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

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Everyman Orpheus

Orpheus may be a mere mortal in the kingdom of the Gods but the latest production of Gluck's Baroque masterpiece at the Everyman is simply divine. This is a terrific production, from the team who brought  the acclaimed Pagliacci to life at the same venue last year.
photo Miki Barlok Cork Operatic Soc Facebook 
 Again the musicians take pivotal roles ascending from the pit to join then singers on stage following the overture, casting off their sombre black robes for cream coloured drapes . Quite how they manage to memorise such a vast amount of music is extraordinary. Trinidian tenor, Ronald Samm returns to play the title role. His is not a pale youthful  sylph like Orfeo, but a heavyweight middle aged one with a great bottom to his tenor voice. His interpretation of the grief laden Che Faro at the close was moving and memorable and very much his own   Having seen him in the role, I feel all Orpheus' should be thus, Cork soprano Majella Cullagh played the role of Love. Eurydice is played by a dancer.  Tara Brandel was replaced by an understudy on Wednesday* I loved the set by Lisa Zagone featuring organ pipes and the magical lighting effects by Michael Hurley  created the feeling of  underworld and the golden glow of the Elysian Fields Every emotion was amplified by the hard working chorus. With a running time of less than two hours with an interval, no Wagnerian feat of endurance was called for.  

Miki Barlok via Cork Operatic Society Facebook

Just to show my critical faculties are working, I did have some minor quibbles.  Apollo may have played like a God on his hunting horn but didn't quite blend in to the Elysian Fields God squad  with his spectacles.  The two string players,   violin and viola were a little overpowered  by the wind and brass element in the ensemble with saxophone being the dominant element and I did miss the solidity of the cello element of the continuo part.

A rare and wonderful musical  treat. Last chance to see it on Friday and Saturday 

*Eurydice was played by Mihaela Griveva

Venue Notes: The Everyman Palace has a cosy, convivial bar space where the artists gathered after the show.
 Who we met: Oboe player Coral O Sullivan was on the other side of the footlights for a change. . Star of the show, Ronald Samm  spoke to me of the role Geraldine O Grady had played in mentoring his career. Violinist, Liz Charleson had laid aside her violin to join the chorus and the Frost clan were there in force to support Godess/bassonist , Sineid  We met  Deirdre Long from Waterford, Secretary of the Cork Operatic Society who started the evening on the pit organ console before joining the chorus.

Irish Examiner Review Orpheus 

Cathy's Review Pagliacci for Everyman

Cathy's Review Punk Baroque Delight

Ronald Samm Orpheus
_________     Eurydice
Majella Cullagh Love
Carolyn Goodwin Demeter Clarinet/ sax
Tom Crowley       Dionysis Violin
Catriona Lightfoot Athene Viola
Christiane O Mahoney   Hera Harp
Conor Palliser Apollo French Horn
John O Brien Director /Musical Director
Lisa Zagone Set Design
Tina Horan choreography
Michael Hurley Lighting bDesign

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The History Boys: This Is Waterford at the Medieval Museum

‘This is Waterford’ is a  comedy show featuring a double act of local performers, David Flynn and Andrew Holden, drawing on a cast of characters from  a millennium of Waterford History. The show  is a sort of slapstick theatrical version of Horrible Histories, the popular history series for kids. Over the course of the  75 minutes, the two play Normans , Vikings, paupers and kings,  even a princess with great enthusiasm and energy.  There is a bit of singing, some piano vamping and of course some audience participation. It is a pleasure to hear voices projected naturally without the aid of amplification. Residents will enjoy the local gags such as  references to WLR and Munster Express critic, Liam Murphy. While some poetic licence is taken with the facts, it is good fun and what else would you be doing on a Sunday tea time. Written by Arthur Riordan and directed by Myles Breen. It continues at Waterford Medieval Museum, the city’s newest civic building which is worth a trip to see for it’s own sake . Last scheduled shows take place next Saturday and Sunday for this season. 
Props Bench 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Christine Bovill's Piaf at Theatre Royal Waterford via Edinburgh

‘There is a moment in every childhood when the door to the future opens and for me that moment was hearing Edith Piaf . No other voice spoke to me like hers  did’.  So said Glaswegian chanseuse Christine Bovill on hearing Piaf on a gifted vinyl record in the course of her homage to the Queen of chanson realiste at the Theatre Royal Waterford last night. The format which by all accounts wowed festival goers in Edinburgh was relatively unsophisticated  There was no fancy lighting or projected images just the singer dressed in black , a pianist and the Piaf songbook peppered with spoken biographical and contextual programme notes.  It was interesting that Ms Bovill was converted from detesting the language to being an ardent francophile  through the songs. A singer who doesn't depend merely on beauty of tone even though she has a lovely smoky contralto voice, perfect for jazz.. Clearly passionate about the French texts  she did justice to the dramatic  and poetic elements  in the songs.  She was wonderfully well supported in her task by her  pianist, Michael Roulston . All the best known ones were in the set but also some not so commonly heard ones. I loved the treatment of La Foule with its' heavy vamping bass line. In contrast Mon Dieu was given a simple no frills fervent hymn like treatment.

Michael Roulston
While it would have been lovely to hear such an accomplished pianist on a strung piano, I have to admit the electric model used didn’t sound too bad and generally the amplification was subtle and effective.  I love this repertoire and include several Piaf melodies in my own salon set and thoroughly enjoyed the evening. My only caveat was that she might have used the considerable resource of her accompanist  to add an instrumental interlude here and there as it was quite demanding on her sung and spoken voice.

You can catch this beguiling evening at Limerick Millenium Theatre and the Source Arts Centre in Thurles on 26th and 27th September.  Allez Allez, C'est si bon! 

In the BBC Radio4 series Soul Music,  Christine Bovill talks about the song Je ne Regret Rien. Included in the programme is  Norman Lamont talking about his brush with the legendary song.  Listen here

Venue Notes 
There was a lot of events in the quarter on Thursday evening. The red carpet was out at City Hall for a Ladies fashion event.   In the giant marquee in Lombard St, the Pearly Whites were jumping up and down in their lively party set  again
 to a somewhat subdued midweek audience. We have to say that the audience didn't fill the auditorium but  would  have filled the 50 seater Central Hall .  I note the  this is one of two French Chanson  themed evenings in Waterford this month with Caroline Moreau playing in Garter Lane later. One wonders how much  much liaison there is between the major arts  venues in planning programmes.  A festival atmosphere prevailed in town as marquees and fancy bunting adorned the Mall for the Harvest Festival. I couldn’t understand why this event wasn’t incorporated into the Harvest Festival programme and marketed under that banner. It would seem that there are opportunities for more synergy with regular scheduled events. The event would have lent itself nicely to a French cheese and wine soirée in the foyer for instance .  And is it really so hard to paper the show to create more of an an ambiance.  Where was the Alliance Francaise.  Where were the students of French either  2nd or 3rd level. Isn’t there a third level college in town ?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Powerful Perfidia in Waterford

At some point in the last decade I realised that although once an avid fan, I could no longer describe myself as a theatre goer. Revivals of plays I had seen first time round didn't interest me, One Man shows made me wary, I had had enough Playboys of the Western variety to do me for life and with the quality of TV drama improving all the time, going to a play seemed more like being strapped into your seat for hours without the remote control. However I saw a play today that restored my faith in the medium of live drama unadorned by any musical component. With a modest set and a formidable duo of actresses, Jimmy Murphy's play Perfidia plugs right into the zeitgeist of the times. The snapshot of the impact of Celtic Tiger collapse has resonances in real life tragedies prevailing in this weeks media stories around the unfortunate Priory Hall fiasco.

The acting is accomplished, both ringing true to their respective sides of the class divide. The writing is perceptive and well observed. I particularly liked the verbal jousting when Niamh goaded from her default politeness makes cutting remarks about Ciara's entitlement mentality. There is an odd raport between the characters but there is nothing saccharine about it. There are some elegant touches such as the allusion  to Rapunzul in her tower in Ciara's situation hemmed in  her high rise abode both seeking a rescuer. While I identified with Sharon Clancy's Niamh, the stressed mortgage defaulter, Jenny Clooney's feisty Ciara wins your empathy with a degree of self awareness and a good dollop of humour.  Niamh's story wasn't my story but it could so easily have been. I was more moved by the denouement than I can remember being in the theatre for a long time. The show is well paced and at a little under an hour isn't going to make that remote control thumb too fidgety.

This is a great venue, a small venue seating 50 or so conveniently located next to Jordan's pub which serves  as a convivial post show gathering placeand where  audience and cast repaired to recover after the lunchtime presentation. At a tenner for a play and a pint, this is one of the best value theatrical experience you are likely to have.The production moves to Dublin to open a brand new theatre space in Chancery Lane Dublin where director Frieda Ryan tells me Michael D  Higgins will be add presidentail gravitas to the first night audience. How about that!  Bravo Red Kettle on a thought provoking presentation.

We hear on the grapevine that director Frieda Ryan's next project will be directing the renowned Denise Quinn in Bag Lady by Frank Mc Guinness in December. Even with my reservations about single handers, in this case I will have to make an exception.

Cathy's Reviews On the Razzle 
Cathy's Reviews Beyond the Brooklyn Sky

Friday, September 6, 2013

Strings In Spires:ESTA 2013

 The historic academic centre of excellence, Oxford, drew string teachers from all over Europe to the city of the spires for the 41th annual international conference of ESTA . Tempted by the grand location and the opportunity to make new acquaintances in a bigger pond , I joined the gathering for 4 days of the 5 day meeting, hoping also to pick up some new strategies and hopefully play some chamber music. The spirit of Morse was in the ether and the curmudgeonly face of the donnish detective appeared on stands all over town. You half expected to see a vintage red Jaguar appear in Queen’s Lane. In fact it was buses that dominated the traffic lanes. Big ones, little ones, open topped double deckers, uber sleek tourist coaches and it was by x90 bus from London that I arrived in Queen's Lane outside the conference location.

The  hectic programme of presentations, masterclasses and concerts took place in the Examination Halls under the enormous clocks. Meals were served in the Victorian splendour of Christchurch College Dining Hall, so eye popping that gruel would have seemed like a feast. There was nothing Spartan about the fare and suffice to say we dined like dons for the duration. There A diverse range of ensembles entertained the delegates. We particularly enjoyed the panache and flamboyance of the baroque ensemble Red Priest. Their amazing cellist Angela East was at the conference launching her new book on Baroque Cello, published by Stainer and Bell. The rather more proper English Mozart Ensemble presented several concerts under their leader David Le Page (the newly anointed president). I enjoyed Steve Bingham’s loopy electic violin performance even if I don’t see myself attempting to emulate it any time soon.

Voices from the Exhibition Hall: Interesting and all as the formal programme was, it fell somewhat outside my own particular interest with an emphasis on the more high end  end of the teaching spectrum . There was relatively little focus on large group teaching or the Wider Opportunities programmes. It was at the members exhibits that I found most synergy with my own  teaching activities and I was interested to meet Rachel Thomas of Musicol resources . For me the greatest pleasure was meeting well known names in the publishing world and wandering through the exhibition hall to the strains of delegates trying out instruments from the sea of  of violins on display from Cardiff Violins. It was lovely to chat to people like Alaistair Hardie, Mary Cohen, Cathy and David Blackwell about their books. Chris Haigh who I met at the London Fiddle Convention was there promoting his book of Hungarian fiddle tunes. The Hardie family from the Hardie Press had a fabulous display of  all sorts of Scottish string music . You can hear some of the interesting and eclectic voices I spoke to in the set of audio clips below.

While the conference lived up to expectations in many respects, I  have to admit, I was disappointed not to do a little more playing. Encouraged by the advance information that suggested that you 'should bring  instruments and parts  if you would like to play chamber music'  Well as I do, I  chose to avoid airline travel to facilitate lugging instruments and music . But sadly I was on a 'Haydn to nothing'.  Too late  noted  that the FAQ section gave  a more accurate picture that there would be no organised activity of this nature. My attempts to find like minded delegates foundered at finding a cellist as most  had sensibly left their instruments at home.  I include a one line summary of the presentations I attended below.
The n2014 conference is hosted by ESTA Germany in another iconic location, the Saxon city of Dresden.

Judy Tarling 'Repetition is our ally'  With her finger on the pulse, she drew a parallel between  stylistic features in  ML King's famous speech on  the 50th anniversary of it's delivery. 

Simon Fischer 'The things that matter are relatively few'Some students just do it it seems without the aid of Mr Fisher's books, which incidentally are the size of three telephone directories

Rachel Stott Divide up the melody between parts , simple ostinatos, finding a narrative in music for young players.

Chas Dickie Bealach na Ba  Building in improv sections using 4 part chords and simple scales

Katherina Deserno Charming presentation on pre Du Pré lady cello virtuosos

Steven Doane Masterclass Some audio difficulty hearing this

 Bruno Giuranna see tweet above . You don't alway have to start with 3rd position

Kristain Kolman  Slovenian ESTA president Using digital media

Simon Cartledge Movement  Rhumba Hewitt Jones?

Caroline Lumsden  of MusicLand publications Good overview of method using Rhythm cards, solfa singing  and group playing

Sassmannshaus Excellent  succinct overview of  popular German method with son of original author . Check out his resource website

Silvija Sondeckiene Worth it for the simultaneous translation from Russian to English giving a truly international flavour . Focus on Davidoff concertos - unfairly overloked in the West it seems

Cathy Elliot Adapting cello material for beginner basses

listen to ‘Ruth Brons Things 4 Strings’ on Audioboo