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

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Tune Makers & Peoples at Glór

I was born on the holy ground
a running boy in fields of clover
living in the grandeur of my father's land

By the side of the swirling sea
I spent the days of childish wonder
and the rocks i held in my young hands
I never felt them slip away

It seems there is a trend towards trios in trad circles recently with  a pivotal Martin  Hayes forming a third of Triúr and The Teetotallers. One of Hayes collaborators, composer and guitarist Dave Flynn has assembled a trio of heavy hitting musicians noted for their tune crafting abilities.  The Tune Makers are currently on a national tour of arts centres  and I heard them tonight at Glór Ennis.

The format was similar to that of Dán's recent performance at the same venue. The three strands, here individual  players, in turn introduced and lead a set of newly composed tunes,   including a mix of air, slides  jigs, reels and strathspeys  finishing with a splendid Latin American flamboyant creation of Martín O' Connor, demonstrating dazzling virtuosity and unusually, exploiting the left hand buttons on his accordion.

Carroll played with great exuberance that begged for dancing feet rather than respectful silence, her style owing more to the Northern tradition with economy of bow stroke and triples. A mellow fiddle tone combined with a very pleasant on stage demeanor, she  drew her audience in with good humoured  anecdotes and asides in a clear soft voice. You couldn't help but like her.
Peoples .:Aosdana Saoi  

Following the interval Flynn was joined on stage by Tommy Peoples . A senatorial Peoples (newly elected to Aosdana) stole the show with his moving rendition of Gerry O' Beirne's song (see above) which he sang with great feeling adding interludes on violin and was for me, the highlight of the evening. They are on their way to Dublin  and  the Cork Folk Festival. A good evening. I felt that at three hours including interval and encores, it was a tad overlong for most punters.

Clip from 2011 gig . Interesting use of 3rd position
Venue Notes  
***The Tune Makers had been on this stage as part of  last week's Culture Night event and might explain why the audience for the evening was less than might have been expected given the stature of the performers.  I would love to have seen and heard the players released from the barriers  of the fence of microphones and placed closer to the listeners. Given that the percussive effect of plastic wrapping was clearly heard and string quartets usually perform here unamplified,  perhaps with the musicians placed on the floor near their audience, an unplugged performance  with a mike for vocals for an audience of less than a hundred would be feasible.  

Related articles

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Liz and Lar by Paul Barry at Garter Lane

By guest blogger John Hartery 

Paul Barry premiered  his sequel to The  Glass this week in Garter Lane.  His first play traced the working lives and loves of a bunch of Waterford factory workers against the background of the slow decline of the crystal business. This production, again is from,  All Of A   Sudden Theatre Company. It's wonderful to see another  new work hot on the heels of the Red Kettle recent premiere

Of the many colourful characters in the very funny The Glass the most memorable was Lar Power  the life and soul of the ensemble. It was inevitable there would be a sequel. We wondered how life had treated him?

The new play, Liz and Lar, brings a different Lar. Firstly, it's played by a different actor the excellent Fionnan Dunphy  and secondly, life has moulded him. He's now unemployed and embroiled with the dole office over his 'few pound' . He spends  his day at the kitchen table taking  care of routine household chores allocated by his wife Liz and hosting a succession of visitors. He is a kind of Waterford everyman.  Liz is played by Anne-Marie Collins in a a fine performanc. She  is tired of being a human incubator, 6 down and one to go!

The second half had a better   tone. It's set in a hospital ward after our man suffers a mishap in a certain named doctor's surgery following  a discrete procedure. Terry Grant plays an hilarious cameo role as Lar's friend who is a combination of gossip and unreliable medical reporter (ignorant cyst and grout!).
More brand new drama

Barry constantly mines the glass factory for much nostalgia and memories and clearly he  has much to say on its demise. It's wonderful to see a play peppered with everyday Waterford City references; Doyle St, Johnie Walker's chips, Billy McCarthy's voice and Ballybricken accents -'gwayoutofit'! 

Mayor's Walk cusine gets  into the script

This was quite a different piece to The Glass and whilst it lacked the narrative breath and ensemble synergy and fun of his earlier work,  in Liz and Lar  Barry balanced the poignancy of Lar's plight in the first half with the great humour in the second. What will Lar do next?

A very entertaining evening of local, new and amateur drama. The  production deserves great support. It runs till September 29th

Venue note: as ever excellent staff and volunteers at Garter Lane and how nice to offer a complementary pre-theatre drink to all.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Soirée at the Rowan Tree : Ennis Fringe Festival Wraps Up

From Buenos Aires to Ennis : Los Paddys 

I can report that there was a terrific atmosphere in the Rowan Tree Cafe for the final event .  There was a full house with a sizeable number of the Spanish au pair community in attendance The poet Peadar Clancy  despite his charm had a little difficulty in calming the ladies as he read from his own work and that of Blake.
Los Paddys de las Pampas were great fun and played a lighthearted mix of Latin American and Irish favourites  while we munched  on tasty  tapas compliments of the house.

With the lovely period features of the drawing room of this elegant 18th century venue, the walls adorned with the work of local artists and  with music and poetry on the bill of fare  there was quite a salon ambience to the soirée . More soon please!

Clare Champion article on Fringe Festival launch

Monday, September 17, 2012

Beyond The Brooklyn Sky a Red Kettle World Premiere

By guest blogger John Hartery

The world premiere of a new play is a notable thing and there was a sense of occasion in Garter Lane, Waterford last weekend for Beyond The Brooklyn Sky the latest production by the Red Kettle production company. The play is poised to participate in the forthcoming Dublin Theatre Festval and to tour around  a range of venues.

The company  drafted in Peter Sheridan to direct the new piece and backed this up with a strong cast of seven actors. The play is  by Michael Hilliard Mulcahy an award winning playwright from Listowel Writers’ week.

The initial star of the show is the set designed by Waterford native Ben Hennessy which realistically captures a coastal community hall complete with lobster pots and a deconstructed currach. We know were we are. The next star is the sound which uses Neil Young, Springsteen and that  half-forgotten theme from the Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence movie to pitch the genesis  of the story  in  the 80s. All this is supported by a bunch of iconic LP covers and a turntable.

Red Kettle Premiere

The plotline concerns a bunch of fortysomethings who meet again in the small Kerry fishing village and recall how their lives crossed in the eponymous New York borough. One was reminded of the movie The Big Chill. The narrative covers a 24 hour period. Hints of what happened  to direct their  lives in the Big Apple many years ago are plentiful and gradually uncovered. The story pivots on he return of Greg a journeyman musician, who does a mean rendition of Youngs Helpless, and how his fleeting visit revives memories and provokes decisions.

There are  some cliches of the Irish theatre in  the play; the returned emigrant, the drunk, and the secrets revealed under inebriation. The works of Billy Roche come to mind.  There was a overly heightened  sense of melodrama  in the the second act.


But the play has some interesting dimensions with the men all  coming close     to mortality  ranging  from a foolhardy sea voyage to a possible terminal illness. The women characters were the bedrock of the story  and each was memorable:  Catherine Walsh as Josie with  her fling with the Dutchman and  Liz Fitzgibbon as Shannon with her precocious view of relationships and   Sorcha Fox a veteran of Ros na Rún   the standout actress in the key role of  Mags.

It was an excellent night of live theatre that deals with Irish emigration, and love through a modern lens – Skype gets a few mentions.  Red Kettle deserves  a good run for this ambitious project. I’ll be looking out for further work by Hilliard Mulcahy. The  Saturday night afficionados at Garter Lane, who  know their theatre, were impressed.


The play runs  intermittingly in Garter Lane till Saturday 22nd and then on tour.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Galvanised Goldberg in Viking Triangle- The Irish Baroque Orchestra at Waterford Harvest Festival

Cathedral and new Waterford Treasures Museum 
There was a party atmosphere in Waterford as the Harvest Festival drew to a close. After an afternoon of picnicing in the park being entertained by the Barrack Street Band, you  could  feast like a Viking on the Quay or hear the Irish Baroque Orchestra in the elegant classical interior of Christchurch Cathedral  . I have remarked in previous posts on the confluence of architectural elegance in  this part of the South Eastern capital, with the  polished architectural gems, the Theatre Royal and Bishop's Palace and Christchurch Cathedral  all located in this corner.  The area referred to as the Viking Triangle has been further enhanced with the addition of a wonderful new building, tucked in snugly behind the Cathedral with a visually stunning  curved ediface in creamy Bath stone marking  the entrance to the new Medieval Museum.

Welcomed to the podium at Christchurch Cathedral by Liam Daly, the new administrator of the Symphony Club of Waterford, 
Huggett at the Helm     photo B Childers
the IBO under their director, Monica Huggett brought  an unusual  musical offering -a twenty year old string adaptation of JS Bach's Goldberg Variations. Originally for harpsichord, the set of 30 variations on an Italianate aria was supposedly composed for a Count prone to insomnia and named for the young player  in his employ. The work was popularised for 20th century audiences by Canadian pianist, Glen Gould's legendary recording of the work.  For this performance, the variations were split in half with an interval between.  30 variations might seem like rather a lot for a single timbre of strings to bear for one evening but there was plenty of variety in the skillful arrangement and  all the crisp and clean articulation and melodic canons were clearly heard in the accoustically friendly, intimate venue -just right for the assembly.

The ensemble were arranged in a  concertino quartet, a solo player to each part   with opposing  violin sections  in front  with ripieno  desk behind . The first violin and viola were adjacent  to facilitate the many interweaving duet lines between the two, with continuo section of cello and harpsichord  at the heart of the ensemble.

The playing was first class but what made the evening compelling was the verve and enthusiasm emanating from dynamic leader Monica Huggett.  Frequently she swept her instrument in a 180 degree arc as if in a an effort to simultaneously draw her audience into the fold and at the same time galvanise her troops into action  . One could sense the crackle of energy  from the tip   of her Baroque bow  as she drew gutsy performances from her bakers dozen of  players supported throughout by  David Adams solid continuo lines.
  But hadn't Bach written tons of  ensemble music,  so what  I asked her was the appeal of this relatively new arrangement of a harpsichord  piece for string players?   From a practical  standpoint, apart from the  3rd Brandenberg Concerto , there is relatively little in Bach's output it seems purely for strings and  leaving aside for the moment any aesthetic consideration, the arrangement  by Sitkovetsky , a conductor laureate of the Ulster Orchestra is a valuable  addition  to the repertoire.    That, and the piece is just so exhiliarating and so much fun  for  string players to play, she added '  Looking at Ms Huggett leading  her revved up Baroque band , I can well believe it!  I could cheerfully  have  sat and listened to the whole work again. Bravo IBO!


Related articles

Cathy's Reviews Early Evening French Baroque Music form IBO  Christchurch

A rather lovely mention for IBO in New Yorker Music Critic, Alex Ross's memorable moments round up for 2010 . Praise indeed!

Article on Vikram Seth's An Equal Music including discussion of quartet arrangement of Art of Fugue

Everything you could want to know about Glen Gould and his two iconic recordings of those variations in Tom Service'  article in the Guardian

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Travelling Troubadour's Homage to his Father Woody Guthrie

Arlo Guthrie 

Arlo Guthrie appeared at the Pavillion in Cork last Thursdy evening  on his tour marking the centenary of  Woodie Guthrie’s birth .
Woody Guthrie
Mixing  his father’s protest songs with  childhood reminiscences,  Arlo sang with a nice warm vibrato and delivered the yarns in a soothing drawl  accompanying himself on 12 string guitar and harmonica with self deprecating charm, adding a few songs of social injustice of his own. The venue, a former cinema  managed to feel intimate while accommodating a large appreciative, no longer young   crowd.  There were fascinating insights into the Guthrie senior’s extraordinary  life and achievements. I am putting his book Bound for Glory on my reading list .

It being the centenary of Woody Guthrie's birth, there are lots of forthcoming celebratory gigs with Billy Bragg and Andy Irvine's collaboration at Vicar Street later this month looking very attractive. 

Set List
Way Down Yonder   Deportees 
Leadbelly Trip to Grave  12 string guitar 
 In times like these 
This Land
Good Morning America how are ye
Ref to Ballad of Tom Joad
Bound For Glory
Campus Blues
Hawaian Instrumnetal
Houston  Fire Song

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Body and Soul My Foot ! Electric Picnic 2012

Electric Picnic survival kit
Best Stage Set   The Body and Soul Main Stage at The Dingly Dell so pretty- shame about the background noise 
Best Large Act   The Killers  Laser beams, moving images  and rockin anthems
Best Solo Artist  Van Dyke Parks   Masterful piano playing, wistful lyrics 
Best Spoken Word Event Salon de Chat at Leviathon tent So simple, such  fun
Best Tent Event  Staff Benda Bilili at Cosby Tent Wheelie good Latino and R&B rhythms

Best Food:
  Bia trí Gaeilge Black pudding and bacon . Druid Chef , Rory Morahan at Puball Tent

The sun made a prolonged guest appearance on Sunday at Stradbally, Co. Laois for the annual open air music festival tempting me to make my first foray to the Electric Picnic. Was it fantastic?- an envious pal enquired ? Well-- like the proverbial curate's egg,  Yes and No and good in parts

Wood creatures
Yes: the grounds are beautiful and the site is impressive in scale, incorporating several distinctly themed areas. A crescent of big top tents is the first sight you see on entering, not quite so vital or tempting when the sun is shining but cheerful none the less.  Very pleasing on the eye also are the giant garden features  dotted everywhere amongst the plethora of performing spaces giving  the site a theme park atmosphere . You can have a massage, hang out in the Gameletron or watch dancing waiters in the Hurly Burly Cafe in the Body and Soul area  and I liked  the 50's themed Trailer Park presided over by giant wicker foxes.

 I spent the early part of the day in the Mindfield, a  cosy collection of small tents devoted to the spoken word. A frivolous Sunday morning panel of RTE chat show folk in rather  un-pc weekend banter mode was actually more fun than I would like to admit and at least, Colm O Regan, creator of @Irishmammies, twitter phenomenon and Des Bishop's distinctive hybrid tones diluted the Dublin 4 ones a tad. Dublin Gospel Choir in the Hot Press Tent were charming but star of the Mindfield was Druid Chef Rory, Morahan who  extolled the virtues of Celtic Cuisine as Gaeilge with great gusto while cooking tasty bacon and black pudding treats. Maith an fear thú Rory.
LAPD photo Irish Times 

Giant Tulips 

Druid Chef Rory 

Van Dyke Parks 
And the bad? Well while there was no mud and the ground was delightfully firm under foot,  gloop of a different kind manifested itself from early in the afternoon as  the aural equivalent of mud, a relentless loud drum beat like opressive thunder,  pervaded the atmosphere  quenching  less robust sounds.  The wonderful veteran songwriter's Van Dyke Park's lovely delicate piano playing was masked and his vocal introductions barely audible .  Even the folk quartet LAPD with heavyweights, Irvine, Lunny  Liam Og and Paddy Glackin were no match for the aural sludge. As I was driving  away, Barry Egan was musing on Today FM how Paul Buchanan's soft gentle piano backed vocals fared given that he was on at the same time as the Killers. Well Barry- it wasn't the Killers that murdered  Paul's set in the Dingly Dell but the ogre of a heavy pulsating beat  emanating from pair of dance tents  incongruously located in the heart of the Body and Soul area.  Not very Zen at all ! There was no escaping the boom-boom  as the audience fled to to the front of the Dingly Dell Stage

Staff Benda Bilili    photo Phillip Ryall 
No delicate vocal lines to worry about on the main stage as the  Killers had the crowd on their feet and singing in unison as a proliferation  of laser beams lit up the night sky , a feat Elbow in the  twilight  hadn't seemed to manage.   Finally at last, midnight and  time to go but there was one surprise left. On the way out, we were drawn to the lively rhumba rhythms coming from the Cosby Tent.  Closer inspection showed that most of the Congolese group, Staff Benda Bilili were in wheelchairs or on crutches.  Overheard as we left, 'best gig of the whole weekend ' a punter remarked. Hear Hear!

Overheard at Electric Picnic 'The scallops were huge!'