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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Voci Nuove: Cork Choral Group Raising the Bar

My preview piece on a coral concerts taking place this weekend, featuring the combined efforts of two excellent choirs is in today's Irish Examiner. You can read it here

MY e interview with MD Lynsey Callaghan and member Brendan Long is here.  Voci Nuove can be heard at the Unitarian Church in Dublin and at the Cork Vision Centre on Saturday this week.
  Can you expand  a little on  the process in finalising  the programme? 

Given the historical significance of this year, I was eager to reflect on this through music. The programme includes a mixture of contemporary works and older pieces, but, for me, all are in some way connected to war and adversity that has occurred throughout history. As well as this, there is great hope in many of the pieces so that while they comment on suffering, they also express the belief in eventual peace.

Among the predominantly 20th century/ contemporary,  Schutz represents the historic period . What is special about this  piece that earned it a slot?

This biblical text (Revelation 14:13) has been used in funeral music of many German-speaking composers. Heinrich Schütz’s six-part motet comes from Geistliche Chormusik (1648), an important collection of 29 of the composer’s motets using German-texts. The collection represents a transition in his writing and while its stylistic roots are in the Renaissance, the expressive contrasts within the piece clearly represent the Baroque era to which it belongs. The year of publication of Geistliche Chormusik is significant because during this year a series of peace treaties were signed which ended the Thirty Years’ War in the Holy Roman Empire and the Eighty Years’ War between Spain and the Dutch Republic. Although the treaties did not entirely restore peace throughout Europe, they created a base for national self-determination and their principals became central to international law and the prevailing world order. The Thirty Years’ War was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history and it was against this backdrop that Schütz composed his tribute to the dead. Presumably Schütz was not untouched by these horrors that were Raging through Europe and his words and yet in this piece we see faith prevailing, claiming 'blessed are the dead, that die in the Lord'.

only 3 years old and already much lauded. Can you fill us in on the accolades the choir have garnered to date;

Voci Nuove was formed in October 2011. It was originally comprised of  9 voices from Cork School of Music, with the goal of performing alongside Cois Cladaigh in the Galway Jazz Festival. The choir quickly rose to the heights of  receiving a choral  workshop with The King's Singers in Dublin. Voci Nuove has grown from strength to strength and in September 2012 they held auditions to expand the choir. They began performing at concerts, and in Spring 2013 they completed their first series of concerts in Cork, Ennis and Galway entitled Pitches be Crazy, hosted by and collaborating with Cantare Chamber Choir (Ennis) and Cois Cladaigh (Galway). As a part of this tour, Voci Nuove performed Spectrum by Sam Perkin, Cork, an exciting choral work which was composed for the choir. 

They began competing, winning several categories at Cork's Feis Maitiú, 2012. In 2013, the group were awarded 2nd place in the Sacred and Chamber choir categories at the Cork International Choral Festival, and were awarded the John Mannion Perpetual Trophy for their performance of Ave Regina by György Orbán. They opened this Cork Choral Festival by singing for the Shandon Sunrise, and following this they performed a challenging programme in the beautiful surrounds of Triskel Christchurch.

In October 2013, they competed at the inaugural City of Derry's International Choral Festival. Here, they were awarded first prize in the International category, and placed first in the National Sacred Music category. In November 2013, they travelled to Vienna for their first choral exchange, hosted by Amerlingchor.  This was a valuable experience for Voci Nuove, to broaden their musical artistry, by working with a new conductor, collaborating with another choir, performing instrumental music, and exploring genres not in their typical repertoire.

Voci Nuove's 2014 is already proving to be a busy and exciting year. In February we had the chance to perform Spectrum again at a Cork School of Music concert which celebrated the new music of composer Sam Perkin. The following week, Voci Nuove participated in a workshop with Grammy-award winning ensemble Chanticleer in the Cork Opera House. On 11th February, Voci Nuove supported Chanticleer in concert also at the Cork Opera House. This same week, Voci Nuove appeared on RTÉ's The Today Show to promote their concert with Chanticleer.

In April 2014, Voci Nuove launched their Spring-Summer 2014 tour, Cardboard Pocket Rag, in the Dublin Unitarian Church. On this day they were grateful to receive a pre-recital choral workshop with Michael McGlynn. Other stops on this concert tour included the Mitchelstown School of Music & Arts and the Triskel Arts Centre in Cork City. For this Triskel concert, Spizzrag, Voci hosted The Yale Spizzwinks(?), a dynamic young male a cappella ensemble from the US.

Following Voci Nuove's weekend at the City of Derry International Choral Festival 2013, Voci Nuove were invited by Cork International Choral Festival's artistic director, John Fitzpatrick, to compete in the Fleischmann International Trophy Competition 2014. Here, Voci Nuove's performance of Come Sleep by Daniel Brinsmead won the Lady Dorothy Mayer Memorial Trophy award in the Fleischmann International competition. They also received the Trofaí Cuimhneacháin Philib Uí Laoghaire award for their performance of Molaimís go léir an tAon-Mhac Chríost by Ben Hanlon. They were awarded second prize in the Ireland's Choir of the Year competition.

What have been the highlights / most proud moments 

Winning the International competition at the inaugural Derry International Choral Festival, performing in Vienna, and opening for Chanticleer in Cork Opera House all stand out.

 What direction does VN hope to go in with new MD at the helm? 

Onwards and upwards, continuing to tackle exciting new projects and music, and raising our profile in Ireland and beyond. 

Is new music a particular priority for VN ?  

I am constantly impressed by the standard of music that is being written in Ireland at the moment and the great work that organisations like the Contemporary Music Centre and the Irish Composers Collective are doing to champion the products of our composers. I think it's important for composers to have an instrument to write for and if we want more music to be written we really have to encourage this through performance. We are very lucky to have composers writing pieces with our choir specifically in mind. This is very exciting and mutually beneficial.

The venue  Cork Vision Centre  is not one I have been in before. What is the acoustic like for vocal groups/  Any particular reason for choosing this venue?

We've always striven to do things a little differently from the typical classical ensemble. Not that there's anything wrong with performing in big established venues, we just like to bring an audience to lesser explored places, both in music and location. The acoustic is perfect. The Vision Centre is a re-purposed church with high ceilings and flat walls that lend themselves nicely to acapella choral music. 

How did the collaboration with new Dublin choir come about?

It is a very exciting time for both choirs as Laetare Vocal Ensemble has just begun its journey and Voci Nuove has taken on a new musical director. It made sense for both groups with so many similarities to join up and share an exciting concert of so many 'firsts'. The choirs already have many connections: a number of past Voci members who moved to Dublin are singing with Laetare, the conductor of Voci is also a member and there are many friendships between members of the two choirs through participation in other musical activities (Irish Youth Choir, Irish Youth Chamber Choir). The collaboration works on so many levels: it means each choir gets to perform both at home and in a different city and so early on in the year; the members of each choir get to bond both within their choir and with another group; the themes can be explored more thoroughly with potentially two different perspectives or interpretations; there will be a connection between the two choirs so, should members relocate, there will hopefully be a place for them to continue their singing. There is so much musical talent in Ireland and these concerts hope to celebrate young chamber choirs and their musical achievements. It makes perfect sense for two exciting choirs to work together to create something special for all involved.

Are any of the composers involved in the rehearsal process?  

The Irish composers have been so generous with their time and talents. We have remained in touch throughout the process of learning their music and if I have any questions i know that i can drop them an email or call them and they will be willing to help.

What is your rehearsal schedule over the next few weeks leading up to the concert 

With really only one week to go, we will have our final rehearsal the night before the Dublin concert. We will rehearse in the Vision Centre and can get a feel for the acoustic and the layout. I am really looking forward to this rehearsal because, with the concert so close, I am expecting that there will be great focus and energy.

Are all your members Cork based.

We recently acquired a bass 2 who travels from Limerick and for this we are very grateful. 

How does a choir of young musicians who have not been exposed to  war approach preparing to perform works on a war theme. 

The programme is a challenging one with very sombre themes but there is also hope. Many of our pieces look to an end to war and suffering. Luckily, I don't think that any of us have had first-hand experience of war. Each piece, however, tells a story and we will try to create a scene, bringing our own experiences and emotions to the music. i think empathy is crucial for performing, so while we might not have experienced war, everyone has experienced suffering in their lives. It is our challenge to take our experiences and use them to make us better, more genuine performers. 
New MD Lynsey Callaghan

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pathos and Gaiety: Piano Trio at Waterford~Music Chamber Series

Hunka , Tinney and Johnston at Waterford City Hall
Katherine Hunka, violin
Hugh Tinney, piano
Guy Johnston, Cello (UK)
Franck: Sonata for violin and piano in A major, M. 8
Glière: Duos for violin and cello, Op. 39
Schubert: Piano Trio No 2 in E flat, D929  

Following fast on the heels of the Contempo Quartet, Waterford~ Music presented another top class evening of chamber music in the elegant Georgian Room at City Hall. There was a sense of Modern and Classical spirits converging on the Romantic in a recital given by Katherine Hunka, Hugh Tinney and Guy Johnston under the aegis of Classical Links Irelnad last week My review is in today's Irish Examiner (Weds 19 Nov).

Here is the second movement of the Schubert E flat piano featuring a glorious cello solo played here by the Beaux Arts Trio. Guy Johnston, BBC Musician of the year in 2000 gave a spine tingling performance of this movement based on a Swedish folk song.

Excellent programme notes by Enda Rohan were supplemented by introductions by Tinney and Hunka

How wonderful to be able to hear musicians of this calibre on our doorstep this great venue. More terrific evenings are lined up in the series. Looking forward to hearing pianist, Joanna MacGregor and pianist Michael McHale is teaming up with ace clarinettist Michael Collins. . Check out the details here

Friday, November 14, 2014

A Tsunami of Black Porter and a Skip Full of Blaas

Thanks to John Cloono for this colourful report on the Booze Blaas and Banter. I am proud to have been included on the bill for this annual event

Photos Ciarán Conneely
The crackling of sizzling sausages blended with the pleasant aroma from Jack Molloy's spicy breakfast beverages as early house punters gathered around the side door of Jordan's Pub, at Waterford's Quay's on Saturday 25th. last for the 2014 Booze,Blaas N' Banter gig.  A wisp of light white smoke rose gently from Jordan's beer garden,where Peter and Noel Atkins prepared the culinary delights which awaited the restless,gathering crowd.  City gulls crossed from the river to view the proceedings as other avian scavengers flew in and watched for any easy pickings, from atop Greyfrairs and The French Church.
Within seconds of the doors opening at exactly 9am, pints were being pulled and corks softened on large bottles from the shelf and cooler. Balls of white flour from Michael and Dermot Walsh's bakehouse caressed the results of the Atkins brothers labours, but now embellished with a wonderfully flavoured aromatic sauce, specially blended by Waterford's answer to the ' Roux Brothers ' or Hairy Bikers.  These warm blaas  and their savoury fillings, which passed around the bar, were quickly consumed by the hungry early morning revellers, some who claimed to have been on half rations since the previous Thursday. Pat Galvin on box and Tom Casey on banjo are quickly into their stride as the crowd settle in for a few hours of Booze,Blaas N' Banter.
By 9.30am local journalist, renaissance man and MC for the event, Ciaran Murphy,formally gets proceedings under way. Those in attendance were regaled with stories of Olde Waterford, Redmondism and Ballybricken,The Glass Factory, The Larkin Tapestry,  The Clyde Shipping Co. River Craft and Navigation as well as the Fenor Melee and 1922-1923 Farm Labourers Strike.  Dermot Power sang ' The Black Leg Miner ' docker, Dyksie Walsh gave us ' Don't Forget Your Shovel' and other Christy Moore songs. Paul Dillon played guitar and elevated us to an other dimension, whilst Cathy Desmond played Lilly Marlane and 'She through the Fair' on a magic fiddle.  Mathew Roche recited Oliver Goldsmith and Johnathan Swift whilst Louis Quinlan read from his punk poet repertoire.  Marcus and Michael Power covered anti-war and love poems and in a rip-roaring, Agi-Prop critique of Kenny's Government, Joan Burton and water tax, Konor Halpin, had the crowd roaring ' Can't Pay,Won't Pay - Water Charges, No Way ', a cacophony of sound that surely echoed all the way to the Fine Gael offices on Ballybricken.
By One O'clock,a fleet of taxi's were ferrying some of the early revellers home to their beds,whilst hardier souls retreated to the beer garden, where an informal session had started. All through the morning an overflowing crowd enjoyed their drinks and Baccy,in the late Autumn sun in front of the Central Hall, in a scene reminiscent of Hogarth's Gin Lane.  Andy Jordan agreed with the crowd that "this was the best Booze,Blaas N' Banter to date" and that apart from Blaas "there was a tsunami of black porter consumed".
The event was organised by the Waterford Council of Trade Unions as part of the Imagine Festival. The WCTU wish to thank all the readers and performers as well as all who contributed to insuring the event was a success.
JC, for the organising committee.
John Power,has pics.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Short Movies at the Waterford Film Festival

By Guest Blogger John Hartery

The 8th Waterford Film Festival went about its business this weekend with a series of sessions in Garter Lane. The venue is a good one, centrally located and with a fine cinematic set of equipment.
The festival features short films of c10 mins which are presented in batches of 6 or 7 at one sitting.
 I caught one screening which included 8 movies. They ranged from a menacing hostage revenge drama as gaeilge via an hilarious comedy set in a gym to a fine drama about grief and loss set on a river boat.

I was lucky  enough to catch the winner ' They Call Me The Kid' a sort of coming of age drama set in a fun fair. This tracked a day in the life of a 12 year old boy. He was accompanied by his imaginary guardian, a cowboy, as he overcome the challenge of his day. 
I liked Open Mic a take on the world of the London stand up comedy scene with a nice twist at the end. 

My favourite was Waterway written and directed by Carrie Crowley. This was wonderfully shot on the Shannon and captured the hidden world of the Irish inland waterways.  The piece featured National Treasure Michael Harding and Druid Theatre veteran,  Marie Mullen. Amongst the credits was somebody who had the wonderful title of Cast Mammy!
Who knows what future famous screen directors or actors were amongst the movies we saw?

Bravo to all involved and great value at €6 a session.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice at the Lime Tree, Limerick

By Guest Blogger John Hartery 

The long established College Players Theatre Company present its latest offering in the Lime Tree in Limerick this week.The Rise and Fall of Little Voice is revealing as a title but belies a work of poignancy and hindered lives.
Set in the North of England it's about a mousey young woman, Little Voice, played by Jean McGlynn who is immersed in her world of LPs of female singers such as Bassey and Garland. She is exceptionally shy but possesses a wonderful voice. The mother, Mari, terrifically played by Mary O'Sullivan is the opposite-  loud and brassy in a Bet Lynch way. Enter would-be  impresario Ray Say, Brian McNamara, who identifies Little Voice's talent and spots a chance for an earner. Added to the mix is an hilarious performance in the largely silent role of Sadie (Rebecca Murphy). Nigel Dugdale nicely played the  love interest, Billy, and David Griffin was a very believable MC. 
Written by Jim Cartwright, the play   captures the working class Coronation Street  world of; working mens' clubs, two up two down, kitchen sink, heavy drinking, northern bluntness  and with lots of black humour. 
On the first night, the accents drifted a bit and the enormous range of scene changes were largely on cue. 
The set by Garry Lombard was inventive and cleverly including an alleyway. That rarest of theatrical props a cherry picker got a run out!
Direction was by Michael Finneran. This was an ambitious venture but the seasoned group of actors and production team   did a fine job. Runs till Saturday 14th November

A Limerick Leader article  here

Friday, November 7, 2014

Jacob Deaton's Tribulation at Garter Lane

Jacob Deaton, Andrew Czibi, Kevin Lawlor 
Live jazz is a rare enough treat in Waterford so we went along to hear visiting American jazz guitarist, Jacob Deaton at Garter Lane last night. Deaton a  young man from Atlanta seemed unfazed by the low turnout and backed by a home team of Kevin Lawlor on drums and Andrew Czibi on bass gave a committed virtuoso performance of mostly original material with a standard. The extended numbers gave all three space to show their mettle and the mood was introspective, thoughtful. In the introductions, Deaton set the context of the numbers and was personable and charming and seemed genuinely delighted to be in Ireland. We could have forgiven a touch of grumpiness but there wasn't a trace in the Atlanta native's sunny mien. Kevin Lawlor was admirably restrained on drums and his subtle special effects fully exploited the possibilities of his standard drum kit with some lovely brush work. Andrew Czibi gave a virtuoso performance on bass. His extended solo in the introduction to No Sunshine was tricky using some avant garde playing techniques. All the more remarkable in that it is work Czibi is only very recently aquainted with. There was a touch of Ry Cooder's work on the soundtrack of Paris Texas on My Home blending folk and jazz.

Venue Notes: The presence  of a clearly identified front of house person to welcome  patrons was lacking.  It is disappointing to see no representative from WIT Music Department either staff or students or indeed any representative from the Jazz Weekend fraternity. Were any phone calls made by either promoter or Garter Lane to boost audience numbers?  It seems Waterford music lovers will turn out for a festival but not on a damp midweek evening in Winter. Such a pity

Set List

I have my reasons
Sketches of Trains
My Home 
I Remember You
No Sunshine  Bass solo Andrew Czibi
Inside Out