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

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Solstice Songs at St Columba's

St Columba's Choral Gathering

Baritone Owen Gilhooly 

Twilight prevailed  all day on the shortest day of the year in Ennis making the candlelit Gothic interior of St Columba's Church seem all the more cheerful decked out in all its Christmas adornments. There was a good house for a concert of seasonal repertoire by soprano, Helen Houlihan and baritone, Owen Gilhooly with the Ennis Cathedral Choir under director, Michael Hennessy accompanied by Irina Dernova. The programme was a classy affair, a blend of sacred and secular, rare gems and familiar favourites.
The opening solo  of the first half was a baritone aria from Christmas Oratorio by JS Bach, very likely a premiere in Clare of this sacred  repertoire. It seems an Avé Maria attributed to Caccini  may be ersatz  Baroque but it is glorious  nonetheless and Helen Houlihan delivered the  slow moving melody with a  beautifully sustained  tone. There was touch of Hollywood in Malotte's setting of the Lord's Prayer with which  she opened the second half. The choir answered an aria from Handel's Messiah with a jaunty rendition of the chorus For Unto Us a Child is Born.  How lovely to hear an Irish carol (Wexford Carol) in the selection, a very effective collaboration between soprano and choir. The mixed voice Cathedral Choir fitted snugly  under the Gothic arch  and sounded confident in the less familiar secular repertoire.

Seasonal Refreshments
Limerick baritone, Owen Gilhooly is currently enjoying international critical acclaim and listening to him tonight , it was easy to see why. He has  fabulous control. Shimmering pianissimos led to  gradual  crescendos with a pure tone throughout. Even with the most familiar repertoire, every nuance of emotion is articulated in heartfelt renditions that make even the most familiar carol sound fresh. You can hear Owen talking about his highlights of  a hectic 2012 and  his forthcoming projects in the audioboo below recorded just after the performance.

The reverberant acoustic was not always kind to the piano in the florid baroque lines more usually heard on strings and harpsichord and one wonders if the organ might have fared better for the this repertoire.  This is the second occasion that I have reported on this line up. In Songs for a Summer Evening I commented that the presentation would have been improved if the vocal introductions had been trimmed.Tonight I felt the opposite and  a sentence or two setting the context of the less familiar repertoire would have enhanced the presentation. The evening was a fund raiser for the Society of St Vincent de Paul and all performers had generously donated their time.
The audience lingered quite a while  for mulled wine cups and minced pies in the vestry for a convivial mull over the lovely evening.of song in Bindon St

Venue Notes: As always the beauty of the many lit candles created a magical ambiance in this beautiful venue which has served several musical evenings  in this month alone. I suggest that  lights in the nave could have come down even more to enhance the effect of candellight.

 Owen Gilhooly  ’ on Audioboo

Related posts Cool Blackwater Barber

Set List
Somewhere In My Memory Williams Choir
Grosser Herr JS Bach from Christmas Oratorio Owen
Ave Verum Mozart  Helen
But Who May Abide Handel 
Panis Angelicus Franck owen & Helen
Ave Maria Caccini helen 
O Holy Night A Adam Owen & Helen 
The Lord's Prayer Malotte Helen
Ave Maria  Scubert Owen
Wiegenlied Reger Helen
Little Rd to Bethlehem  Holst Owen
Once in Royal David's City  Andrea Sheahan and Choir
For Unto Us a Child is Born  Handel Choir 
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Choir
A|deste Fidelis Owen and Choir
Wexford CarolHelen and Choir
Hark the Herald Angels Sing Choir
Silent NightChoir
The Holy City Owen Helen and Choir

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Happy Blues at the Mill Bar with Ottley and Friends

There was  kind of hush as we stepped into The Mill Bar in Sixmilebridge, as if the audience didn't want to miss one note of the opening Gillian Welch song  from a quartet featuring  the 2012 Tennessee fiddle champion. Ivor Ottley was joined by Galway based musicians Tom Portman on dobro guitar, Paddy Jordan on double bass and Pete Lamb guitar and vocals. This was not a fast paced hard, driving traditional bluegrass set  but rather a mellow mélange of styles with elements of country, swing , jazz  and trad. There was plenty of  toe tapping stuff with Fisher's Hornpipe a highlight near the close. But it was the  languid waltzes that were most winning with Lamb's simply delivered vocals allowing dobro and fiddle to weave some melodic magic in the spaces.

Ottley is extraordinary -a very clean and elegant  fiddle style with a varied arsenal of left hand and bowing techniques that adds a depth and colour to his playing . While quite the virtuoso and  adept at improvising,  his variations are never indulgent and thankfully never stray too far from the original melody. His version of  Ashokan Farewell was rather more interesting than Ungar's relatively straight version.  His versatility was perhaps best demonstrated by his  rendition of a solo air delivered in a simple style, with vibrato reigned in for more haunting effect

An  ambiance  of collegiality radiated from the stage and the audience responded less with whoops and hollers but  more with concentrated listening ears .  The venue, a  large square timbered room with nice high ceiling and a huge stove with a welcoming real fire was very comfortable.

I spoke to Ottley following the gig and he told me something of his fascinating journey and his admiration for the playing of Grapelli,  Oistrakh and Milstein and the tale of serendipity that led an Englishman to be the Tennessee Champion.  The story is covered in this post from the  Bluegrass  Ireland  blog (link  here)  I was surprised to learn that he was a frequent visitor to Feakle sessions and was in fact resident in Ireland for many years. (Fiddle players should check out his website for some great tips).  Ottley is now happily ensconced in the Swedish jazz scene and opportunities to hear him on these shores are rare .

 **The trio Gone to Grass with members Paddy Jordan, Tom Portman and Pete Lamb will play at Green's Pub, Kinvara as part of the Turkey Fleadh on December 30th  4.30pm

** Please note this is a correction on the information originally posted .

Set List
Tear My Stillhouse Down  Gillian Welch
Bill Munroe/Kenny Baker tune 
Swing number Six Pack to Go
Steve Miller Dance Dance Dance / Arkansas Traveller
Ashokan Farewell Ungar
Good Ole Mountain Dew
Old Time Waltz
Til The Day I Die Steve Earle

It Wasn't God Who Made Honkytonk Angels
Tennessee Waltz
Come On Girl Pete Lamb
Mama Don't want 
Red Clay Halo Gillian Welch
Rolling in my Sweet Babies Arms
Rising Tide Tom Portman
Jump the Happy Train Blues 
Fishers Hornpipe
Solo Air Fiddle 
What in the World John Prine 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Concerts at CCSM Glanmire

 from CCSM Concert Series 
Rachel and Ciara O Donovan                            Hot Cross Foxtrot  trad /Martin 
Hannah Wall and Ciara                                     Medley, Twinkle,/ OldMac /French Folk Song 
Jacinta Donovan    Vln duet                              Lullaby of Birdland /An Paistin Fionn arr Deloughrey 
Rose and Johanna Murray   trio                        Sleigh Ride from Christmas Fiddler
Eimear Sugrue      Vln duet                               Christmas lullabies   arr Cecelia Weston 
Juliette &Louise Hennessy  Duet                      Mamma Mia  arr Couthard
Rose , Johanna and Catherine Cronin Trios      Coventry Carol and It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Glanmire Octet                                                   Zither Carol/Lo Like a Rose / O Christmas Tree   
Centre concert  Nora Murphy                             The Christmas Song  ,
Glanmire Octet members include  Amy Dolan, Eimear Broderick, Sarah McCarthy, Eabha Landers, Amy Lynch, Aisling Connery.                                                                                                  
   Tuttti Play along Jingle Bells 

Rhythm and Reeds Ensemble  with director Louise McCarthy
Term ended with a series of concerts at the CCSM (Co Cork School of Music) centres .  I was proud to present the students named above at concerts in Glanmire Community College. We worked hard in recent weeks  at preparing seasonal duets. With a lot to cover, this aspect of musicianship can be neglected  during term time and I enjoyed the opportunity of  playing with my students.  I particularly enjoyed the ensembles. The octet played  their Christmas selection with gusto. The Rhythm and Reeds Ensemble under Louise McCarthy made a joyful sound in their festive selection and it was heartening to see a good gender balance in the  Ballincollig Youth Orchestra with a contemporary programme of David Guetta and the Fr Ted theme in arrangements by  conductor, Michael Cummins.

While the merits of two , three and  four part harmony were apparent in the performances, I was reminded of the power and pleasure  of straight forward  unison playing by an intermediate violin ensemble at the CCSM concert at Colaiste Choilm in Ballincollig. The nine  students of Siobhan O Shea offered  an
 instrumental rendition with piano accompaniment of O Holy Night which even for those of us suffering from OHN fatigue was absolutely charming. Bravo tutti!
Teacher / student duet 

Cahercalla Serenades December 2012

Maret O Hehir assembled a varied selection of entertainments for a
 Christmas concert in Cahercalla Hospice . Singers Marie Griffin and Liam Kitt, the Lissycasey Set Dancers, the Forever Young Choir directed by Mary Curley and Maret herself  all lifted our spirits. I was accompanied by Nigel Bridge in the first of our collaborations on this day. The loudest  applause was for young harpist Lorraine Kelly who wove quite a spell with her vibrant selection of planxties. Bravo Lorraine!

The Forever Young Choir

Scenes That Are Brightest: Ennis Brass Band & Friends

Soloist Clodagh Power and  Ennis Brass Band
 Scenes that are brightest                              
 May charm awhile
 Hearts which are lightest,
 And eyes that smile;   from Maritana libretto by Bunn

Scenes That Are Brightest  WV Wallace
A Iosa Mhic Mhuire   trad arr McDonagh
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen   Vincent di Palcido 
Coro nGrata                               
The Christmas Song       
Ave Maria Caccini                               
Zither Carol  Czech Carol       
Seasonal selection from Ennis Brass Band 

  Ennis Brass Band gave a concert of seasonal music  in St Columba's on Saturday night.  I was thrilled  to be invited to perform for a second year at this gathering along with singer Vincent di Placido .  I had the privilege of  opening the programme with a number from the opera Maritana by WV Wallace in honour of  the Waterford born composer's bicentenary year.  Wallace's father was a bandmaster and  noting the dates of the memorials on the candlelit walls it seemed an appropriate choice of period for this space. Vincent has a beautiful lyric tenor voice and his delivery of my favourite  Neopolitan song Coro n Grata (aka Catari) was gorgeous .  I was joined by Fiona de Buitleir on clarinet for my final selection of an Ave Maria attributed to Caccini but thought to be a modern composition and the jaunty Zither carol.  Both Vincent and I were expertly  accompanied by Nigel Bridge, Master of Music  at St Columba's on the house boudoir grand  piano complete with candlabra. 
Members brightening the streets earlier in the day 
This is a wonderful space to play in . The accoustic is rich and warm and the many candles create a magical ambiance. The Ennis Brass Band played a selection of seasonal favourites. Clodagh Power featured as cornet soloist on 'Chestnuts Roasting' In a charming finale children in the audience came front of house to play percussion and conduct the band. The Ennis Brass Band are a treasure and Daragh McAllister  and Nigel Bridge made eloquent opening and  closing remarks on the wonderful contribution this ensemble make to musical life of the town of Ennis . 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Celebro Laudibus : Limerick Ensembles at UCH

  Celebro , laudibus, Ring the bells, Time to celebrate
Two Limerick community ensembles presented their seasonal  musical offerings at UCH this weekend .  On Saturday night the University of Limerick Orchestra welcomed  trombone player Karl Ronan who shone  in an  an attractive concerto by Rimsky Korsakov.  There was a sense of camaraderie between the soloist and conductor, both former members of the Artane Boys  Band. Conductor  Liam Daly was a  authoritative presence on the podium and drew a disciplined performance from the orchestra. There were no ragged edges as a sense of unity prevailed across all sections. Neither was there any paring down in any section with symphony proportions of wind and brass and a full complement of percussion added sparkle to the programme. After the interval, Limerick Youth Choir performed a short set of  Carol of the Bells , a Russian Hymn and a brace of Julie Feeney numbers before the concert concluded with popular Christmas repertoire.

David Howes in rehearsal with Malcolm Greene
On Sunday night, Limerick Choral Union presented a blend of Baroque and contempory in a programme of  two of their bread and butter composers. LCU provides a great platform for young rising stars and the soloist in Handel's Dettingen Te Deum was bass, David Howes, one of three  generations of Howes singing with this community choir on this occasion  Soprano,  Roisin Walshe was soloist in Jenkins seasonal cantata Stella Natalis, a very attractive work with Jenkin's trademark mix of ethnic percussion, odd metres and glorious melodies. Lee Butler's jazz infused solo trumpet was thrilling. The composer himself describes the distinctive elements in the video below. A splendid pair of trumpets  (Rick Cowen and Niall O'Sullivan) struck the key celebratory note in the Handel, Te Deum composed in a spirit of  rejoicing and jubilation in a British victory over a French Army at the Battle of Dettingen. Bravo to both LCU and ULO for a suitably festive and joyous weekend of music making  in Limerick.  I enjoyed both events, the first from a seat in the stalls and the second as a player. Plans have been announced for a joint Prom Concert  between both these community ensembles. Mark 11th May in your diary. It promises to be 'only heavenly music'

Related posts
A Handel for the President LCU review
LCU Christmas 2010
German Requiem auf Deutsche ! LCU

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Turner Pierces Gloom & Hawley at the Savoy

Pierce Turner in Cork     
Arriving at the Savoy Theatre in Cork, I thought maybe I had happened up on a Civil Defence troupe on  night manoeuvres given the marked security presence in position front of house.  Expecting a rowdy clientele,  I was somewhat disappointed to find  the audience attending the Richard Hawley gig at the recently reopened venue were quite a sedate, middle aged, predominantly male crowd.  The Sheffield entertainer  cut an inky,  sombre figure dressed all in black, in  drainpipe jeans and leather jacket .  Standing  on the stage end of a balcony ( yes  be warned those of us who are no longer young - it is standing only at this venue), I noted that  Hawley's feet  were embedded in a semi  circle of two  dozen  or so foot pedals, sockets and goodness knows what other high tech accoutrements.  The vibe was mellow, almost hypnotic. His baritone voice is rich, treacly and rather soothing. The band, a quartet of  guitars with drums were smartly dressed in dark  suits and exuded an aura of being far too cool to move to much  from  their static pose and the audience seemed almost reverential observers. Adding to the trancey ambiance, a  rather unusual  effect  highlighted in neon light the  lower half of the people standing at the glass balconies, almost like those swimming pool widows in theme park restaurants, revealing lines of blue jeaned and legging clad limbs.  Vaguely disconcerting!  Half way through the set there was a tap on my shoulder as a security guard  told me that 'Sitting on the floor is  'Verboten' at the Savoy.

Richard Hawley

On the other side a of town , the mood on Douglas Road  was anything but mellow and detached as Wexford singer and one man band extraordinaire Pierce Turner was whipping up  the crowd in the back room of Coughlan's Pub. Turner, an unorthodox figure has the rugged look of a man who would be as comfortable at the wheel of a tractor as striking a stage pose.  . Referencing all sorts of musical styles  from the sacred to the profane in his songs, always with a sense of humour and a soupcon of irony,  Turner  was exuberant, fun and the atmosphere was terrific.   Blessed with  a rather fine tenor voice and  a firm sustained legato vocal style  owing something to liturgical influences, I suspect. There was a strong choral element to the songs and the audience sang along  with gusto in the refrains, You could imagine some of the songs working very well on the terraces. A flick through his biography suggests he has had an fascinating musical journey including hooking up with Philip Glass (see below). Why have.I not heard more of him.?   He is surely a national treasure and as good as some of the other lauded music stars we hear about.Cognoscenti in the audience included Ger Wolfe and bassist Paul Frost and Mick Hannigan of Cork Film Festival and Andrew Desmond of Whazon Cork  My pick for solo gig of the year without a doubt . Shannon region promoters, take note and  bring him this  direction soon please!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Over The Bar At Flannery's Limerick

Jerry Flannery was a rugby hooker for Munster and Ireland who had a bit of a cult following. His flowing locks and aggressive ball carrying  endeared him to fans of the traditional Munster / Limerick 'ball up the jumper' style of play.

The Flannery name is otherwise synonymous in Limerick with several pubs of that name  and it was in  one of them Jerry Flannery's bar we saw the renowned local band the Jackie Chan Allstars. A band with a name like that has to be checked out.

The band was placed on a stage above the bar in what could loosely be termed a beer garden given it was December in Ireland. The crowd was a combination of Friday night drinkers, office Christmas party revellers and an advance party of Saracens supporters who probably didn't really know what was in store for them in the white heat of a Heineken match the next day in Thomond Park.

It was a bit surreal to order your drink with a rock band over your head. The set list was an eclectic mix of covers; Abba, the Killers, Johny Cash etc etc. The band consisted of 2 guitarists, keyboards, and drummer.
The stage was high so everybody got a good view even if it did result in a bit of a crick in the neck the following morning.
They rocked the place. Look out for them they're good.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Friday night Late and Live in Limerick

Limerick has a new theatre space, The Lime Tree, located on the Mary Immaculate College campus on the outskirts of the city. I caught the second act of  the Cecilian Musical Society's   of West Side Story at the venue on Friday night.  On first impressions, the venue seems relatively narrow with quite a steep rake in two tiers. I was a teeny bit disappointed that the generous comfy upholstery was in fact  tangerine and not green  with blue wooden paneled walls enclosing the space. I loved the high seat backs.

Sitting at the back I can report that the view was good and the sound was remarkably good. The amplification was very subtle and all voices and musical timbres could be heard perfectly. The pit band under MD Noel Lennon made a nice tableau glimpsed from top of the house . 

The audience lingered a while in the  foyer to greet the performers. Like UCH I feel the venue falls down in creating a convivial apres show atmosphere.  Refreshments are not available and it is a bit of a trot to the nearest hostelry. While the venue is a very comfortable one for performers and audience alike, I wonder what the impact of the space will have on the activity in other spaces in the city and if there is quite enough 'product' to  fill theatre spaces at UCH, LIT and indeed at the Belltable Arts Centre in the city centre. 

Following the show I called in to Dolan's on Dock Road. I enjoyed the last half hour of  singer songwriter, Mark Geary's set upstairs at Dolan's on Dock Road. Geary is not a performer I have heard of  but he was very easy to listen to and had a relaxed easy rapport with  the  audience of 30 plus patrons   He was supported by singer Grainne Hunt and pianist Mark Kenny. There was a turn from Keith Kelly on harmonica.  Perfect late night fare

Julie Feeney Clocks in at The White Horse

photo Donagh Glavin via twitter

No one could ever accuse Julie Feeney of being lazy. Three years after her second highly acclaimed album Pages was  released, Julie Feeney is back on the gig circuit with a brand new album.  Clocks a collection of eleven  new  self penned songs.  Over the last few years, she has worked incredibly hard at every aspect of the music business, both the creative side and also  the business end  of  connecting with her audience and  crucially, successfully  funding her musical ventures.  I caught one of the ten gigs tour at the White Horse Inn in Ballincollig, Co Cork last Thursday. What the low ceilinged  V shaped  upstairs room lacked in comfort, it made up for in atmosphere as the venue was packed  with enthusiastic followers of the singer. 

 Feeney  has a strong clear contralto  voice  and employs a   vocal timbre  suited to Renaissance or traditional music influenced perhaps by her years as a professional chorister.  The lyrics cover a spectrum  from frothy to wistful to poignant, the catchy melodies a mix of the lyrical and jaunty.   A major part of her appeal is the  sophisticated orchestration of her own  musical arrangements. A string trio included, Louis Roden of the Irish Chamber Orchestra   and Mary Barnacutt, recently heard in Cork as part of Set the First at the  Triskel.  New Yorker Joseph Brent on mandolin, violin and guitar was pivotal.  I loved the lushness of the two violin cello blend  in the song Grace Fergal  Murray was  on piano and Eugene Ginty added subtle understated backing vocals and  occasionaly a recorder (ot two) line to the blend.

 Dressed in a  theatrical  black ensemble (its first airing apparently),  with her trademark  matching  themed headpiece, the performer gave  a vocally demanding performance singing with hardly  a pause for two hours mixing songs from the new album with numbers from her back catalogue..  With such a rich palette in the accompanying ensemble, I did long to hear more of the individual instrumentalists and maybe a duet or two with the male vocalist.  How unusual to hear a mandolin player and one of international standing to boot. One  sensed that although Feeney engaged in some stage banter she was most comfortable when singing  and sing her heart out she did. Following the set, a long line formed to meet and greet  and the chanteuse who gave no hint of fatigue as she warmly greeted her fans. 

Related Article   Rembrance Day Julie Feeney at Clare Poets

More photos of the gig from Donogh Glavin Julie Feeney Live at the White Horse

Venue Notes:  Great ambiance ,  lovely lighting , seats not very comfortable No reply to query sent via email two days in advance of event.