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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Midnight Rambles at The Oliver Plunkett

 At the Oliver Plunket Bar, the Midnight Rambles session  featured the second  piano player heard on an evening of Leeside musical rambles. Michael Young was an adroit accompanist to Amanda Neri at a cabaret evening of chanson at L'Atitude Wine Cafe. Later, on other side of the Lee,  Dee Power was a key (groan) element of a late night rhythm and blues 'jam' session adding chords and melodic interludes  to vocals from Hank Wedel et al. While it was lively, it was not quite 'what it said on the tin'. Although the website suggests that this regular slot is an acoustic session which I understand to mean un-amplified, all the players were plugged in. Neither was there  a sense that  participants rolled in unscheduled as the term, jam session suggests.  Among the comfortably full house of mostly middle aged insomniacs were members of the Cork Symphony Orchestra unwinding after their Opera House gig.
      The Oliver Plunkett is one of my favourite  venues with notably cheerful staff offering everything from  morning coffee to good value meals and live music from early to late in a city centre location. Recent memorable gigs  at the venue that escaped mention in these pages  included the Calvinists and pianist Pat Crowley with Elly O Keeffe,

*Speaking of piano players , fans of Franz the Flying Piano Man may like to note that they can hear the Bavarian on alternate weeks Wednesday and Thursday nights  at his regular spot in the Hi B Bar and he is due there next on Wednesday May 1st . Worth checking out of you are in Cork for the Choral Festival.

Cabaret Sauvignon at L'Atitude Cork

Cabaret  Sauvignon at L'Atitude Cork

There used to be a restaurant  in London near Fleet Street called Spagetti Opera where up and coming singers would punctuate your meal with operatic arias  as a sort of musical sorbet.  A memorable and rare enough dining experience for me to remember it many years later. Although I have scanned the restaurant  lists, alas I could find no record of it on recent visits. Leaving aside the long running dinner shows aimed at the tourist market,   live performers of any description are not usually found in our dining rooms where they might be usefully employed  to create a mellow ambiance and cover lulls in  conversation when you are done ooing and ahhing over your filet mignon and applauding the theatricality of your waiter's crepes suzette.
Cabaret Sauvignon Amanda Neri with The Vineyards

So I was interested  to stumble on the after dinner entertainment component of a themed  evening at the L'Atitude Wine Bar on Union Quay Cork.  Titled, Cabaret Sauvignon  Drink the wine,  Hear the song, Mezzo Contralto, Amanda Neri presented a selection of repertoire from wine producing countries around the world together with a loose  narrative, relating her choice to the wine theme of the evening, to mark the Year of the Wine Geese, Her audience having been wined and dined over five courses were nicely  in the mood for a little postprandial chanson. The set list included  operatic arias, comic cabaret songs and songbook standards . Ms Neri's  sultry tones suited the Latin repertoire particularly well. She chose a nice languid tempo for the standard,  Besame Mucho and it was good to hear  The Gypsy In Me, one of the more unjustly neglected numbers from Cole Porter's Anything Goes. She was backed by a quartet of young musicians, The Vineyards . David Keating on guitar best evoked the Spanish element in florid virtuoso accompaniments. Michael Young  gave solid  support on electric keyboard . A violin and cello added pedal notes and vamping chords with occasional solo lines.  Amanda Neri showed admirable restraint in modifying her  operatic style to suit both the intimate venue and repertoire. Both the guitar and piano were just  a tad over amplified for my taste.The presence of a   a music school a few doors down augurs well for  future evenings of  light entertainment at this classy quayside venue.

Aloys Fleishmann 1958Photo R  Frewen

Current Conductor Keith Pascoe 

City of Cork Symphony at the Opera House  Earlier in the evening, I caught the second half of the City of Cork Symphony Orchestra's concert at Cork Opera House. I was a member of this ensemble in the late 80's under Professor Aloys Fleischmann who I think still holds the record as the longest serving conductor of an orchestra. (58 years) Seated at the back of the stalls, I regret to say the acoustic was not good and  despite the undoubted strength of the ensemble under conductor Keith Pascoe, the string sound sounded thin in a Brahms Symphony and moreover very many of the players were not visible from my seat.

Related posts Midnight Rambles at The Oliver Plumkett

 Wolfe at L'Attitude 51

Soirée avec Desaunay On the Pigs Back

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Clare Gathering: Kilfenora Céilí Band Raising Spirits At Home and Abroad

Claire Daly steps it out to summon  a gathering of Claires

Forget the subtleties (or pretensions) of the modern aesthetic traditional ensemble, for me, there is nothing quite like an honest to goodness, foot stomping, full blooded ceili band to raise the spirits  and  the Main Square in Kilfenora was literally hopping this afternoon as a large crowd gathered to welcome the local globe trotting heroes, the Kilfenora Ceili Band at the annual music festival . Here the  function of the music was placed firmly at the heart of the activity and dancers took to the wooden floor to hammer out the various sets as the band set the pace. April showers and a near arctic wind chill sent the faint hearted scurrying intermittedly to the local teashops until the sun reappeared but the staunch troupe continued unabated over the two hour session. MC and flautist, Garry Shannon paused only to read messages received from the Clare diaspora, as the  music was carried beyond the square to far flung destinations via the world wide web, a poignant reminder of the reality of emigration in 21st Clare. Powerful stuff!

You can hear my interview with Garry Shannon recorded immediately following the gig in the audioboo below.

Doyen of press photographers, John Kelly  in action at the event

The Kilfenora return to Glór on May 26th and the NCH on 3rd August 

Kilfenora Ceili Band at Love Live Music Day Ennis

A most unusual comedy double act caught in the video clip below. It features Garry Shannon with  dancer Michael Donnellan 

'The Parting'- Launch of Patrick Stack Poetry Collection at Glór

Poets Patrick Stack and Kate O Shea 
I was sorry to miss this event featuring local poet Patrick Stack. Thanks to my guest blogger who captures the atmosphere in this report. I look forward to reading the poems in The Parting The Clare Three Legged Stool Poetry Group meet on the third Saturday afternoon of each month in Glor, Ennis. 

Patrick Stack Book Launch  April 20th, 2013
Glór Theatre 2 in Ennis was the scene of the launch of “The Parting”, a collection of poetry by Patrick Stack, a Kerryman living in Kilmaley.  This is Stack’s, first collection and it showcases poems written over the past 30 years.  He is a member of the Clare Three-Legged Stool Poets and many comrades- in- poetry were on hand to celebrate with him, among them Brian Mooney, Paul Saalbach, Kate O’Shea, Mike Douse and Martin Vernon.
A nice buzz prevailed as people gathered in the foyer of Glór at three o’clock and Patrick was kept busy signing copies of his book. Wife Anna Marques Stack, daughter Deirdre and son Naoise greeted the crowd. Everyone then moved into Theatre 2 to music provided by piper Andrew Newland with Róisín on fiddle.
Keynote speaker for the launch was poet and novelist Fred Johnston, director of the Western Writers’ Centre in Galway. He spoke of the “violence of silence” in our time, where no one is willing to speak out, to tackle political issues, because of the “innate Irish terror of authority”. However, “there is nothing silent about Patrick Stack”, according to Johnston, “He is dangerous in our time”. Stack’s poetry speaks its mind and invites reaction. He rails against censorship and economic misery, and “a whole world that refuses to say anything”.  
Patrick then read a number of poems from his collection, giving their background stories. A talented linguist, his poetry features English, Irish, Portuguese and Krio Rap from Sierra Leone. The subject matter of his poems ranges from life in his childhood home in Kerry to the Lisbon Underground to a “non-experience” in a bar in Majorca and beyond. This collection provides the reader with a pot pourri of varied experiences, couched in rich language and vivid imagery - plenty of food for thought provoked by this newly published poet.
“The Parting” is published by AmethystDragon Archives and retails at 10 euro.
Written by guest blogger Cinnamon. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Song of Songs at Mount St Alphonsus

Composer Patrick Hawes talks about his choral work Song of Songs

MIC Choral Society Spring Concert at Redemptorist Church, Limerick
Song of Songs  Patrick Hawes
Requiem          John Rutter
Soloist             Carmel Conway 

The Redemptorist Church  was filled with a hush  of quiet anticipation with a hint of apprehension at the all modern programme chosen by choirmaster, Paul Collins  for the annual concert of the Mary Immaculate Choral Society. The ensemble was augmented by the Redemptorist Church Choir and accompanied by the Limerick Baroque Players. While Rutter is a familiar name in choral music, Patrick Hawes was new  to me .  The  Song of Songs were beautiful tonal settings of six texts of love poetry selected from the Old Testament, 'expressing desire. hope , confusion and joy'. It was almost but not quite the Irish premiere of the work published in 2009**. I note that the composer himself  conducted the work with the Louth Choral Society earlier this month . Review here 
The harp was placed in a central position splitting  the string orchestra in half  making a visually pleasing tableau. Soprano,  Carmel Conway's voice soared effortlessly to the higher registers above the sparse string lines and there was some lovely duets between Ken Rice on  violin and soprano.
The Requiem  by John Rutter was written in memory of the composer's father and first performed in 1985 . Of the seven movements, the setting of the psalm 130, De Profundis was particularly striking  The influence of the English Romantic tradition was heard in  the cello solo  played with great feeling by Tara-Lee Byrne which  struck the sombre tone before the choir crept in with the words -Out of the Deep.

The choir delivered the texts with a good range of dynamics and a satisfying firmness of attack in the rhythmic sections and the tone sounded rich in this acoustic. The audience lingered for a quite a while to savour the evening . The concert was introduced by Fr Adrian Egan who reminded the congregation that the occasion  was one of reflection and dedication to mark 150th anniversary of the opening of the  Redemptorist Church.

** Correction.  Mea Culpa. I assumed that the concert referred to in the article was  a concert from Louth Contemporary Music Society, Ireland which has a track record of programming major contemporary composers . I was mistaken and I am grateful to the composer for the clarification that the concert referred to  took place in Louth in Lincolnshire and not in Leinster as assumed . And indeed the event on Sunday was the Irish premiere of the work , Song of Songs by Patrick Hawes and all the more auspicious for that.

Who we met :   We enjoyed talking to Bernadette Kiely , director of music at St John's Cathedral about the music selected for the recent episcopal events and tenor Stephen O Shea on the forthcoming 50th anniversary of the Limerick Choral Union.

Related posts MIC Spring Concert 2012

View from the Viola 


Monday, April 22, 2013

Lowry's Matchstick Men in Salford

By John Hartery

'Don't go thinking I'm trying to put over some message I just painted what I saw.

'The Lowry Arts Centre  is tucked away on the Salford Quays near Manchester. Its surrounded by the massive new Media City and that dreadful thing, an outlet mall. Over the way is the huge edifice of the Evil Empire. The complex contains the usual; a theatre, dining opportunities, multimedia space and galleries.

It was the gallery area that was my destination to see the work of  the eponymous Lowry. LS Lowry lived from 1887-1976 and he is most famous for his paintings that chronicled the industrial setting of Northern England with his distinctive crowd scenes of stick like figures against  smokey grey wastelands.

I took the tour which was expertly and enthusiastically conducted by Angie and using a sample  of the paintings on view we learned that Lowry's painting style placed him as a maverick and he doesn't belong to an 'ism'. There is a fine range of his work on display including many those only  vaguely familiar with his work will recognise. Lowry's own life was simple he worked  as a rent collector.  His family originally lived in an affluent suburb of Manchester before settling in the Salford inner city amongst the people he later characterised. After his parents died he lived alone for 40 years. He  left a significant amount in his will to a Caroline Lowry, no relation, whose mother had contacted him for advice on how her daughter could become a painter.

There are plenty of paintings to see that, collectively, trace his life starting with  early still life drawings from night classes at the Manchester Municipal

College of Arts  then  his unique style of painting working class life in the mill towns and finally, in later life, he painted some landscape pieces including 'the Sea'. Seemingly, much of his work consists of just 5 colours.

I am hugely drawn to his crowd scenes and its always a pleasure to admire the apparent simplicity that illustrates an era when England led the world based on a combination of working class  labour and machinery.

I understand that plans are in hand for a larger exhibition in the Summer. Well worth a trip if one is in the North West of England. Even  if you have to dodge that awful outlet mall!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The MIDAS Touch; Cats at the Limetree

MIDAS Cast with matinée patrons

"I have played, in my time, every possible part

And I used to know seventy speeches by heart

I'd extemporize backchat
I knew how to gag
And I knew how to let the cat out of the bag
I knew how to act with my back and my tail
With an hour of rehearsal
I never could fail
I'd a voice that would soften the hardest of hearts
Whether I took the lead or in character parts 
                                          TS Elliot

The lines of Gus, the theatre cat seemed an appropriate epitaph for the doyen of  character actors, the late Richard Briers, heard on a BBC tribute this week. Just one of the TS Eliot's witty characterizations of jellicle cats set to music by Andrew Lloyd Weber.   With non stop singing and dancing and no dialogue , it needs a young energetic cast to do justice to Cats.   Your average middleaged amateur  thespian will not don those figure hugging costumes too happily lest they appear as  jelly bellied  rather than jellicle cats.
The young exuberant cast of MIDAS drawn from the student ranks of MICollege  were unrecognizable , morphed by stage makeup  and ingenious costumes into a nimble all   singing and dancing feline tribe. An ingenious junk yard set with some nice subtle lighting effects provided a suitable back drop  for the high octane song and dance action, choreographed by Ailbhe Joyce . There was no pit with the live band  under MD Noel Lennon hidden behind the stage set .
There were some splendid voices, with Emily Lohan giving Grizabella the full operatic treatment in the best known number from the show, Memory. James Deegan's swaggering Rum Tum Tugger was  big hit with the matinée school audience.  and Austrian , Bernard Kogler-Sobl imbued Gus with great  pathos. Stephen o Brien was a solid feline presence in the  quasi narrator role of Munkostrap. Lee Dillon and Eleanor O Brien were beguiling as the mischievous pair Mungo Jerrie and Rumpleteaser and  Matty Moran gave Old Deuteronomy the gravitas that was his due.

As soon as  the show ended the cats joined the audience front of house to pose for photos before no doubt retiring for a catnap before the final purrformance later in the evening. Terrific!

**At the start of the second half, I noticed the distracting telltale lights of mobile phones in the row in front.  On closer inspection, I noticed it wasn't school children transgressing this basic rule of theatre etiquette but their adult chaperones. Tut Tut ladies You know have to sit in the back row to get away with that!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Berlin Calling: 48 hours in the German Capital


Schiller Theatre
Konzerthaus Berlin
Philharmonie Lunctime Lobby Concert
Wintergarten. Jazz

 The main bus station ZOB is on the outskirts of the city  in the district of Charlottenburg and not exactly the most glamorous  jumping off point for the German capital. I spent two days in  Berlin on route home from a trip to Leipzig. Even though it was the first days of April, the weather was eye wateringly cold which seemed to accentuate the harder surfaces of the city, the modern glass and chrome structures and wide expansive streets not yet showing any sign  of greenery. These were the highlights

The Schiller Theatre
Sources suggested that Rolando Villazon et al were in town as guests of the Staatsoper so I made my way hopefully to the the lovely Schiller Theatre, Unfortunately  I and a dozen others were at the wrong venue and patrons were hailing taxis to head to the Staatskapelle.

Konzerthaus Berlin
After a peep at the modern  exterior of Deutsche Oper where Parsifal  was in train,  I made my way instead to the Konzerthaus  where the Landes-Jugend Orchester were giving a concert.  The signs didn't look promising.  'House sold out'  the usher informed  me shaking his head.  'Not possible'. However I had come too far to give up  easily and I was running out of contingency plans. I bided my time 'til the interval when a ticket was acquired courtesy of departing patrons and I was up the steps and through the grand portico in time to join the holiday audience of proud mams and dads and a sprinkling of overseas students who filled the gracious Carl Maria von Weber Saal  sipping their interval beers. The post interval programme was Shostakovic Suite for Jazz Orchestra  no 2 which includes the well known Waltz II very familiar to Lyric FM listeners. Needless to say, the standard of playing was high and the band included matching grand pianos. Conductor Evan Christ bore a striking resemblance to Keanu Reeves at least from my seat in the parterre. And quel surprise,  although the hall was well filled, there were lots of seats in the upper balconies. I liked the dimmed house lights . National Concert Hall, Dublin  please copy.
Grosser Saal    photo CD

Bricks and that Wall 

 The Wall
 Best coffee stop.The Berlin Wall has come tumbling down broken in pieces and scattered around the globe. This bit is part of the exhibition on on the top floor of the Kolhoff building in Potsdamer Platz which is reached by Europe's fastest lift, the Panoramapunkt.  Best coffee stop of the trip with 360 degree views of the capital.

Philharmonie Foyer 2nd April 2013

The Philharmonie is the home of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and a small queue had formed on Tuesday morning for the weekly  free lunchtime foyer concert . There were seats for those with a disability pass and  like a flock of  birds, punters  scattered for good perching points . Soon tiers, balconies and stairways were  occupied .   The programme was a sonata by Poulenc  and a modern minimalist piece .    The audience of young and old included many children on school holidays. There was extraordinary hush  in the foyer for the duration of the recital by cellist Adele Bitter and pianist, Holger Groschopp

Jazz at the Berlin Wintergarten Feeling in need of something more in a cabaret vein after all that classical music , I went along to the WinterGarten   to hear veteren singer  Bill Ramsey with the Jorg Seidel Trio. With red velvet and gold trimmings  the theatre looked like I imagined a Berlin cabaret venue should do and  I enjoyed the programme of jazz standards. The Cinncinati born singer was well supported by some terrific playing by Seidel on guitar. The pleasant front  of house staff looked the part in the their red frock coats.

Jenny  in Wintergarten attire
Trains depart from several levels . 

The Hauptbahnhof is relatively new, opened in 2006 and building work around the station continues. In an enormous glass and chrome hall,  trains depart from  platforms on several levels. Although thoroughly modern, it lacked some of the charm and bustle associated with other major European train stations.

After the compact centre of the smaller city of Leipzig, getting my bearings in the major capital was not easy and I did find these resources useful to hit the ground running.  A paper copy of Lonely Planet ( I am not ready yet to join the electronic travel guide generation)  for general guidelines  and the Berlin Tourist Office website  for day  to day listings .  I stayed at the budget hotel chain Motel 1 at  Alexanderplatz.

Resources   Lonely Planet Germany

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Solvitur Ambulando: A Clare Camino


 "Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour.

                      Canterbury Tales

Pilgrim pathways are quite trendy these days with celebrities, Shirley McLaine  sprinkling a bit of stardust on the Camino de Santiago de Compostella and Martin Sheen giving the route the West Wing seal of approval in the film 'The Way' . Among my own more plebian circle,  I don't have to go too far  to find people who have stepped it out  along the iconic route although the real trial is not the trail but enduring the prelude of purgatory that is  21st century airline travel.

 I watched the development over the last two years of a pilgrimage pathway in the West of Ireland  with interest. I could hardly contemplate a trip to far flung pathways without at least treading part of the newly marked   route through holy wells, ancient crosses and churches scattered  across my home county of county Clare.

Entrance St Brigid's Well

I joined a group of twenty or so pilgrims on the final day of the latest stage of a Clare Pilgrim path on  Friday 6th April beginning at St Brigid’s Well, Liscannor, continuing to Liscannor Church Kilmacreehy church ruin, St Senan’s Well in Kilshanny and finishing in 

Kilfenora Cathedral (10km).   Fr Denis Crosby, parish priest of Liscanor was a font of knowledge  of local history and lore and an insightful and entertaining guide.   There was a convivial lunch of at Kilshanny House and fortified, the group walked on to  St Fachtna's Cathedral where the fire was lit and Brian Mooney spoke about the Doorty megalithic cross before a final closing ceremony. The group included members of both Catholic and Protestant traditions with both Canon Bob Hanna of St Columba's and  and Fr  Tom Hogan  of Ennis Cathedral among the pilgrims  giving the venture an ecumenical profile. 
Fr Denis Crosby with Brigid's Cross photo

On a glorious sunny day like this  mercifully free of those April showers,  with the panoramic coastal scenery looking like a John Hinde postcard, and an airport in easy reach,  it was easy to see the appeal a 'Clare Camino'  might have for   potential pilgrims  both at home and abroad . I enjoyed the walk, the sense of shared experience with old and new acquaintances and the glimpse into the customs and practice of  generations past through the eloquence of our knowledgeable guides.

Plans to map the route are in hand and it will be interesting to watch the project develop over the next few years.

'Solvitur Ambulando': Clare Pilgrim Motto  It is solved by walking 

And so schal we alle · may ther no man flee:
God bringe us to the Ioye · that ever schal be!

Time for a lunchtime tune for the dancers 

Surveying the Cross   photo CD

More details of the  activities of the Clare Pilgrim Way group can be found on the website

A gallery of photographs taken at the event can be viewed on

Inside the labyrinth at Caher photo
 Mission Statement

  We wish That the pilgrims On this way
   Enjoy a lifting of their spirits
                 And that Even those who do not believe 

Find themselves
     In a setting where
          The spirits are raised,

The mind is cleared and                 
The body itself is lightened.

After Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

A heart warming Dancing at Lughnasa by Ennis Players

By Guest Blogger John Hartery
The Ennis Players performed an outstanding version of Brian Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa at Glór this week. The play is marked by a wonderful ensemble that brought to life the Donegal man's masterpiece. Lughnasa was first performed in 1990 and went on to harvest a raft  of awards including a Tony and was captured on film with Meryl Streep.

The play is set in the traditional setting for Friel's work, the village of Ballybeg in Donegal. It  is1936. The work is masterfully constructed around the characters of 5 very different sisters who live together in a rural setting. Their life is disrupted by the  arrival of Uncle Jack from the missions in Africa with a suspect past.

In the Ennis Players version,  Jim Manning is sure footed and confident narrator that interprets the action  and places the events of that Summer in the lives of all the characters. Rachel Cullihan plays  the school teacher / matriarch pious sister. Bríd Finnegan was an hilarious Maggie, the funny one who always looks on the bright
Film Poster
side. Saoirse Byrne was very impressive as Agnes and Emer O'Flaherty was the immature youngest that the rest of the siblings looked out for. Tara Manning played  Chris whose face lit up when her lover managed to show up. Veteran of the Ennis  Players John Finn carried off the pivotal role of Uncle Jack with aplomb and was at his best in the monologue in the second act. Joe Varden played a fine role as Gerry Evans, the Lothario,  whose life outside Ballybeg was a mystery.

The set,designed by Allen Flynn and Mike Kelly, was  excellent and made full use of the large Glór stage. Lighting was by Mike Kelly and the subtle sound by Arthur Ford was effective.
Plaudits to director Jackie Sheridan for a show that offered  the subtlety, power and sharp characterisation of the original and used a well chosen ensemble of actors.

This was one of the best amateur production I have  seen and it   runs till 11th April

More by Ennis Players here

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Genealogy Conference: If you want to research your Irish family history, think British!

By Guest Blogger John Hartery
The Clare Roots Society assembled a splendid slate of speakers for their 2013 Conference in Ennis which was branded under the Gathering umbrella. Michael Gandy from the Society of Genealogists  challenged mindsets by suggesting that Irish folk should research 19th century family history by casting aside any notions of researching the Irish past.Instead, he stressed that from 1800 to 1922 Ireland was a part of Britain. This is an historic fact that once grasped, will unlock access to rich treasure trove of historical artefacts.
Gandy: Check out British sources

He highlighted; Royal Commissions, The Post Office, The British Library as sound reference points to find those nuggets of information that add to genealogical research. He also identified that one should search on place as much as individuals in order to make progress. Gandy's speaking style came across a tad provocatively but he was engaging and introduced me to a mine of sources.

I have dabbled into family history and learned that it is a puzzle that one never completes. The wonderful census history for 1901 and 1911 is a terrific starting point. Catriona Crowe, possibly the person we should thank the most for their digitization spoke about ongoing plans against the shortage of funding. We learned about the next batch of data that will be online. Despite the programme for government commitment promising that the 1926 census would be made available it seems that it is now uncertain. The decision rests with the Department of the Taoiseach on whether enabling legislation will be introduced.
Fodder for genealogical sleuths

Earlier,  Eileen O'Dúill reversed the trend of Americans delving into their family history here and spoke about how we could track down long lost cousins across the ocean. She started with the Ellis Island records she explained how emigrants tended to  stick together. She recommended search in the Emigrant Bank Test books and the Tiara newsletter. We were warned to be careful abut  the information we shared online lest some overseas brethern turn up looking for our farms!

I enjoyed the talk by Peter Higginbotham, a specialist in the area of historic workhouses. He calmly overcame persistent technical difficulties and peppered his presentation with historic and current pictures of workhouse of which there were 127 in the Republic.

Bravo to Clare Roots on a wonderful conference that had  a well though-out batch of contributors that has no doubt, opened up more windows to the past for attendees. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Blaze Away at Glór

'My name is Josef Locke
God bless all here and state your pleasure

If you'll refill my glass I'll sing Ave Maria
I'll sing The Old Bog Road or A Shawl of Galway Grey

And I've been gone from you for some while
Those English tax men they've cramped my style

And if you think I'm some fraud upstart
Just let my voice be my calling card

It melted hearts, and royal teardrops fell
They loved me well, they loved me well

                                               Richard Thompson

Late Late Tribute Show 1984

Folk singer, Martin Carty in a recent memorable Desert Island Discs interview told a terrific yarn about an encounter with the tenor Josef Locke, immortalised in lines of a song by Richard Thompson quoted above.Most people of my generation have come to know something of the legendary  tenor  through the 1991 film Hear My Song but my first memory of hearing the Derry man  was on a Late Late tribute show in 1984 when he sang Phil Coulter's bitter sweet paean to their home town as I had never heard it sung before and it remains for me the definitive version of the song. My Name is Josef Locke sung by Norma Waterson 

Gumbleton Productions brought their ribute show 'Blaze Away '  devised and directed by Cathal McCabe chronicling the life of Josef Locke in song to Glór, Ennis tonight.  A team of five performers included musical director Michael Casey at the keyboard, Frank Ryan tenor, soprano Linda Kenny, actors Kevin Hough and Joe O Gorman.  The plot device is a sort of surreal version of This is Your Life with a ghost of Josef Locke played by O Gorman  looking on and commenting on Kevin Hough's warts and all narration of the story of his life punctuated with songs from Kenny and Ryan and occasionally O Gorman. The approach was not unlike that of When Jolie met Christy with a character from beyond the grave interacting with an earth bound narrator.  I love this sentimental repertoire of parlour songs and light operatic gems and enjoyed this  production.  A particular strength was the skilful support on piano by Michael Casey always sympathetic and never overpowering. I was baffled then as to why backing tracks were used for several of the numbers particularly for Ms Kenny's selections.  Even with a lesser accompanist than one of Mr Casey's skill, I felt  live accompaniment would have  served the singers  better.  

Given the element of nostalgia in the endeavour,  it would have enhanced the production to have some archive images of Locke ,  memorabilia  of the Blackpool years etc. projected behind the performers to add  to  the narrative. Fashionistas will particular enjoy Ms Kenny's gorgeous stage wardrobe in glittering colours. 

There are a few more dates on the tour. Watch out for them  Well worth seeing.
Cast Blaze Away 

A sweeter age it was that loved me well
They loved me well'   R Thompson 

Venue Note Glór  stage is a very large space and I would rather  have seen the performers placed on the floor closer to their audience  to create a more intimate cabaret setting and better establish the rapport with the audience. 

Set List 
Ritorna a Sorrento                         Blaze Away
Toselli's Serenade                         Glocca Mara
Lili Marlene                                   Hear My Song
Love's Last Word is Spoken           Bless This House 
O Mio Babino Caro                        Harbour Lights 
M'Appari                                       I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen
Will You Remember(Sweetheart)    Lover Come Back to Me 
The Lights of Home                       Everybody Loves a Lover 
Now is the Hour                            Old Bog Road
Le Reve Passe                              Yours 
                                                    Santa Lucia
                                                    The Rest of the World Go By
                                                    The Town I Loved So Well
                                                    Goodbye White Horse Inn 

A Baroque Spring Break in Leipzig

 I enjoyed a few days over Easter in one of the cultural capitals of Europe.   The compact nature of Leipzig  city centre makes it easy to navigate and cover the major sites of interest.   Here are some of my  highlights.

St Johannes Passion at Thomaskirche
Thomaskirche Leipzig
Thomaskirche is a cultural beacon being the final place of work and rest for JS Bach and I arrived in Leipzig in time to join the congregation at the Lutheran Thomaskirche for the traditional Good Friday performance of the Johannes Passion directed by the present day cantor Georg Christoph Biller who I believe is the 16th in line since the great JS  .  The sense of the weight of tradition combined with a crammed  house and a solemnity of mood  added an intensity to the experience of the performance by the Thomanerchor  and the Gewandhaus Orchestra.  The line up included two tenors, two basses and soprano and most striking were the arias by contertenor Matthias Rexroth , in particular Es ist Vollbracht with obligado viola de gamba  played by Thomas Fritszch.
 At the close, there was no applause as the house dispersed quietly in sombre. mood.  (Es ist Vollbracht

Cinderella at Leipzig Opera House  It is an indication surely how far down the glamour scale airline travel has fallen that  Cinderella's trial is not drudgery of housework but having to endure flying on a certain budget airline (blue uniforms Ryanair perhaps?)  before she is bumped up to champagne quaffing first class with the handsome prince.
The opera house is a modern  building, the original  destroyed by fire was rebuilt in 1943 in a neoclassical style. Large and comfortable, it has expansive foyer spaces and an abundance of  gilt lined interior surfaces.
  There was a family audience in for a teatime performance of a new ballet based on the Cinderella story.  The score was devised from the back catalogue of Prokofiev. The audience didn't seem to fully engage with the drama until the second half, (maybe due to the device of a foray into the audience by by the royal henchmen for shoe fitting and the walk on part for a small dog)

Museum of Fine Arts
A huge sculpture of Beethoven by Max Klinger  is given pride of place in the Leipzig Fine Art Museum.  The teutonic titan has a room all to himself and  is depicted  as a god enthroned on Mount Olympus. The galleries are enormous high ceilinged spaces with works from a range of periods and it made a good place to shelter from the snow on Easter Sunday afternoon.

Morning coffee recital at the Seaside Park Hotel 
John Bryden

The Seaside Park Hotel* has lovely art deco interior with a baby grand piano in the mezzanine lobby and it was an unexpected musical treat  to hear a short programme of classical pieces played by Scottish pianist John Bryden of ACE Culturtal Tours on Easter Sunday morning.  His final piece Mendlessohn's Spring Song beckoning in the new season.  Not so fortunate was my forgetting  the time change and I missed the Sunday morning cantata at Thomaskirche. I nipped up to the gallery  to hear the final prayers and organ postlude. Judging by the printed order of service, the elements of cantata, plainchant and chorales seem unchanged since the time of Bach and all notation printed in the booklet to aid congregational involvement. As I lingered in the gallery for a final look, the organist (Herr Ulrich Bohme) came towards me and said something. Sadly my German is poor . Something profound and musical no doubt? Just that he would be locking up the gallery shortly .  It might be the most iconic organ loft on the planet but just like the previous famous incumbant, there were the practical mundane tasks to attend to.

Dan with  Mephistopheles on a barrel

Best Dining Experience .
Great Caruso Musical digger 'snapped in Leipzig
The walls of the Goethezimmer in Auerbach's Kellar are adorned with painted scenes from Faust and the food served by red jacketed waiters is decent We enjoyed two hearty main courses with beers for under €40. The restaurant was fully booked from  6pm so late afternoon was a good time to get a table.

Best pub . We visited a number of venues popular with students. I liked Beyerhaus with its huge space and pool tables . I am a bit concerned about the menu choice snapped on a board outside the Irish pub delightfully named the Killywilly. Never mind the horsemeat debacle, does the minister know they are serving leprechaun burgers in Leipzig?

 Best Busker
The weather being so cold did keep the buskers at bay but there were some hardy accordionists playing in gloved hands  but my favourite was this birdlike man with a bag full of assorted whistles and recorders  playing flute near the market Square.

My stay was three nights and while it was tempting to stay longer, with much still to see and do on the Leipzig Music trail , there is only so much Bach and Buxtehude a girl can stand to hear in a week and somewhat  reluctantly I moved on via coach to Berlin. More on my Berlin adventures in the next post.

*The Seaside Park Hotel had a great location across from the train station. . Do ask for a room away from street side as it was quite noisy on weekend nights.

Thanks to Gerry Murphy for his insightful travel tips on Leipzig