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

Friday, October 31, 2014

Waterford Music in the Large Room

I rarely buy tickets in advance for concerts preferring not to commit myself until the last moment. The early booker is not rewarded and is sometimes penalised by extra booking fees on top of the the ticket prices and there is always the chance of discounted tickets for performances with a low turnout.  Arts centres might do better to go for the budget airline model where early bookers can snap up the cheapest deal with roll ups paying the full whack.  However I broke the habit of a lifetime and took out a family subscription for the Waterford Music chamber music series. Why? Well of course I wanted to support performances of top class artists in Waterford  but what made me whip out my cheque book was that the subscription was fantastic value at €140 for 8 concerts for two people, offering  greater than 50% discount on the door price.

To date we have heard three concerts.  Contemporary  Dublin Guitar Quartet were followed by a Baroque programme by  Camerata Kilkenny .
Last night the newly appointed RTE String Quartet, The Contempo Quartet presented two distinct elements in a programme of standard Classical string quartet repertoire and  Argentinian tango. The storms and squalls of  a Beethoven Quartet in F minor were followed by golden beams  of Haydn's Sunrise Quartet. A short piece written for the quartet by Jane O Leary featured an array of modern playing effects. In the absence of programme notes, cellist Adrian Mantu and Dermot Dunne introduced the items .  The Contempo play with such a bristling energy and panache, they are always good to watch and hear. They had just the right sort of Latin edge for the collaboration with Dunne on five pieces by  Piazzola although at times they overpowered the accordion particularly in the opening number. Particularly lovely was the sultry third piece with muted strings  So beguiling was this combination of accordion and luscious strings  that I would love to have heard more and could happily haver listened to them all over again. Wonderful and all as it was to hear Haydn and Beethoven so superbly performed, it did seem a waste to have a virtuoso accorddionist sitting on his hands in the audience for the larger part of the evening.You can hear one of the pieces in the video below .

There are five concerts remaining and concerts take place on Thursday evenings in the elegant Georgian Room in City Hall. Next concert features another combination of top notch musicians -cellist Guy Johnston, Katherine Hunka (Leader ICO) and Hugh Tinney. Pianist Michael McHale with clarinettist Michael Collins and Joanne McGregor are all down for later dates. It is fantastic to have these artists perform on or doorstep.  I recommend this series highly.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

63rd Wexford Festival

I spent a couple of days in Wexford at the 63rd Opera Festival. My reviews on two of the main house productions are filed with The Irish Examiner .. My review of opening night went into print on Saturday and a second review  will be in Wednesday's edition. I may not have been ''Wilde; about a French version of Salomé but  it looked gorgeous and a Silent Night from across the Atlantic was all the things that made for a thrilling evening of opera and lived up  to high expectations. Both Mark Campbell and composer Kevin Puts were in Wexford to add a bit  of transatlantic pzazz to the occasion. Campbell tells me  he has no less than 13 opera libretto projects on the go at the moment. Clearly a very busy man. It was good to read Tom Mooney's moving piece Forgotten Voices on the Wexford men who went to war including the Wexford Echo editor's  own grandfather.
Salomé Beautiful ciaroscuro effects Lighting Design DM Wood

Marty with Silent Night team
After a couple of ho hum years, it was good to see a festival buzz back in the foyer in Whites Hotel with the Lyric FM crew ensconced in a corner. Liz Nolan in pearls and little black dress added glamour chatting to the stars and Marty Whelan looked sartorially splendid with lilac  tie  matching the station banner. Such attention to detail . We like it ! Good also to see the short works reinstated here after the years of grim exile in a local school hall. I saw a terrific double bill of English works. The cast of a G&S piece, Trial by Jury hammed it all up beautifully and the ensemble at full throttle sounded like a much  larger chorus . Holst's  The Wandering Scholar was a hoot and the cast extracted every ounce of the comedy with energetic madcap performances.  Musical director, Janet Haney's piano accompaniment was light and sparkling. An afternoon tea-time delight. .

The international contingent were well represented. Remarkably, critic, Michael Kennedy was attending for his 63rd time having attended every festival. 

Heather Humphreys was back in Wexford to announce the anointing of the house as the National Opera House to great cheers. ( I commented on the minister's rather anticlimactic post curtain call address after the IYO production last month in my Examiner review here. Little did we realise what a harsh spotlight would be shone on the Arts Minister in the week's that followed.)  Quite what the designation as national opera centre will mean in practice, nobody was quite sure. One thing puzzled me though about  the announcement quoted here. 

 And I am delighted to be able to give my full support tonight to the renaming of Wexford Opera House as The National Opera House. I have asked my officials to work with Wexford and the Arts Council to put this into effect, in recognition ofWexford’s position as the home of Ireland’s only custom built Opera House.

Now where have I seen that phrase or something very like it before? This is the description on the website of Cork Opera House '
'The Cork Opera House is the only purpose built Opera House in the country'

''only custom built opera house in the country
'only purpose built opera house in the country;

Purpose built / custom built. If there is a distinction, it seems very subtle. I do hope for the Minister's sake that the Leesiders won't take umbrage.

I didn't see Don Bucefalo, a comic opera but I gather it was great fun. It will be broadcast on Saturday on LyricFM. Silent Night goes out on the 8th November also on Lyric FM .

Wexford Festival continues with all sorts of fringe  activities to suit high and low brows from Singing Pubs, short operas, art exhibitions and recitals in addition to the three  main house productions. 

Related posts on Cathy's Reviews

Nov 07, 2011
Having successfully dipped into the fringe events earlier this week I returned to Wexford Opera House for one of the main events and attended the last night of Maria by Polish composer Statkowski. Some very useful context ...
Oct 27, 2010
Wexford with its attractive seaside port position looks very pleasant in the autumn sunshine. The first sounds ... The fringe festival is what brings me to Wexford annually and there is plenty to amuse and entertain . One of the ...
Oct 24, 2013
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 ...
Feb 18, 2012
I loved the quirky production of Dido and Aeneas at Cork Opera House but if I have to choose one of the shorter works I enjoyed the opera production of Gianni Schicchi directed by Roberto Recchia at Whites Hotel,Wexford.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Goethe Sandwich with a Schiller Crust : Schubertreise Continues

One of my top pick's of last year was a recital marking the start of an audacious musical odyssey by bass baritone, Conor Biggs and pianist Michel Stas, a long distance voyage through all 600 or so of Schubert's songs over ten years - an epic Schubertreise. My report on the occasion is here .  Part seven of the series took place in the Kevin Barry Room at the National Concert Hall last Sunday afternoon and featured the set of the  composer's songs that exist in several versions . Songs based on Goethe's novel Wilhelmeister formed the mainstay of the programme and  most of which we learned were originally set for female voices.We heard no less than five  distinct versions of Goethe's Nur Wer die  Sehnsucht kennt  better known to me from Tchaikowsky's None But the Lonely Heart.  In his introduction, Biggs  likened them to being like different versions of Van Gogh's Sunflowers.You can read the singer's detailed programme notes and more about the project here  

If the venture seemed arduous before, the task of committing to memory several not all that  dissimilar  melody lines, to the same set of words struck me as being an extreme challenge. The mood was dark and  melancholy   with most of the songs  hovering around themes of  longing and maiden's lamentations .  Biggs tackled each one with whole hearted commitment.  His drole asides ( a tiresome burglar alarm became a 'cantus firmus')  lightened the mood and gave a  fascinating  glimpse into Schubert's compositional journey with some settings from the composer's earliest work in the lied genre.  It was good to be there for another  stage of  an incredible journey with this compelling duo. The next recital is in January Dublin , surely a highlight of the NCH, new year calendar.

A taste of the endeavour included in  the video below with extracts from Schubertreise Part 7

Next recital: Sunday 11th Jnauary 3pm

Venue Notes

Checking the  for details, I was surprised not to see this feature on the main page of 'events of the month'. Details  were carried but  required further clicking to uncover them. I felt such a remarkable series should have featured more prominently alongside events in the John Field Room if not in the main auditorium  . 

Perhaps it was the mild weather but the Kevin Barry Room was over warm on Sunday afternoon. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Top Brass for Waterford1100

As readers of this blog will be aware, I have been fortunate to attend many remarkable events, some good and some superb and have attempted to describe most of them, as best I can.  I am not often stuck for words but  I feel at a loss to know what to say about last night. Leaving the Cathedral in Barronstrand Street Waterford, tingling all  over from the musical perfection presented by the ensemble and the palpable sense of occasion, just one problem niggled. Attempt to record it in mere words I must-but just how to do justice to the ladies and gentlemen of the Black Dyke Band.

Expectations were high. Would they live up to the hyperbole. Perhaps there was an element of exaggeration in the accounts?  Not a bit. No one in the 800 strong audience can have been in any doubt as to why Black Dyke  are described as the best brass band in the world. This was Olympian gold medal perfection in silver and brass performance.

Apart from the jaw dropping technical virtuosity, the impossible pianissimos, the shimmering warmth of the timbre, the  thrilling climaxes, we loved the choreography with the ensemble slickly reforming to suit each  number and a bit of  big band shaping in lighter numbers. Soloists emerged at the front to do their bit before being reabsorbed in the brass fold. The stereo effect of a group located in the organ loft engulfed us further in rich sonority.

This is an ensemble of soloists. How warm and pleading was Katrina Marzello's baritone solo in the Mario Lanza number, Be My Love. Richard Marshall conjured up a pirouetting Miss Blue Bonnet on cornet. Still a teenager, Jonathan Bates excelled in a tenor horn solo. In a change to the programme, Christopher Binns presented a fresh jazzy version of Danny Boy. the Work by Karl Jenkins and the extraordinary Triumph of Time by Peter Graham represented the 20th century in thrilling and unfamiliar new work. The biggest cheers were reserved for Cork man Gary Curtin who did impossible things on his euphonium. Carnival of Venus was full of technical fireworks but it was the baritone duo in encore piece, Highland Cathedral with twin snare drummers  that will live in my memory. Mere words added another layer in a narrative on the band's history in Paul Lovatt-Cooper's Immortal. Amid the bravura, Crimond featuring the hymn, The Lord's My Shepherd resonated perfectly  with the cathedral setting.

Despite the professionalism of  playing standard, there was a sense of the amateur in the best sense of the word,  in the sheer joy and exuberance. The band beamed at us and at each other. Everyone from Musical director Nicholas Childs down throughout the ranks seemed to be having thoroughly marvellous time. I can report that in true amateur spirit, there was no roadie crew and each member picked up their own stands and packerd up the van just like an ordinary village band  .

Just to show my critical faculties are working, I note that the programme carried listing and biographies but was  light on programme notes on the pieces. It would have been good to read some background on the unfamiliar pieces.

As Caroline Senior, director of Garter Lane Arts Centre said in her introduction this was a fitting way to celebrate Waterford 1100. We say thank you to Liam Daly and Symphony Club of Waterford, Waterford Cathedral  and Imagine Festival Waterford for presenting such a wonderful evening in one of our most historic churches. Bravo tutti!.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Imagine: The First Day

Day One Roundup

Pop Up Exhib. St Olaf's Hall photo Paul Dower
Art to Art: The arts fest proceedings set off gently with a pop up art exhibition at St Olaf's Hall from a group of lady artists. We like any event that starts with a glass of bubbly and nibbles. The task of quick and easy displaying of work by the seven lady artists was solved by erecting a few temporary railings in the lofty space with a wonderful stained glass window. We liked Lisa Byrne's Collection of Perspectives, a set of portraits of heads reminiscent of Louis le Brocquy.

Later at Greyfriars Gallery, there was a buzz of anticipation in to a packed municipal gallery  for the opening of a Patrick Morrison Retrospective, the headline exhibition of the Visual Art strand of the festival.

Anja Poche Lipfert

Over at City Hall, Camerata Kilkenny presented a smashing evening of baroque music by JS Bach. with guest soprano German soprano Anja Poche Lipfert and flautist Rachel Beckett. You can read the Irish Examiner review here    Great to see a good house in for this concert in the Waterford Music series. And in keeping with the festive spirit, there were canapés at the interval. Next event features the Con Tempo with accordionist Dermot Dunne on 30th October.

We caught the end of the world music double bill at Garter Lane. There was an alpine flavour to
Claudia Schwab's yodeling vocals melded with Eastern drones, quite a head swaying  fusion .  A Muriel Anderson and her surreal looking harp guitar joined Claudia and trio for a final waltz.
The Hard Ground 

All the way from Cork, The Hard Ground a five piece band from Cork provided the edgiest vibe of the day. Pat Carey had an impressive presence as front man and we loved the mellow duets with keyboard player Marlene Enright.  The bijou proportions of the Hall combined with the front row sofas (get in early to nab one)  made this experience pleasantly intense,  like watching late night Jools from the comfort of your living room on a very large screen. Close enough to engage in a little banter with the band if so inclined.  Next gigs at the venue  include Katakana and punk poet, Jinx Lennon. Full details here

The Imagine Arts Festival continues until 26th October . Details here

Friday, October 10, 2014

Theatre Threads at Imagine Festival

I walked the boards of the Theatre Royal twice; once as a cowboy in an Irish language edition of The High Chapperal, and on another occasion at Oisín in Tír na nÓg  complete with aluminium foil-covered spear Kevin O Sullivan Irish Times 
In tune with a town that is proud of it's theatre tradition, Kevin O Sullivan, editor of The Irish Times set out his artistic credentials in his launch address by referring to his own early experience of threading the boards. Imagine Arts Festival presents two critically acclaimed  productions at the bijou theatre space at Central Hall. In Fred & Alice and Counter Culture we hear voices from the edge in productions pared down to the essence of good storytelling. 
Described as a blistering headwreck played at a hilarious pace, Fred and Alice written by Cork playwright, John Sheehy is a quirky love story  based on an  endearing  couple, both of whom have OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). They meet in an institution, fall in love, and strike out together and navigate the ups and downs of life, each with their own coping strategies. Describing his characters, Sheehy said 'Fred and Alice haven’t accepted how they should behave. They have found their own freedom. They create their own world and make their mistakes.”  Fred and Alice stars Ciarán Bermingham and Cora Fenton in a Callback Theatre Production.

 Fred & Alice  runs at Central Hall Mon and Tues 20th and 21st October. Adm €15 and €12

In Counter Culture written and performed by Katie O Kelly,  there is a resonance in current business affairs as  reports on a union and hospitality sector clash proliferate in the media and the term  zero hour contracts enters the everyday lexicon. From a the springboard of Bewley's Café Theatre, this 'Show in a Bag' production garnered great reviews at the Edinburgh Festival and earned O Kelly significant plaudits.  With the spirit of Larkin hovering, she delves into the world or fashion retail, a labyrinth of sequins, hangars, sales targets and bunions, where the customer is always right. The inequities in the modern shopfloor are viewed through the eyes of four long suffering employees at Macken's Department Store.  Counter Culture is directed by the doyen of the one handers, Donal O Kelly.

Counter Culture runs Friday and Saturday 17th and 18th October 8pm Central Hall €10 and €7

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Free Imagine : Round up of the Best of Free Events

'The mix is complemented by the festival’s other distinguishing strand; its genuineness as a community festival, backed by many free events'  Kevin O Sullivan Irish Times  at Imagine Launch 2014

Call me a cheapskate but one of the things I love about Waterford Imagine Festival and indeed Spraoi, the street festival extravaganza is their accessibility and their 'arts for all' inclusiveness. With many free events, lack of funds should not be a stumbling block to firing your Imagination. Here is a roundup of the best free, no strings attached events you can enjoy at this year's Imagine Arts Festival.  

** Highlight Booze Blaas and Banter: Jordan's Bar Sat 25th 9am -12pm One of my personal favourite  events of the year. Who could forget Catherine Foley recalling the visit of Dan Shanahan to deliver oil and the trip down memory lane as everyone joined in with her evocation of the childhood skipping games. Teena O Connor reading from her father's memoir of fighting in the Spanish Civil brought a lump to everyone's throat. John Molloy's memoirs of his life as a merchant seaman are just wonderful. I am proud to have been invited to add to the musical interludes to the banter. I am working on some melodies with a World War 1 theme for this year's event.

Author John McKenna reads from his 5th novel Joseph Saturday 18th Oct 3pm Greyfriars Gallery
Ernest Shackleton Illustrated Talk by Michael Smith. Tuesday 21st Oct 7.30pm Central Library

Festival Heads Mark Graham: Geoffs Bar Tues 23rd 6.30pm Irelands' favourite festival junkie and blogger Mark Graham may have curtailed his journalistic activities but Mark will be at Imagine displaying his splendid photographs taken on his festival odyssey at Geoff's Bar. I dare say we will hear him read in his own inimitable voice. Well I am hoping we do. How good was it to hear those Deise dulcet tones on the national airwaves from time to time.

Cat Dowling and Band .The Vic: Sat 25th 11pm Not familiar with this artist but by all accounts she has a terrific voice and writes great stuff. You can hear her at Victoria House Tramore, one of Tramore's oldest and most popular pubs in a late night gig

WIT Book Fair
New Used and Antiquarian Books Sat 18th 

Trad Festival Club Dooley's Hotel
As part of The John Dwyer Festival Midnight -2am Fri Sat 17/18th Oct

History and Heritage Weekend: Continuing on where Booze Blaas 'n Banter left off, there are two afternoons of history talks, Sat and Sun, at St Patrick's Gateway Centre.  This year, the theme is Waterford's contribution to the Great War. Among the contributors will be Emmet O Connor (Sat 2.00pm)   and the series is put together by James Doherty who will present images of Waterford during the war on Sunday .

Parade of Light LET THERE BE LIGHT. Here's hoping the thunder and lightening will blow over for the very first Parade of Light at Imagine. Staring at the Bull Post Ballybricken at 6pm, hildren bearing willow lanterns will make their way to the Park. It promises to be dee'light' ful.

Lots of art exhibitions all over the place including Gerald Scarfe at Port Building and Patrick Morrison restrospective at Greyfriars Gallery  will be  a must see for art buffs.

Drama: Hurrah for Jim Nolan who is pivotal in making Waterford a beacon for theatre in Ireland We mourn the loss of our regional theatre company, Red Kettle but as director Ollie Bresin put it ,
very important for a city to tell it's own stories and Jim does it more eloquently and dramatically than most. We heard Jamie Beamish read from his play Dreamland at the launch. Jim Nolan launches the print version on Fri 17th at 6.30pm at The Book Centre

WIT Theatre Studies students present a reading by candlelight of a new play by Demot Curraoin Good Shepherd Chapel 7.30 pm Thurs 23rd Oct

 Ballybricken Documentary  by Mark Power 5pm Sun St Patrick's Church

Health Symposium Mad Men  Musician, Dylan Tighe and writer, Michael Harding discuss mental health with chairman Dr Mark Rowe of Prescription for Happiness seminars St Patrick's Church  4pm
 Weds 22 Oct


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Imagine: Gateway to Georgian Splendour

St. Patrick’s United Church, Patrick’s Street, Waterford, is an ecumenical congregation under Methodist care. The current 300-year-old heritage building, built in 1727 AD, is located just inside the medieval city wall on a site that dates back to the twelfth century. One of the pleasures of the Imagine launch was an opportunity to see interior beautifully restored to gleaming Georgian splendour.

There are several events scheduled for St Patricks's as part of Imagine Festival.

In order of appearance Full details on brochure here

Film and Feast: Sat 18th 7pm: Film Io Sono l'Amore ; screening with chef Dario Cavalieri dishing up food to match the Italian theme

Ballybricken Documentary 5pm Sunday 19th: People of the area recall their memories in this doc by Mark Power

Mad Men Double Bill Weds 22nd Oct Afternoon symposium with Irish Times columnist, Michael Harding and musician Dylan Tighe followed by evening of storytelling and song 4pm and 8pm

Tim Erikensen Friday 24th 8pm: Highly regarded on the American folk scene, Tim Eriksen was the music consultant on Cold Mountain.

Lee Ranaldo : Sat 25th 9pm Best known as the guitarist with seminal alternative rock group, Sonic Youth. One of just two Irish appearances.

History and Heritage Weekend Sat and Sun 24 and 25th 2-5pm: There seems to be a great appetite in Waterford for insights into our past and talks at the Museum and at local history societies are reporting full houses. The format will be 40 min talks around the theme of the Great War with Q&A Speakers include Emmet O Connor and James Doherty who curates the weekend programme

There are plans to develop the whole site as a community centre to serve the many needs of Waterford inner city. The St. Patrick’s Gateway Centre Ltd is a charitable company established to oversee this new initiative.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fire Your Imagination at Imagine 2014

Imagine Arts Festival Waterford  16-26th October

Imagine Arts Festival  is almost upon us and there is a just a fortnight or so to peruse the programme and savour the anticipation of the impressive range of events lined up for this eclectic arts festival.  Here is my pick of the highlights of the  first three days.
Imagine 2014

Gary Curtin Euphonium

Black Dyke Band: Saturday 18th Oct Cathedral Barronstrand St 
The tradition  of Brass Bands associated with the industrial heartland of the North of England may have waned with the closure of the mines and cessation of the mills but some of the very best brass bands in the world are still found in this corner of England . Roy Keane is not the only Mayfield man to be excelling in Manchester arenas Embedded in The Black Dyke Band is Gary Curtin, a virtuoso euphonium  player from Cork.  The draw of hearing one of their own in
the only Irish appearance of the Black Dyke Band has led to a run on tickets and a move to a larger venue. Expect an influx of buses bearing Leeside brass fans to descend on the Cathedral on Saturday.
I asked Liam Daly, administrator of SCOW Symphony Club of Waterford,  what is so special about Curtin. "An amazingly talented musical and technically versatile musician to have come from the Banks of the Lee, to have studied at the Cork School of Music, to grace the stages of some of the greatest concert halls in Europe,and to hold the Solo Euphonium position with with one of the worlds greatest Brass Bands is a testament to his talent"   

Anja Poche Lipfert with Camerata Kilkenny  Thursday 16th Oct

Listeners to Gloria, RTE's sacred music programme will have heard Tim Thurston wax lyrical about the Calmus Ensemble from Leipzig who performed at the Borris River Arts Festival recently.  Anja Poche Lipfert, soprano with the ensemble returns to perform with the Kilkenny based Baroque ensemble led by Malcolm Proud at the harpsichord. The concert is part of the Waterford Music series and takes place in the elegant Georgian Large Room at City Hall . The programme will feature music by JS Bach. Waterford Music work hard to bring a regular offering of attractive  chamber music  to Waterford despite having their funding slashed . You can check out the full schedule for the Waterford Music series here 

Jim Nolan Book Launch Book Centre Friday 17th Oct. 6.30pm
The Gallery Press launch Dreamland by Waterford playwright Jim Nolan at The Book Centre.

Art Exhibition.
Gerard Scarfe's political cartoons are on view in The Waterford Port building on O Connell St from 7.00pm Sat 17th October

Lots more to choose from with two World Music ensembles at Garter Lane on Thurday and one man theatre presentations at Theatre Royal and Central Hall. The John Dwyer Trad Weekend will be in full swing with sessions all over the Quay. Legendary box player , Mairtin O Connor is headlining the bill on Saturday night at Dooley's Hotel.

John Adams in Waterford  Modern music buffs may like to note that Io Sone l'Amore, the film scheduled for Film and Feast evening on Sat 18th features a score by modern minimalist composer John Adams. I think I might have warmed to Nixon in China if it came with some lovely Chinese grub.