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

Monday, October 29, 2012

Booze, Blaas & Banter of a Saturday morning

There we were, 20 or so of us,  huddled in a queue outside Jordan’s pub on the Quay in Waterford City on a Saturday morning at 8.30 am. As motorists passed us by there was one or two scornful looks suggesting they felt we were waiting for an early house.
The Imagine Arts Festival  committee conceived an early morning pub session with music, talk, social history, readings a bit of banter and the ubiquitous blaa with red lead. 

What a brilliant idea! It worked. The place was jammers for an eclectic mix of musicians, poetry, song and reminisces all loosely based on the adjacent river and the sea.

The event was adroitly chaired by Ciarán Murphy who has recently published his book 'What Happens On Tour'.

The music was anchored by local stalwarts Tom Mullane and Liam Merriman. Mullane sang some  self-penned songs including a sea shanty about Dunmore and one about a former Sailors' Rest in Henrietta St. which was based on a a photograph.  Merriman sang a great  Jimmy Nail number about the sea and  Newcastle. There was contributions in a similar vein from Michael Hayes and Paul Dillon .

July 17, 1931
Sailors' Rest Henrietta St - recalled in song by Mullane
But it was the spoken word that  anchored the morning. Mark Roper  a poet read a  vivid piece from his recent book about the  River Suir. You can listen to him here.

I was honoured to make a contribution myself and played a Déise air and you can hear it here.

Donal Foley
An extract from Three Villages the memoir  by the  legendary journalist Donal Foley from Ferrybank was read by his daughter Deirdre Morrissey. There was talk afterwards of developing an event to commemorate Foley who many will recall from his Man Bites Dog column in The Irish Times. I look forward to that.

Local historian Dermot Power spoke of his work on the street names of Waterford.

Pink Floyd - Made in Waterford
Ferrybank man Dick McGrath delivered a lovely talk on the former EMI radio factory over the river and his efforts to track down a photograph of the employees from the 1930’s for his mother. You can hear his talk here. An LP of Pink Floyd was passed around for examination. It was pressed in Ferrybank. Not a lot of people know that.

The famed Waterford blaa was not forgotten and Raymond Roche attired in a wonderful branded shirt spoke of the legendary Roche’s blaas from the Glen which had its origins since 1886. A recording of his talk is here.
 Blogger of the Year ( jealous -moi? Bien Suir I am!) and conker champion Mark Graham  was in the pub and he told us about his life choice that resulted in the purchase of a camper van and a never-ending round of Irish festivals.  I loved his iconic story about the fisherman losing the run of himself based on a dolphin. 

John Molloy 

The star of the morning was John Molloy former publican and sailor. His memoir called ‘Steady As She Goes’ was unknown to but I’ll be chasing it down. He read two pieces one concerned the hunt for a radio broadcast of the 1959 All Ireland hurling final between Kilkenny and Waterford whilst based near Malta. The second, based on a colourful bunch of sailors going to confession was hilarious. You can hear his readings here and be warned it contains strong language and sexual references (that should boost the listeners! :-)

There an excellent dramatization of a piece about a streetwalker performed Shauna Farrell and written by Ciarán Murphy
Actress and Waterford native Jenni Ledwell read from  a soon to be published novel by Io Curtin with the author in attendance himself. Performer Konor Halpin gave us a comedy interlude with some good gags about the recession.

The concept of the gathering was simple but made for a thought provoking convivial morning full of local flavour and let’s hope it is seized on by others so that mighty range of spoken word talent is cherished and encouraged.
Congratulations to the Imagine Festival committee and John Cloono for putting together the morning. More please!

Related posts Come the Sails Launch of Tall Ships Festival

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mighty Beethoven and Blues on Union Quay

Beethoven Sonata in A major opus 47 'Kreutzer'
Beethoven Sonata in A major opus 30 no 1 
Ravel Sonata
Encore Apres un Reve  Faure

'We do love to play Beethoven' Catherine Leonard exclaimed during her recital with duet partner Hugh Tinney at Cork School of Music on Thursday.  Two sonatas , both in A major made up the bulk of the substantial programme.  I am always impressed with the passion with which this petite violinist infuses her playing.  Quite how her slim arms produce such energy and force  in  performance seems incredible While the Kreutzer may be  mightier, my favourite moment was the lovely lyrical  adagio of the  opus 30 which seemed to spill effortlessy from Ms Leonard's instrument.   I was struck for a second time this week by how effective a bit of pizzicato can be . Lisa Knapp used her fiddle almost like a ukulele and the pizz in the Ravel is an important element in the 'Blues' section .

 I was too late for more than a taste of the first piece by Raymond Deane, (commissioned I notice by the Arts Council,  ) but the composer's own note described it as being at times delicate , an intense elegy and a ferocious toccata ' helpfully pointing out some clever wordplay in the title Parthenia Violata . The avant garde piece drew some raised eyebrows from latecomers waiting in the wings .

Looking very elegant in full length empire line jade green dress, Ms Leonard, one of the most successful graduates  of the school was greeted by an almost full house including  many family members and friends .  We met  cellist, Frank Garvey and Catherine's former teacher Una Kindlon  among the listeners.   There were excellent programme notes courtesy of Francis Humphrey's of West Cork Music

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Dubliners Dilemma at Imagine Waterford

By John Hartery

The 2012  Imagine Festival in Waterford got into full swing on Friday night. Excusing the pun, there is an  imaginative  range of acts and venues in week's the offering assembled by the committee that has something for everybody.

     The Greyfriars building adjacent to the splendid  Viking Triangle was the venue for The Dubliners Dilemma, a one-man show adapted and performed by Declan Gorman from Bachelors Walk Productions. The play  is based on  the Dubliners book of short stories  by James Joyce. Gorman uses the letters between Joyce and his publisher Grant Richards  as a device to perform vignettes from several of the stories from the masterpiece. The book was published in 1914 and the excellent programme notes tell us that it was rejected by fourteen publishers.

      The sell-out performance was wonderful as Gorman delivered 25 to 30 characters from the book ranging from school kids to a Belfast solicitor. The range of nuanced Dublin accents was impressive  and he captured the distinct areas of the city  wonderfully.  He brought great physicality and passion to the work and hugely enlivened the stories. Some of the correspondence between writer and publisher concerned Two Gallants and we learn how the social mores of the day halted printing of the book. My favourite story from the collection  is the heart-breaking, Counterparts and using this story,  Gorman was terrific as he vividly brought us on a pub crawl as the alcoholic clerk.

The set was by Eoghan Darcy  and Edward Stevenson. The excellent sound was by Michael Gerrard.

At just over 50 minutes the show is great entertainment. Given only four or five stories were used there is surely much still to extract from the book by Gorman? The play is on tour throughout Ireland in 2012-2013. Highly recommended.

Imagine (ative) Venue
Venue note: The Greyfriars building was an excellent choice for this intimate event. It was great  to see a building multi-tasking over the weekend as; an exhibition space, a museum, a theatre and a cinema. That is definitely sweating an asset and other publicly funded venues should take note

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Graffiti Classics in -Ennis

Some years ago , while on holidays, my family found ourselves at a festival performance by a comedy string quartet by Le Quatuor, a well established French comedy string quartet .  Our expectations were fairly low but the mix of highly skilled string playing combined with well honed comedy routines kept teenagers and adults enthralled for two hours, somewhat to our surprise.  I suspect that Graffiti Classics owe some debt to this group for paving the way for this strange hybrid  mix of high and lowbrow entertainment forms.

 Graffiti Classics are a comedy string quartet with the usual cello replaced a double bass with infinitely more inherent comedic potential which front man Cathal O Duill makes a good job of exploiting The humour doesn't overshadow that they are individually extremely accomplished musicians. The violinists particularly displayed some dazzling pyrotechnics in a Romanian 'Birdie Dance' . Violist , Stephen Kennedy's treacly  baritone voice  added a richness to the mix and the O Sole Mio/ Presley sing off with Kennedy and a O'Duill was hilarious.  They opened their set with a hoe down version of Thus Spake Zarasthustra.  It is no small feat that they perform their set from memory with not a music stand in sight .

It could not go unnoticed that the audience was  to say the least - 'sparce'   and the comedy potential of this was  naturally exploited as it could not possibly be ignored. Performers among the audience appreciated the added energy needed from the stage to make up the  energy defecit from a small house.
Afficionados in the audience included Paul Quinn of  The Speks and Marie Pyne, director  of the Forever Young Choir. Have a look at the video below for a flavour . They are performing around the country this week.  More details in this article from Journal of Music 

 Graffiti Classics

Related posts  Sid Bowfin at Sproai

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

'Stew of Complexity' in Speech Project at Glor

The Speech Project photo from Journal of Music 

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Gerry Diver's Speech Project but that was part of the appeal and this fusion of audio and visual experiences made for a  fascinating and absorbing  evening.

Pizz Perfect Lisa Knapp
For starters we had a set of  simple folk songs delivered with great charm by Lisa Knapp,  one of the band members . An impressive septet of musicians led by Diver on fiddle spread out in front of the  large backdrop screen  The line up included two violins, cello, uilleann pipes, piano , two dulcimers with occasional splashes of other timbres.  The elements included snatches of interviews with iconic folk musicians with projected cinematic images based around the themes . The pieces were spun out of musical motifs suggested by the speech patterns in the spoken fragments. Opening with Christy Moore talking about his experience in London and closing with Joe Cooley near the end of    his life in New York ,  a segment reproduced in the video below. In between we heard from Margaret Barry (interviewed by the Lomax), local boy Martin Hayes , Danny Meehan, Damien Dempsey and Shane McGowan.  (The title of this post is drawn from Hayes' interview). The music drew from traditional and minimalist idioms and there was plenty to stimulate the aural and visual senses .
Speech Project at Glór

There were resonances with the work of modern minimalist musicians such as Gavin Bryars and Steve Reich. The matching of rhythms of speech patterns with musical phrases reminded me very much of Adam Corks work on the musical/opera,  London Road.  The abscence of percussion and string articulation was reminiscent of Penguin Cafe Orchestra but I found this experience rather more engaging enhanced with a the visual dimension.

Fiddle players in the audience included, Joan McNamara, Siobhán Peoples and  Diane Daly .

  You can hear my interview with  one of the band members violinist David Daly here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Criticizing the critic

I quite enjoyed this exchange of views. One has to have a little sympathy for the critic but one is a little surprised at her pedestrian expletives

Soirée avec 'l'Accordeoniste Desaunay 'On The Pig's Back'

Ou host Isabelle and ensemble 
With all the delights Cork city has to offer, with numerous music venues, it would take something special to coax us out to the suburbs to hear live music.  However  our discerning guide to the very best of  whazon in Cork directed us to the popular French establishment, On the Pig's Back' in Douglas  on Thursday night.  There was an air of anticipation in  the air around the vino quaffing patrons of the  convivial wine bar  for a Franco Irish  musical collaborative anchored around visiting  acclaimed Breton accordioniste, Serge Desaunay

Following a  a pre-show shuffle for  seating  in the intimate brightly lit space, the first set featured  Desaunay and fiddler Kieran Fahy originaly from the West but now settled in Belgium  Fahy's fiddle sounded mellow and his   style leaned on jazz and classical elements    The diatonic accordion is quite a more substantial musical animal than the button accordion we are used to hearing. More like a bandoneon in the way that Desaunay opened the bellows to his full arm span and frequently beginning  a tune with a ground on the  bass buttons, There was a pleasant mix of traditions in the set  with tangos and tarantellas mixed with  waltzes and musettes and the odd song. It was a potent harmonic  brew that packed quite a musical punch. There was the odd jig and reel too but nothing too dizzying or frenetic to perturb the mellow late evening mood . The duo were joined by local musicians Eileen Healy and Ray Barron on guitar and mandolin  for the second half.  *

The musicians in the  audience included  fiddle player Edel O Sullivan and singer Josie Harrington. 

**While the amplification was subtle and not overpowering, one wondered if this metal barrier  of stands and mikes between musician and listener  was necessary  in this compact space. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

ESTA Ireland National Conference 2012

Ferenc Szucs sets out the objectives
photos Maurice Gunning courtesy IWAMD  
 I attended European String Teachers' Association ( ESTA ) Ireland conference held at the World Academy of Music Building at UL campus today.  Following an opening address by Ferenc Szucs, director of classical strings MA programme at the university,  the current president of ESTA International Bruno Giuranna addressed the gathering setting the international context. He made an impassioned  plea for all children to have access to musical education and had  interesting observations on the merit of an oral tradition and  of musical education versus martial arts.
Professor Bruno Giuranna 

Alec photo CD 
There were charming performances by students of the faculty. We heard  music by Schubert and Mendelssohn from an elegant piano trio featuring Hungarian musicians , Peter Sebestyen, Balant Varay  and David Szabo .  This was followed by a very interesting duo featuring American students Alec Brown and Johanna Hyde.  You can hear Alec talking about his music style in the clip below.  The tower is an interesting architectural  circular space with a lining of dark wood vertical beams and slanted panels and the stringed instruments sounded rich and sonorous in this acoustic. The conference closed with a general discussion on the aims of the relaunched organisation.

A new website is under construction and further information is available from email :

Forthcoming events at UL

ESTA UK Website 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Brecon Beacons at Union Quay: East Cork Early Music Festival 2012

Brecon  Ensemble with director Rachel Podger at Curtis Auditorium Cork photo John Finn

Following fast on the heels of the IBO's  tour of the Bach Goldberg Variations, an opportunity to hear another top notch Baroque ensemble presented itself  at the East Cork Early Music Festival   . The   Brecon Ensemble's concert at the Curtis Auditorium, Cork topped the bill on Thursday night with their acclaimed  director, Rachel Podger.

I was just in time to catch the second half,  featuring a Bach harpsichord concerto and an energetic Vivaldi  concerto featuring very fine spirited ensemble playing from three violin soli and the famous Air in G to round it off.   A single viola , a  cello (spikeless) and violone  completed this baroque ensemble.

There was healthy house for a midweek evening and the many aficionados included members from both the RTE Academica and Van Brugh Quartets. The audience lingered in the foyer to discuss the finer points of th evening. I missed the Bach concerti but  the superlatives were flying around the foyer cognoscenti.  (You can get a flavour in the video below.)


Rachel Podger  John Finn Photograpy
Lunchtime Baroque Violin Recital at UCC

The Aula Max in  UCC with its vaulted timbered ceiling and latticed  lining of  bookshelves seemed altogether a  more suitable venue for a  Baroque programme and it was good to see the venue  full to near capacity  for a daytime solo violin  recital by Rachel Podger. In the absence of  printed  programme notes, she introduced the pieces herself in lovely clearly enunciated tones which I always feel has more impact and helps to establish the friendly rapport between  the performer and audience. Smiling broadly, she  projected a very sunny disposition.

Aula Max at UCC
 She  began with a Telemann Fantasia  and concluded with the Bach Partita in D minor , with a piece by Biber  as a filling She made a case for violinists to perform the final ciacconna as part of the complete partita rather than  as a stand alone piece.  While the playing was very elegant and precise, the lightness of touch in the dance movements particularly the giga, gave me the more pleasure Even in  her highly skillfull hands all those 4 string crossings might sound ok on richer register of cello but  seem to  go on for much longer than the 13 min duration and sound too much like a  very long study for my taste.   Overall  my impression was that Podger's style seemed a little more genteel than Huggett's more rumbustious delivery.

Modern day vs period instruments is a hot debating point in music forums.  While the period instruments sound more mellow, would enjoy these performers just as much on modern day instruments? I believe I would. East Cork Early Music Festival is celebrating 10 years of bringing  luminary performers in this field to Cork county. I commend them on this achievement and look forward to future performances.

   Venue Notes The Curtis Auditorium while very comfortable and acousticaly sound,  is not an intimate auditorium and with the house lights remaining up throughout the evening, the attention to period detail in instrumentation was not echoed in the lighting . It would aid concentration to have house lights dimmed and warmer more mellow lighting on stage.

Final bows  photo John Finn

Link to BBC3 Early Music Show / featuring the Brecon Ensemble

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Last Summer by Declan Hughes at the Gate Theatre

Rushing to the future 
By guest blogger John Hartery
The Gate Theatre in Dublin premieres a new work by Declan Hughes, The Last Summer,  as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival this week. The play tells the story of a group of teenagers over a summer day in 1977 and how their life evolved as seen 30 years later. What would have happened if they had chosen a different life?

The teenagers storyline is set in 1977 the infamous year that links Elvis and the Sex Pistols. Hughes chooses to anchor the plot with links to the cult Canadian  rock band Rush and the writer  / philospher Ayn Rand.  I'm not too sure that many in Gate audience were too  familiar with their works .There is a rock band about to perform in public for the first time with some Rush  covers and talk of getting the points for college &  moving away and a struggle with what Charlie Haughey solved with  an Irish solution to an Irish problem. (I don't recall university points being a thing in that era).
The Road Not Taken

The play is directed by Toby Frow with a quite minimalist set by Robert Innes Hopkins. The action  is backed up by a soundtrack of pop music from the period and leaps forward and back.

The modern storyline concerns the returned emigrant who has come back to revive an intermittent lost  love. There is a reunion over a pub crawl. We get  a nod to modern Ireland with talk of 'fundamentals of the economy' and a property developer character.

The play is set in South Dublin in the general Dun Laoghaire  area. I felt that the play seemed overly focussed on that region with name checks of the pubs, nightclubs,  a named deli etc with little if any connection in any sense to the wider Ireland. I struggled to generate empathy with any of the characters and their insular world. Gary Lydon as Tom Groves and Clare O'Malley, who played two parts, were the  stand out actors. An average night at the theatre.

We reviewed Beyond the Brooklyn Sky by Michael Hilliard Mulcahy, which also features in the Dublin Theatre Festival,  two weeks ago. The similarity with this play was extraordinary; fortysomething friends who recall  their collective youth, one of four  male  friends is not present and recalled, a daughter as the link to the current generation, a lead actor who plays the guitar and sings, the returned emigrant who came back to get the woman who is now married, the pop music as a nostalgic device, a fight involving the absent one, the reveal under inebriation etc. Amazing!
Beyond the Brooklyn Sky  was the better. 

Here is an Irish Times piece on Declan Hughes