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

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Bunmahon Copper Miners' Story

Guest Blogger: John Hartery
On Saturday at the Imagine Festival there was a screening of the film about the Bunmahon copper miners. The movie is a community endeavour. The outcome  of a project involving the Copper Coast organisation and the residents of the coastal village.

The mining industry in Bunmahon lasted from the 1840's till the latter part of that century. Workers climbed down ladders and out under the sea bed and mined dreadful conditions. Women and children were also employed to break up the mined rock to extract the ore. The finished product was carried away on schooners to smelting works in Wales. The mines of Bunmahon are an important part of our history and the film gives us a a vital insight into the lives of our Déise forefathers

Tina Keating from the Copper Coast Geopark outlined the social conditions prevalent during the mining period. The village swelled to a population of over 3,000 during production. Afterwards, many miners migrated to Montana and mined there.
Sean Corcoran and Angela Mulcahy who made  the movie were on hand to describe how it was shot.
It's a short film of approximately 15 minutes and will be of interest to social and local historians and those in the education sector. A further 5 or 6 shorter documentary pieces accompany the main work.
Further details of the movie can be found here . It can be seen again at the Waterford Film Festival on 9th November

This YouTube clip illustrates the working conditions (no connection to the film)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Poole's Pictures Draw The Crowds 100 Years On

The original Trip Advisor

Booking office for British railway now Jordans American Bar the Quay Waterford from the Poole Collection

By Guest Blogger: John Hartery

On the Saturday of the bank holiday in the Granville Hotel those wonderful people from the Imagine Festival Waterford put on a talk about the Poole photographs from a century ago. I thought I'd ramble in and be amongst a handful of hardy afficionados part social history, part photographic buffs. I was completely wrong. The joint was heaving and every available perch was taken as an overflow of all ages snaffled the last few spots on the floor.

Who was this Poole guy and why are folk still keen on his work?

Tramore photographer Margaret O'Brien Moran  is now working on the Poole Collection a treasure trove of original photographs from the late 1800's / early part of the last century. A.H.Poole was originally from Somerset but moved and lived in Waterford in 34 The Mall, a glorious building next to the one of T.F.Meagher fame. O' Brien Moran explained the work underway to digitise the original plates by the National Library of Ireland and the National Photographic Archives. The rich history that can be gleaned from the reverse of the original photograph was  illustrated and the archive also include's Mr Poole's original accounting records.  The collection is believed to be the largest collection of identifiable portraits in Ireland. Contributions from the floor discussed the quality of the photographs and how they stand up to scrutiny in micro-close up to reveal the content of posters, newspapers etc. Curiously,  it was revealed that Mr Poole left a note for his family in 1929 'going to Tramore' and was never seen again.

The  Poole archive is available for viewing  here.

July 22, 1922
Diffused bomb in Granville Hotel Waterford 1922 from Poole Collection.
 James Doherty delivered a talk in the second half of the event as plans for a walk around scenes from the original photographs were shelved for weather  and the now legendary Quay  roadworks reasons. This part was fascinating as Mr Doherty showed some of the Poole photographs which are available in high quality on Flikr - sample here. Many of the pictures have annotations from viewers that adds to our knowledge.

The Siege of Waterford was discussed and photographs used to illustrate the events. On the right  is a picture of Free State soldiers with a diffused bomb. You can read more about the events of the time and the Siege of Waterford here

Chamber of Commerce
Chamber of Commerce, Waterford 1930 from the Poole Collection
However, it seemed it was the  shop fronts, interiors and street-scapes of the last century in Waterford city centre that drew the most attention and interest. It is not evident now that the wonderfully decorated shops from Poole's pictures are matched by today's stores.
February 7, 1907
The extraordinary merchandising of Jones, chemist The Quay, Waterford from the Poole Collection

It us understood that the National Archives intend arranging an exhibition of his work next year. Let's hope that the people of Waterford can see the original pictures  in his hometown.

A wonderful event and well done to everybody involved.


End Of Term a play by Noel Kelly

By Guest Blogger John Hartery

Nestled away in the middle of the Waterford Imagine Festival was a little gem. We arrived just in time to get the last available tickets on the Friday night of the run.  Noel Kelly is well known to local theatre-goers and his latest offering is a fine piece. End Of Term is a short play about a middle-aged man who wonders 'have you ever asked yourself, is that all there is to life?'. It's a two-hander with Brendan Payne playing the part of Michael and Lorraine Murphy as  Maura. The production group is the local Stagemad

The play is lightly-rooted in Waterford with a nod to the high water (1959) and low water (2008) points  in local sport. It is recalled that the couple's first date was to the Granville where she drank Stag.The format of the early part of the work is a series of monologues as we see their marriage gradually break up. There's a fling for Michael with his fellow teacher and the impact of the recession on the Maura's business.  Payne delivered an outstanding performance and wonderfully traced the lead up to the mid life crisis he faced. Murphy was a perfect  foil and wholly convincing as the wife at a loss as her husband reassessed  his life.

The final scene from Payne was powerful and memorable. The play was directed by James Power with Liam Fitzpatrick as stage manager and Richard Collins subtlety  looking after the sound and light.  Well done to all involved!

Venue Notes 
 The Central Hall venue is a wonderful addition to the city's theatre space and plaudits to Red Kettle for its efforts to do this. Friendly and helpful staff added to the occasion. We look forward to return visits. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Love Hat: Il Capello di Paglia di Firenze opens 2013 Wexford Festival

The 62nd season of opera productions at Wexford opened in fine style with Il Capello di Paglia di Firenze, a fizzy light hearted comedy from the 20th century Italian composer, Nino Rota, better known for his film scores than grand operatic works.

The farcical plot hinges on the frantic road trip of a desperate groom followed by his unsuspecting wedding entourage in the hunt  for a very particular style of straw hat which he must be replace exactly to avert a duel and be reunited with his bride. This was great fun, a stylish production delivered with panache by the large cast, chorus and orchestra.
What were the elements that added to the sugar rush of this entertaining theatrical confection.

The Music: The music isn't so much in the style of the his 20th century film music but more retrospective, a sort of mélange of  Rossini  and Verdi. Throughout, the Spanish conductor, an assertive Sergio Alapont set an energetic bouncy pace that didn't let up . The orchestra led by Fionnuala Hunt responded with verve, the  strings veering from strident heavy vamping rhythms to lush sweeter sonorities and  there was some lovely solo work from solo wind timbres.

The Cast: Among the large cast, there was a native Florentine tenor with Filippo Adami replacing Davide Giusti originally cast. While all made the most of the comic element of the roles, two performances stood out for me . Claudia Boyle as Elena looked and sounded stunning . Filippo Fontana as jealous husband Beaupertis brought an extra edge to the madcap proceedings .

The chorus: The show was stolen by the Ladies Chorus. The catchy Milliners'  chorus at the opening of Act Two was the highlight of the show with the pizzicato string bass  accompaninent perfectly complimenting the on stage sewing motions .

The Costumes. Director Andrea Cigni sets the action in 1950's Paris. The bright colourful dresses and morning suits evoked the era of the MGM musical world of Gene Kelly and Audrey Hepburn.

The Set: The set was relatively unsophisticated . The heavily raked stage meant we could see the large cast easily but did give you the feeling that the action was happening on the rooftop . The painted billboards reinforced the Hollywood Musical theme but the staging didn't help to convey the sense of the action moving around to different locations and was for me the least satisfactory aspect of an otherwise sparkling production.

The Horse of Course Finally -that white horse I expected to see galloping across the stage in Maria on my last trip to Wexford in 2011? --- Well, to cap it all.  a white horse put his head in for a cameo appearance at the finale.

Related Posts Maria Wexford  2011 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cat and Chris Wood: Tuesday at Imagine Waterford

In Waterford, the word 'cat', used as an adjective, is  local slang-a derogatory term casting aspersions on the merits of an event .   So with that unpromising subliminal association, combined with a more overt connection  with that  of a certain well known musical theatre show in my mind, I went along to the Central Hall to see  'Cat',  a theatrical presentation offered as part of Imagine Festival. I am happy to declare that the deft one hander  directed by Jamie Beamish was anything but 'cat ' . Au contraire. Cat was was an excellent, well paced  and highly entertaining yarn. From the opening I was drawn in  to empathize with the likeable  theatrical animal , Dave, a wanabe Jellicle cat by the engaging performance of  Richard Hardwick, who seemed at first glance to have arrived direct from the West End .  But there is a sting in this tale...   By all accounts, Cat went went down a treat at the  Edinburgh Fringe . Last chance to catch it in Waterford tonight but expect to see it popping up at a festival near you. Here is the blurb-

'CAT is the story of “Dave the Cat” and how he was sacked from the original production of that famous musical “Cats” on opening night, and has never quite recovered. The show lets us into a world of backstage drama, romance and intrigue, and features songs supposedly “cut” from the original musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber (but don’t tell Andrew). Seating limited so book early. Not suitable for under 16′s.'

Later in the evening further down the Quay , the mood was thoughtful as English troubadour, Chris Wood had his audience in the Dooley's Hotel enthralled. with his distinctive mellifluous low tones. In his poetic lyrics and rueful asides he offered sharp observations on life in his well crafted grainy songs.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Little John Nee brings Sparkplug to Imagine Waterford

Little John Nee 'Sparkplug'

Waterford is a hive of activity  in October during the Imagine Festival. The impressive range of events take place in venues around the  in the smaller spaces of the South Eastern capital. The was an invasion of  eminent trad folk from Clare with  members of the Cotter clan , virtuoso fidlder Maeve Donnelly and scholarly concertina player Tim Collins  all in town as part of the John Dwyer Trad weekend. On Saturday night Little John Nee brought his latest theatrical invention to the bijou theatrical space of the Central Hall Waterford. The set was an intriguing  cornucopia of bric a brac , pallets and the accoutrements of a vintage car mechanic. To the forefront were a consort of ukuleles and various other musical instruments. This is the third of Little John's shows that I have seen.  His collaboration with Raymond Keane of Barabas in Johnny Patterson, The Singing Irish Clown produced a memorable theatrical experience that had a particular resonance to audiences in Ennis where I saw it. The Derry Boat mined the experience of  Northern migration to Scotland . Yet again the the versatile and unusual artist drew us in to the beguiling world of a character on the margins of society inviting us to empathise with a skillful blend of humour,  pathos and melody. Before loading up his van and heading West, Little John spoke  to me about his latest creation, Sparkplug,  You can hear that interview here

Little John Nee at Red Kettle HQ

listen to ‘Little John Nee’ on Audioboo

On the night he performed all the parts himself using the eclectic range of instruments  and loop pedals to set up an inventive aural backdrop of ostinatos adding to the melodramatic effect. You can here a version of the show with other actors playing some of the parts in this RTE Drama podcast

To paraphrase the author,  there is no better way to spend a Saturday night than in the company of a Rockabilly Conceptual Artist . Have a listen and see what you think.

Related posts

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Barbershop Quartets, a Thrupenny Piece and Sacred Songs all in an October weekend

Barbershop Quartets , a Thrupenny Opera  and Sacred Songs.

‘How do you know there is a lead at the door- They don’t know when to come in and can’t find their key’ Just one of many gags delivered by the cheery Yorkshire Lady  who acted as MC  for an audience at the Theatre Royal Waterford on Friday  Cognoscenti among you will of course recognise that the audience must have been singers of the barbershop variety  and indeed the 2013 Irish Association of Barbershop Singers Convention  was held in the medieval port city this weekend. If the world of choral singing is a lake, barbershop singers constitute a significant rockpool and 600 or so  of the Irish members with guests from overseas gathered to indulge in their vocal passion. It was quite an heady blend of great good humour, glorious four part harmony and show biz pzazz , part X Factor and part Phoenix Nights. No programme was available, so I can’t credit any individuals or name the event but Friday night’s competition was won by the Bray Ladies Chorus, Serendipity for their rendition of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The Ladies must have been in make up for hours to get the striking impasto  effects in their monster stage make up  Stephen from the Cambridge explained to me the distinction between a choir and a chorus.  Special Guests  The Gateway Chorus from San Francisco and The Old School Quartet were superb and threatened to list the roof of the Victorian auditorium . The party continued after the show at Tower Hotel  where the Festival Club was delightfully named Afterglow where the group gathered the chat and warble I into the small hours.

Venue Notes: I arrived at the Theatre Royal a little late to find one of the front of house staff standing in the doorway as if to deter anyone casually strolling in off the street.  I wondered for a moment if it was a private  event but on enquiring about ticket availability , the young man gestured towards the Box Office . I can’t say that I was impressed by the welcoming attitude of the Theatre Royal Team on this or recent visits.

The Threepenny Opera  by with libretto by Brecht and music by Weill is  most famous for the standard, Mac the Knife . A rare chance to see the emblematic 1920’s work was presented by the Gate Theatre production  for the Dublin Theatre Festival. I was lucky to secure a cancellation on Saturday night. The press reviews have been unanimously positive about the production and expectations were high. I did enjoy it but found almost two hours for a first half without an interval a little arduous. The forces assembled were impressive almost thirty players between cast and musicians. Among them an eight piece ensemble lead by Cathal Synnott supported the 20 or so actor/singers. I loved the real harmonium and among the pit players placed on stage, Karl Ronan on trombone excelled as the predominant voice in the pit. Not for the first time, I note the role the Artane Boys Band has played in producing superb professional brass players. It was good to hear  Brendan Doyle from Waterford in the ensemble.
Venue Notes. The Gate especially when packed is not the most comfortable theatre especially if you come in last and your seat is at the end of the row. Get in early and don't count on being able to get out easily.  I am always impressed by the authoritative presence of the Front of House Manager 

Palestrina Choir

Sunday Palestrina Choir Director Blanaid  Murphy Organist Gerald Gillen.  11.00 Sung Mass Pro Cathedral
As ever , the best music with superb musicians was to be heard for nothing, no ticket required and open to all in the capital ecclesiastical spaces. The Palestrina Choir sang a varied programme of old and new in a programme including Herbert Howells, Mozart and a new work by Scottish composer James McMillan, with responses by Colin Mawby and plainchant all executed with skill and style. The ceremony opened with the choir processing up while singing the opening hymn, All Creatures of our God and King, the words provided to encourage congregational participation . At the close , the choir lined up at the altar and their efforts were acknowledged and the new  senior positions were announced. The proceedings closed with a splendid organ voluntary by Widor by  Gerard Gillen on the Pro Cathedral Organ. Excellent!