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

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mighty Ukes :Ukulele Orchestra of GB at the Theatre Royal Waterford

One of the choice musical moments in the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain's concert at the Theatre Royal, Waterford on Saturday night had a resonance with another major event. Around the same time as the Italian maestro of the silver screen was raising his baton to conduct the 97 strong Roma Sinfonietta in Dublin, the singing , whistling and strumming octet were giving the epic film theme to the Good,the Bad and the Ugly their own inimitable treatment. I don't know if Morricone has seen it but I think he would approve.

My new uke
The Ukulele Orchestra were last in Waterford as part of Spraoi in 2007 , a particularly rain sodden year in which their performance in the Tower Hotel Ballroom was a highlight, and a gig it seems everyone in the city claims to have been at. With a mix of  droll banter and physical clowning along with highly skilled playing in clever inventive arrangements, there is a whiff of a Blackpool End of the Pier show about the ensemble. One wonders if they miss the  relative simplicity of their pub and village hall gig days now that their schedule takes them literally to the ends of the earth and to lofty grand halls of the world such is their popularity. 

To say that the repertoire is eclectic is an understatement. They seem to consciously eschew that traditionally associated with the instrument in favour of more contemporary material and apart from a Tiny Tim hit, the set list doesn't dwell on nostalgia.

Earlier in the day, there was an opportunity to meet the members in person as the full complement turned out for a workshop in the Central Hall, the only such event, I believe scheduled on their busy tour. There were some fascinating insights into the inner workings as members graciously explained their various tunings, the division of musical roles among the group and recalled personal highlights of their performances now incredibly spanning almost three decades. There was a sing along to a mash up of camp fire songs. Following the session attendees and several ensemble repaired to Jordan's for more uke chat. Hanging out with the world famous Ukulele Orchestra in Jordan's. Saturday afternoon in Waterford doesn't get any cooler than that!

Venue Notes: The balcony was uncomfortably hot and sticky from early in the evening. The effect of any air conditioning was not detected until towards the end when there was a pleasant cooling blast. 

The Central Hall is  a useful venue on the Quay near the Reginald's Tower End. Managed by Red Kettle Theatre Co., the acoustic is very good and it has tiered seating for a capacity of 50. 

Related articles Report form Ukuhooley

Hurrah for Hollywood
Kiss Prince_
Tiptoe Through the Tulips
Satellite of Love
Limehouse Blues
Rolling in The Deep
Mash Up Life On Mars /My Way/For Once in My Life
Woo Hoo Heavy Metal
The Good The Bad The Ugly
Road Runner
Badiniere Bach
Bang Bang
Dance Macarbre
Le Freak
Handel Mash U

You can hear my interview with promoter Pat Byrne below

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Good, The Bad and the Promenaders at Morricone 'Proms' in Dublin


Just back in the West after a long drive back after the Ennio Morricone gig in Dublin. A rare opportunity to see the Italian maestro and film composer extraordinaire in action in Ireland and one not likely to be repeated. The music was wonderful. and the sound quality quite good.  The 100  strong Dublin Gospel Choir looked and sounded the biz. The soprano soloist, Susanna Rigacci soared effortlessly above the lush string sounds of the  97 strong Roma Sinfonietta. The rain that threatened to spoil the Sunday evening party cleared early in the programme, much to everybody's relief.. The sold out house were in their seats.  The sprightly octagenarian maestro appeared on stage, baton raised.  Surely the event would command the utmost attention of the sold out house?

So you would think.  Any assumptions that normal concert etiquette would apply were quickly banished as  the maestro's baton raising was a cue for a significant proportion of the audience to begin their perambulations.  'Another Beck's is it?' said my neighbouring patron to his companion  leaving the seat he surely had paid dearly for as  he departed for the far frontier of the refreshment stalls arriving back in time to add his crab like movement to the hushed soprano solo in Once Upon a Time in the West. trampling on my toes while he was it.   I was grateful that I was seated a mere dozen rows back and the footfall that went clip clop along the plastic  central thoroughfare throughout the evening was somewhat reduced. Had I the misfortune to have been seated any further back, I would have given up and gone home.

Shame on you Pod Promotions for allowing catering stalls to remain open during the performance, proving an irresistible lure  for fidgety patrons and meaning further trips for attendant consequences Most including myself had foregone the souvenir programmes at €10 a pop, so didn't know  the running order.. An announcement clearly made at the beginning  that there would be no interval  and at least suggesting people remain seated except in case of emergency, would have been useful  And why just one gate open at the opening of the evening? For anyone approaching form the Chapelizod end, it meant a long trek in the rain to the East Gate meaning many patrons arrived disgruntled and wet.
 Attend another open air music event delivered this way? No thanks!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Summer Music In Ennis

There is an attractive range of classical concerts scheduled for Ennis, County Clare next week as part of the Summer Music in Galway Festival. The full list for the week is below. Further updates and the full list is on the festival website This is the 20th anniversary of the festival and there is much to look forward to. Organiser, Bob Creech continues to draw an international pool of  high calibre performers to the West of Ireland for the annual summer music festival combining performances and a summer school for young orchestral performers..

The opening concert features Mozart's Requiem in a new chamber ensemble arrangement and  is conducted by Galway based Mark Keane.  Adrian Mantu is more usually heard with  the Con Tempo string quartet and there will be a rare opportunity to hear him perform solo repertoire. He will play the first of two cello concertos  in the wonderful acoustic of St Columba's. On Thursday evening, Beethoven's lovely Pastoral Symphony will be heard.
On Friday night, a dramatic new opera for children by British composer Nicola Le Fanu will be heard in Glór.

On Saturday, the action moves to the lakeside venue of the Anna Carriga Pavillion in Killaloe for afternoon and evening events. The splendid Norwegian trumpet virtuoso Jan Fredrik Christiansen will  feature at a concert in the afternoon  concert. .

Also at St Columba's on Thursday, the lunchtime song recital initiated by Helen Houlihan continues with baritone Owen Gilhooly. Owen is much in demand all over Europe and is receiving rave reviews for his operatic work.

2013 SMS/SMG Festival Orchestra Performances
Students performing with professional musicians in works highlighted
Wednesday, July 31 , 8.00pm St. Columba’s Church, Ennis 
‘20 Anniversary Festival Launch’
Requiem, K.626 50' Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
The first European performance of a new Chamber Ensemble version of Mozart’s final
Sinead Fitzpatrick, Soprano Shane Barriscale, Tenor
Sarah-Ellen Murphy, Alto Kevin Neville, Bass
Tribal Chamber Choir SMG Chamber Orchestra
Mark Keane, Conductor
Cello Concerto in D major, Opus 8, no. 11, p.153 10' Anonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
Adrian Mantu, Cello
Soprano Aria TBA 10'
Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op.125 Choral’ Finale; ‘Ode to Joy’ 7' Beethoven
SMS Symphony Orchestra
Bruce Dunn, Conductor

 Thursday, August 1 , 8.00pm St. Columba’s Church, Ennis st
‘Golden Age of the Symphony’
Symphony No.1 in C minor 20' Paul Alday (1764-c1835)
Cello Concerto in D major, Hob.V11b:2 26' Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Adrian Mantu, Cello
Symphony No. 6, Op. 68, in F major 40' Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827
SMS Symphony Orchestra
Keith Pascoe, Conductor

Friday, August 2 , 8.00pm Glór, Ennis nd
‘Prelude to an Opera’
The Green Children 80' Music by Nicola Lefanu
an opera composed for children Libretto by Kevin Crossley-Holland
SMS Youth Opera Theatre
Director: Airlie Scott (England) Music Director: Bruce Dunn (Canada)

Saturday, August 3 AnnaCarriga Pavilion, Lough Derg, Killaloe rd
‘20 Anniversary Gathering on the Lake’ 
2.30pm: ‘Lakeside Prom’
Finlandia 8' Jean Sibelius (1865 - 1957)
SMS Symphony Orchestra
Norman Nelson, Conductor
Cello Concerto No. 1 in C minor 15' Johann Christian Bach
Adrian Mantu, Cello
Trumpet Concerto in E= major 14' Jan Køtitel Jiøí Neruda(c1707-c1780)
Jan Fredrik Christiansen, Trumpet
Toy Symphony, Hob.11: 47, C major 12' Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) 
Chamber Music Ensembles and works for student ensembles; tba 
Wind Serenade Mozart
Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op.125, 7' Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827
‘Choral’ Finale; ‘Ode to Joy’
The Fields of Athenry 5' Arr. Bruce Dunn
SMS Symphony Orchestra
Bruce Dunn, Conductor
5.30pm - Picnic Barbecue
8.00pm ‘Midsummer Music by the Lake’
Marriage of Figaro, Overture; K.492 5' Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
SMS Chamber Orchestra
Norman Nelson, Conductor
Piano Quartet in E= major, Op. 47 27' Robert Schumann (1810-1856) 
The Four Seasons, Op..8, nos. 1- 4 43' Antonio Vivaldi (1678 -1741)
Keith Pascoe, Violin
SMS Chamber Orchestra
Norman Nelson, Conductor

Review Summer Music 2012

Summer Music Review 2011

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Lunchtime Theatrical Fare: Roman Fever at Bewleys

Bewleys on Grafton Street 

Revenge is a dish best served cold. Bewleys Cafe Theatre sparkling summer offering of an adaptation  of an Edith Wharton short story could perhaps  best be described if not as a dish, as a perfectly chilled martini where tempers never bubble over but simmer beneath ice cold surfaces of the two protagonists, wealthy society widows cooling their heels on a Roman terrace.

Maria Tecce and Karen Ardiff convey all the vitriol  and oneupmanship by the merest adjustment of facial features, a curl of a lip here or  the raising of an eyebrow there. We were charmed  by  the singing Italian waiter, Pierpaolo Vitale who having escorted patrons to their seats opened the production with a serenade to his own accompaniment on accordion. We spoke to Pierpaolo briefly and he tells us that the song, La Luna Argenta in the style of a Neopolitan song was his own composition.

At €12 for a bowl of soup and the show (Monday rate)  running at 45 mins or so , this was terrific value for perfect seasonal fare and no surprise that the intimate  venue was full for the performance with locals and overseas visitors. Bravo tutti! The show runs until July 27th

Venue Notes: Soup was excellent but needed to be fetched from a hatch in the corner and with the venue full, it was awkward to  navigate around the tables even with Pierpaolo on hand to assist. I suggest soup served in mugs and dished out by a nimble server might be easier in this venue

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Off the Ball: Bust The Soccer Opera

'Playing in the green shirt
Scoring goals for Ireland
This is how it feels'

Mentioning that I had been out to see a new opera drew polite responses from family members who at the moment have  only Déise Hurling concerns uppermost in mind. But dropping the fact that the libretto for composer, Ben Hanlon's new work  was inspired by the real life story of footballer, Richard Sadlier and suddenly they were all ears and pleading for more details.
Waterford has a thriving choral scene that on occasion throws up some cutting edge experiences. Waterford man Bryan Flynn has given us the epic All Star Wars, the hurling musical. Could Bust be the world 's first  soccer  opera. I went along to a workshop preview of the work at De La Salle College Chapel on Friday
       Richard Sadlier

The librettist Alec Mc Alister was inspired by an article on the young footballer whose playing career came to a premature end when he broke his leg in a heavy tackle. Sadlier now turns up regularly as a pundit on radio programme Off the Ball and others. The plot  follows the trajectory of the main protagonist, Joey Power's career from excited young hopeful setting out from Dublin Airport through the high points- making the  team, playing for Ireland and the fateful day and finally the return home. Add in a dollop of a love story and there was plenty of emotional turbulence to sustain the hour long work. 

There are five main singing roles, Joey, his mam and dad, Robbie, a football manager and his daughter, Jenny. The young cast were superb. Most of them I gather are 3rd level music students.  Every syllable was audible and there was throughout  a terrific range of dynamics in the singing to effect dramatic expression. Joey's part played by Glenn Murphy was so high that it veered into counter tenor territory at times. Emma Power's clear soprano voice soared effortlessly above the chorus lines with no unruly vibrato.  Fergal Kelly as Dad was impressive.  Robbie was sung by Aaron Mooney and Ann O Brien sang the role of mother.  The chapel acoustic was excellent for singers and even the quietest pianissimo was clearly audible. The principals were supported by a chamber choir who managed some very challenging parts with aplomb. Composer,  Marion Ingoldsby, conducted with quiet authority. 

The musical style was modern  with some atonal sections that at times were heavy going, but then so is Phillip Glass and there was enough melodic interest to satisfy more conventional tastes. There was some lovely writing for the piano, expertly executed by Billy O Brien and generally I felt that  the composer did a excellent job in charting the mood whether ecstatic jubilation or abject despair. I was drawn in and cared about the characters and how often can you say that about an opera. It would fit very nicely into the short works programme at Wexford Opera Festival.

Bust will be performed for two nights at Garter Lane Theatre on 13 and 14 September as part of the Waterford Harvest Festival.
     Composer Ben Hanlon
Related articles
All Star Wars A Hurling Musical at Cork Opera House

Come The Sails Launch of Tall Ships Waterford A View From The Plaza

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Literary Star in the Blackwater: Theroux at Immrama

Paul Theroux in Lismore

Literary festivals seem to be popping up all over the event map these days. Ennis is home to the lively Book Club Festival now firmly established on the Festival calendar, Lismore, a beautiful riverside village in County Waterford seems to have chosen wisely  in exploring a  tributary  with a niche festival dedicated entirely to travel writing, Immrama, established there  in the last ten years. It was quite a coup for the organizers to tempt big fish of the genre, American Paul Theroux to the Blackwater valley for this year's festival and it was  with some sense of expectation that  I made the trip to hear him talk about his work and travels.

Cloudy- Sparkling 
Opening with words of tribute to Dervla Murphy, local doyenne of the genre, Theroux came over as sincere and thoughtful and genuine in his attempt to engage and connect with the reader  in his telling of tales from the road and his time living abroad in Africa .  He had flown to Belfast intending to travel by train to Waterford but his plan was literally derailed  as the train line to West Waterford has been closed for many years forcing him to travel by the more mundane means of a hired car.  In parallel,  a  number of unfortunate aspects  combined to make the event somewhat less than sparkling . 

The venue. It is difficult for even the most gifted communicator to have an intimate interactive chat  to a group of 500 in a school gym hall. Particularly when placed on a dais with a woodland floral backdrop that looks like it might engulf him up at any moment or at the very least produce some small woodland creature to cause a diversion. Add to that, the listeners are sitting on the most uncomfortable plastic chairs known to us all from our  schooldays  and you get my drift. Theroux addressing the crowd directly without the aid of an interviewer, did his best, occasionally throwing out questions to gauge the potential resonance of his words with the audience but it didn't flow for me somehow.
The sound  The amplification was not good. Portable speakers extended half way down the hall but were less than effective from where I was sitting at the back of audience. It was loud  but not sharp enough and  the result was a cloudy obscured impression of the author that was unsatisfactory particularly for a high priced, ticketed event .

Ticket Price:  €25 was expensive for a solo artist for an hour long discourse at a festival receiving public funding and sponsorship. Add in the purchase of a book at the sponsor's stand (Easons) and you didn't have  much change from €40 per head. Generally speaking, arts centres and promoters have kept prices down and there is amazing value to be had at arts events but this wasn't good value by any standard.

The literary events were spaced out over 4 days and with the next event still some way off, we decided to call it a day at Immrama.

Related article  Report from blogging worksho.2011Immrama

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Credo Amen: A Day at the Irish Church Music Association Summer School 2013

Cobh Cathedral Choir in St Patrick's Maynooth   photo ICMA website 

At long last – it's July and school's out, the sun is shining  and all roads lead to the beach. Not for everybody though. Granted temporary release from their  lofts, organists, choir directors and choristers made a bee-line for Maynooth where the  annual summer school took place in the leafy campus of St Patrick’s College.  I joined the gathering of 200 or so musicians on the 3rd day of the 4 day summer school run by the Irish Church Music Association. The format was the usual mix of formal tutorials, liturgical services and performances with meals and informal meet and greet sessions. The proceedings were conducted as usual amid the 19th century architectural splendour  designed by Pugin Here are my highlights of a packed day at the 44th summer school.

Russell Library 
‘Avoid the conductor’s sniff’ and drop your r’s’ advised Derek Mahady in the Renehan Hall to a group aspiring to more constructive arm waving.  In the chapel a small group of organ scholars were hanging on every word uttered by master organist, Columba McCann as he gave advice on best pedal pushing practice followed by a master class on a Bach Fantasias. How anyone masters even simple chorales with hands and feet  seems amazing enough but seeing and hearing Ríona Curtin transform the thick black spiders  on the page of  her  Bach manuscript to magical sounds on the chapel organ seemed almost miraculous to me. I could have happily sat and listened to them discuss the finer points of organ playing all day. There was time also for a peek at the ancient manuscripts hidden away in the Russell Library, an architectural gem which is well worth seeking out if you are on the campus.

A trio of contemporary Irish composers presented their work over the course of the week and I sat in on Ephrem Feeley’s engaging  afternoon workshop as he presented a selection of his  music and gave insights and advice on their best use. The young composer, based in Meath,  launched a newly published collection of his work in CD and manuscript form earlier in the week. The collection of 14 pieces has strong melodic content in a  range of keys and metres that will appeal to most choirs and  should be a useful addition to liturgical resources for schools. Instrumentalists will particularly enjoy playing the obligado  parts conveniently included in the publication.
Ephrem Feeley in Top Loftus 
There was ample  opportunity to flex the sight singing muscles as director of the summer school, Paul Kenny  steered the attendees through a rehearsal of  the mountain of music to accompany the afternoon liturgy. There is an emphasis generally on contemporary work  by Irish and American composers I was privileged to be invited to play a violin part for the Joncas settings, a  welcome opportunity  to play in the unique sacred space.

Cobh Cathedral Chamber Choir was a balanced 16 piece ensemble under director Dominic Finn. They presented an interesting  programme of ancient and contemporary sacred music. Irish composers Sean Davey, Liam Lawton and Ronan McDonagh featured and Tom Kendzia was in the audience to hear his piece Pieta performed.  There were several pieces by English composer  Phillip Stopford. There was impressive solo singing from several members but it was the extraordinary hush of the pianissimos that  made the greatest impression.  Lucky Cobh denizens to have such a high calibre ensemble to regularly enrich its liturgies.  It was a rich and satisfying conclusion to the musical offerings of the day.

You can read my report on my visit to the 2011 school here .
1939  Humbert Craig 'Going to Mass'  Illustration from Paddy Jones Input talk

Programme Weds 3rd July
As Easter People   Sexton
Penitential Rite Feeley
Gloria  St Chad     David Saint
Psalm 138 In The presence of your Holy Angels Feeley
Festival Alleluia  James Chepponis
A Prayer of Cardinal Newman  Joncas
Mass parts Joncas
Lamb of God  Oliver Hynes
This is the Bread Come Down from Heaven Sexton
Oh Sacred Banquet Joncas
Give Thanks to God  Stephen McManus

Organist Eanna McKenna 
Voluntary Riona Curtin 

Related articles Cathys reviews 

Priests and Pilgrims: Bloomsday at IEC

ICMA Summer School 2011 A report 

Clarendon Chorale with Mc Donagh

From Heav'n on High Wylde Brings de Regge Home to Ennis