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

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Preview: Let's French Again Festival

Food, wine films all en francais coming our way next week. The Let's French Again Festival, runs from Tuesday  ton Saturday  in Waterford city.  Special event dinners take place in the French restaurants, L'Atmosphere and La Boheme and also at the Atheneum Hotel where the delightfully named chef, Jean Baptiste Dubois presides over the kitchen. I am looking forward to the films taking place in Greyfriars Gallery. A fairly recent animation flick opens the procedings on Tuesday and the teatime slot should suit younger viewers. My top pick though is  Saturday nights offering, described in this review as 'a pop art opera' with music by the wonderful Michel Legrand. All the films are FREE events.

Also on view next week is an exhibition of art work by 1980's graduates of WIT Art Department. Among the exhibitors are familiar names from the Waterford Arts scene -Ger Kennedy, Ben Hennessy, Jane O Brien Moran among the list of contributors to the display at the Mother of Pearl Tea Rooms in Tramore.

Note added Sunday 6th April: Apologies to any of my readers who turned up at Greyfriars on Saturday expecting to see the scheduled Les Parapluies de Cherbourg. To my chagrin, for  reasons I did not manage to ascertain, the film wasn't shown and an alternative choice was shown at the earlier time of 4pm. The change was unfortunately  not posted on the festival facebook page.  

Waterford Writers' Weekend

There wasa range of attractive events on the Waterford Writers Weekend programme  I missed most of them but did manage to get a flavour of one event. Liam Merriman was the MC of the Writers' Open Mic evening on Saturday night in Downes Pub. This is a great format and I enjoyed a variety of contributers  reading poems and prose on an array of topics from showband dancehall memories,  to thoughts on bereavement. Conor Nolan read Noel O Regan's  winning entry  in the Sean Dunne Writing Competition - a short story How to Defend against Vikings, picking up nicely on the Invader theme currently  in vogue in civic arts.
Special guest on the evening was Stephen James Smith, a performance poet who didn't so much read his lines as declaim them in a suitably theatrical manner that commanded attention. Check out his style in the video below.

**The evening closed with a set of his own songs by the MC for the evening,  Liam Merriman accompanied on bass by Nick Bankes and Damien MCDonnell on percussion.

**Post  amended 31/3/2014

Related Posts MY report on WWW 2011

 and 2012

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Alpine Symphonies

I am just back from a week in Bavaria where in between soaking up the sunshine and  alpine scenery, I caught a performance by Wuppertal Sinfonie Orchestra at the Congress Hall in Garmisch Partenkirchen. Young violinist Tobias Feldman was a very sweet toned soloist in Mendelssohn's concerto but it was the dramatic contrasts in Bruckner's 4th Symphony that made the biggest impression.  Conductor Prof. Toshiyuki Kamioka had a rather dramatic podium style, almost doubling over in drawing the softest pianissimo.

 In the capital, every Munchener seemed to have downed tools and taken up positions at the pavement cafés and gardens . Nothing quite so cheerful as drinking beer to  the sound of waltzes and polkas played by a live oompah band.  It wasn't all sunshine and smiles though.  There were some grim violent scenes too. Not on the streets I hasten to add but on the set of the Bavarian State Opera production of Mussorgsky's Boris Gudonov updated to a contemporary setting. We caught up  with cast member Clare tenor , Dean Power now in his second year as a member of the Staatsoper Ensemble.
Ecco di Lorenza at Vogler's Jazz Club
Drawing Dan Foley 
Finally after a gap of five years we returned to Vogler's Jazz Bar in Munich.  We loved the mix of jazz standards dished up with a dollop of humour by vocalist, Ecco Di Lorenzo and a backing trio.

listen to ‘Brass band in Englischer Garden, Munich’ on Audioboo

listen to ‘Spanish music Innsbruck ’ on Audioboo

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Jazz in Soho - Wallis & O'Rourke

Soho is always  hive of activity. Early morning sees the food delivery vans mysteriously and quietly dropping  their cargo of goodies across the various eateries. By night, the after-work hipster crowd linger beyond the planned quick pint-after-work and commute.

Pizza Express where Dean St. brushes Oxford St delivers live jazz most night with your favourite topping on a thin and crispy.

Wallis & O´Rourke
 It's a basement venue below a conventional pizza restaurant.

I secured the last of the tickets for the Larry Willis / David O'Rourke Quartet. You pay your entry fee, order a pizza and beverage  and enjoy the gig.
What a gig!. Larry Willis has a jazz pedigree that  must be head-wrecker for those who write programme notes. Simply, he's played with everybody and even had a stint with the '70's group Blood, Sweat  Tears.

Guitar player David O'Rourke is an Irishman based in the US. Originally from Malahide he was introduced as a orchestrator and arranger. He plays a mean jazz guitar in the Louis Stewart mould. After you get over his uncanny resemblance to Fergus Finlay  you realise how great a guitar player he is. The set list  was stuffed with  mellow easy listening and even included a snippet of Mountains of Mourne for the city that was in it!

To my liking, there was little chat during the set just a few brief intros and the music did the taking 

Stephen  Keogh played drums and Jeremy Browne on the bass completed the quartet.

Great concert and great pizza.

John Hartery  - Guest Blogger

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Waterford Rhapsodies: The Backstrand and Lackendarra Jim

You know how it is. You wait ages for a WAM event and then two come along at once. I am using the acronym for that multifaceted style of event where live  musical accompaniment and projected artistic images are presented to enhance the spoken word of poetry and soliloquay. There were two such events on Sunday in Waterford. Both were quite absorbing in different ways and both took their inspiration from the county of Waterford.

In The Backstrand in ConcertMark Roper read extracts of his poetry and prose from a recently published book, The Backstrand as images  by photographer, Paddy Dwan also from the book, were projected behind the speaker. The readings  were punctuated by interludes on electric  piano played by Eric Sweeney. The musical style was minimalist, unruffled, reminiscent  of Satie's Gymnopedies.
The aerial shots were stunning giving us a fresh perspective on a spectacular resource on our doorsteps.  The Garden Room in the Medieval Museum was full for the event with many staying on for the Tricolour ceremony in the afternoon.  You can hear the cheerful sound of the Thomas Francis Meagher Fife and Drum Band as heard on the day in the audioboo below

Eileen Hayes and Michael Power with director Shauna Farrell

Lackendarra Jim County Museum Archive 
Lackendarra Jim from Rigout Productions was an extended bilingual monologue accompanied by live music  telling the life story of a shell shocked WW1 veteran who lived  as a hermit  in the Comergh Mountains.  Paul Dillon's, Jim came over as a gentle  fragile creature as he recounted the poignant tale of a West Waterford childhood, his traumatic  experiences of  war and finally his  contentment in living a simple and solitary life in a cave near Cumshingaun Lake.

|A septet  circled the stage and provided an aural backdrop of improvised sound in a folk idiom. Added to piano, bass and drums were whistle, harmonica, guitars The presence of a  small shrutie box reminded  me that the ancient Greek rhapsodes recited the epic tales of the wanderings of Odysseus to lyre accompaniment. The musical activity did at times overpower the monologue and  were microphones for all players and actor necessary in such a small venue? Lorcan Reidy's low whistle stood out from the aural canvas.

The projected brightly coloured images from drawings by Mari Lynch picked  up the themes of natural beauty and the trauma of war. A silhouette in a foetal position rimmed in jagged red recalled the iconic cover of Brian Keenan's 'An Evil Cradling' .

The evening opened with a set from Rua , an acapella vocal trio featuring  Cliona Lily and her cousins Cathy and Treasa Forristal. The ladies  had a very pleasing and secure vocal sound in a set of traditional and modern Irish songs. They seemed more comfortable singing than  in navigating the stage banter aspect of performing and appeared to take cover behind a tall music stand.

There was a clubby atmosphere in the venue which was sold out for the two night run with a gathering of friends and supporters.  The post show theatre chatter  went on long after the show in Jordans Bar where Eileen Hayes and Michael Power reminisced about Lackendarra Jim from their own childhood experience of growing up in the Comeraghs.

 Jordan's Rigout is a collective of players that  jam regularly in Jordan's Bar  on Tuesday nights. The style is eclectic, with an emphasis on  Blues, Americana and Irish folk. There is always plenty of fine  instrumentals and vocals and  tends to build to a good old fashioned sing a long towards the end of the night. On a recent visit, Paul Dillon's rousing rendition of 'Smoke that Cigarette' brought everyone to their feet.
Players in Jordan's  rise to support Paul Dillon in The Smoking Song

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Romantic Cello Classics at Christchurch

Annette Cleary plays 3rd movement Rachmaninoff Cello Sonata

What a splendid instrument, the cello is.  No shrill screeching from high E strings and perfect for the lush Romantic repertoire. Taking a line from Beethoven's love letters, Annette Cleary together with pianist Rachel Quinn, delivered a virtuoso programme titled 'Ever Thine, Ever Mine, Ever ours' at Christchurch tonight.  The playing was vigorous committed, the sonority rich and expressive. no more so than in the lyrical movement of a Rachmaninoff sonata.

The Waterford venue in the heart of the Viking Triangle was not far from where I first met Annette.  She and her sister Nicola were a star turn at the annual students concert in the Waterford Municipal Theatre.

Three small pieces, Webern
Cello Sonata No3 in A 0pus 69 Beethoven
Irish Airs 
Chopin Waltzes 
Rachmaninoff Cello Sonata G mi op 19
The Swan Saint Saens 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Poetic Licence: Attacca Quartet at Christchurch

Effective  lighting  for Attacca at Christchurch 

The Attacca Quartet are on an Irish  tour at the moment and I enjoyed hearing them last night at Christchurch Cathedral Waterford on the second evening of a six date tour. You can read a report of the opening concert on the Irish Times blog here. The  playing was very fine indeed  and they were an attractive looking group on the dramatically  lit platform in  the elegant backdrop of the 18th century interior.

Unfortunately I got caught by the early start time and missed the opening work by Adams. I think early start times and tea time / afternoon recitals are a great idea particularly on weekends but they do need to be flagged more actively  particularly when all other times in the tour are at the more conventional 8pm.

I loved the addition of a spoken element to the proceedings and it was refreshing to hear sound of well modulated accents from the other side of the Atlantic. There were subsantial  programme notes from Liam Cagney. Here is what he has to say about the 4th movement  of 'Intimate Letters'. Janacek's passionate paean to a beloved younger woman.
'The final movement, gliding on erotic impulse, expresses the composer's fear that he might 'bind your feet like a pretty little lamb' ;though the finale eventually ends triumphantly'  Judge for youself.  Here is a clip of the Attacca Quartet playing the finale of their 'Poetic Licence' programme

The Attacca Quartet are at the Triskel  Arts Centre in Cork tonight  (Note at 8pm) and Wexford tomorrow afternoon.  Tour locations and dates here 

Venue Notes : I loved the subdued lighting in the body of the church. It added much to the experience. The accoustic of the 18th century stone building suited the dimensions of an unamplified chamber ensemble and the string sonority was rich and warm. The setting of the vocal microphone sounded off. The vocal clarity was not as sharp as it might  be. I was conscious of this also at a recent talk here.