huge hit War Horse.  Paul Ritter in the role of the father brought a great sense of controlled emotion that echoed with Christoper's affliction.
There were some terrific theatrical devices used to support the action and I particulary liked the ensemble vividly creating an intercity train and a Tube station with virtually no props.
A slain dog, maths and limited emotion
The narrative moves swiftly from Christoper setting out to investigate the crime of killing the dog and soon develops into an exploration of his world and how he encounters death, break-ups, truth and lies and the trauma of moving from a familar environment. The ending was a bit too twee for my taste and rounded off with a manipulative device intended  to deliver one of thos 'aaah' moments. A fine production and it is sure to run.

The Venue
The National Theatre offers  'day tickets' from 9.30 am each day and if all seats are filled you can often pick up a standing position. In my case  I secured a £5 ticket. Hard to find fault with that. In a  nod towards innovation the National Theatre is broadcasting the show live to UK cinemas in September.
Apres Show
Outside there were huge crowds for a vast range of free entertainment and dining opportunities on the banks of the Thames.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Wales Singing Sensations

This opening concert is available to watch for the next 34 days . The link within the tweet works

Norwegian Wood - and Brass Summer Music in Ennis

The Summer Music in Galway (formerly Summer Music on the Shannon) presented a packed programme of  musical goodies at Danlann an Chláir in County Clare tonight.  Opening with Beethoven  Leonore Overture no 3 (apparently Beethoven made several revisions of his overture to Fidelio ), we heard not one but two solo concertos. I loved David Stewart's robust Mozart Violin Concerto (number 4 in D).  In the excellent accoustic of the Danlann, his  violin sounded  like a bell in the high register of the first movement .  Stewart was for many years leader of Bergen Philharmonic in Norway. There were more bright sounds with colleague  Jan Fredrik Christiansen's sparkling Haydn Trumpet concerto.  Keith Pascoe of the Van Brugh String Quartet was  quietly authoritive on the conductor's podium.

After the interval the orchestra was augmented to full Romantic proportions  for  act 2 from the opera , Hansel and Gretel which has all the best bits. The orchestra sounded lush although at times too loud for the younger cast members.  Jennifer McMahon played Hansel. Elena McLeod's Gretel and Helen Houlihan the Sandman. 

Earlier in the day there was charming chamber music trios at st Columba's , Ennis and a spirited account by Keith Pascoe and Brian McNamara of one of the most popular of Beethoven's violin concertos, the Spring Sonata.  Bob Creech reminded us all that this summer school gave its first performance at the same venue, (St Columba's Ennis) nineteen years ago. 

There will be more concerts as part of the Summer Music  in Galway and Clare Galway  Check out the list of performances here