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

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Call Mr Robeson at Garter Lane

 Tayo Aluko has travelled the world since 2007 telling  the story of Paul Robeson, the black American singer and actor and activist. He arrived at the Garter Lane Arts Centre, Waterford on International Human Rights Day. He was most sympathetically accompanied by Cork based pianist, Michael Young. In addition to relatively straightforward song accompaniment, there was a lot of underscoring of script of an improvisatory nature.  You can read the eminent Guardian theatre critic, Michael Billington's review here 

At the close of the thought provoking show, Tayo Aluko conducted a Q& A. Had anyone ever heard him live. Yes, one patron volunteered, her parents had seen Robeson in London while on honeymoon. Newly wed and all, her mother  was smitten. On the singer's death, this lady had sent a letter of condolence to Robeson's only son adding her reminiscences of her parents's experience and was very touched when Robeson Jnr  had sent a lovely letter in response to  her, no celebrity, but a lowly typing pool worker in a London firm. . At each venue a programme note with musings and social commentary on recent events highlighted  resonance between the  stage and current Irish events updated at each venue. Kilkenny version in link. This story could be and has been told in the from of a 2D TV documentary. But one man standing in front of you   telling the story with passion and commitment lives  far longer in the memory . Mr Aluko chatted and signed autographs after the shoe. Although he has traveled far  telling the stroy for a long time , he seemed as fresh and enthusiastic greeting Waterford theatre goers as if it was a premiere. He did four shows in Ireland.  It wouldn't surprise me at all to see this show returning for a few more Irish dates. Watch out for it. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

IBO Messiah in Georgian Splendour

The late Eric DeCourcy 
In my youth, I was a member of  Waterford Orchestral Players, A major part of the repertoire then was oratorio and there was an annual performance in one or other of the Georgian cathedrals. I remember playing Haydn's Creation, Handel's Samson, Mendelssohn's Elijah and of course Messiah with Eric de Courcy conducting  and Fintan O Carroll leading.  It was great training. Opportunities to play Handel's most popular work have been frequent since and always welcome. It was a rare experience though  to actually sit in the audience pews myself but an opportunity to hear the Irish Baroque Orchestra on my doorstep could not be passed up. The performance was part of the Symphony Club of Waterford series.

Under the direction of Eamonn Dougan of the English vocal group The Sixteen, The  Irish Baroque Orchestra, leader Claire Duff with 16 voice Resurgam |Choir presented a lithe and graceful reading of Handel's masterwork in which the poetry in Jennens libretto was allowed to shine.
 I am not a devotee of period instruments and don't ooh and aah over curvy bows and gut strings but I did enjoy the clarity  of the performing style. Although the soloists were all very good, it was the relatively inexperienced youngsters, Sinead O Kelly and Eamonn Mulhall who best matched the nimbleness of the instrumental ensemble  The tenor aria Behold and See with the preceding recitative Thy Rebuke Hath Broken His Heart was a highlight. Soprano aria How Beautiful are the Feet of Him was effortless and beautiful. Just how sparing Handel was in in his deployment of trumpets and drums surprised me. Owen Gilhooly and , Anne Marie Gibbons, both seasoned operatic performers lacked a bit of heft in the lower register  of their arias being more mezzo and baritone rather than bass and contralto.  Owen Gilhooly's rousing  delivery of the  bass aria, The Trumpet Shall Sound with was terrific getting right to the heart of the text. The acoustics in this John Robert designed Georgian space were very sympathetic to the forces.  Excellent * * * *

Sinead O Kelly 
Anne-Marie Gibbons (mezzo),
Eamonn Mulhall (tenor),
Owen Gilhooly (baritone)
with Resurgam choir. 

Festive Music: ICO Joyeux Noel

Irish Chamber Orchestra
Katherine Hunka Director
Ailish Tynan Soprano
Rudi de Groote Cello
Cliona Doris Harp 

  • Saint-Saëns          Le deluge Op. 45, Prélude
  • Vivaldi                  Paris Concerto No. 2 in E minor, RV 133

  • Mahler                  Adagietto (from Symphony No. 5)
  • Britten                  Les Illuminations
  • Debussy               Sacred & Profane Dances for Harp and Strings
  • Francaix               From Quinze Portraits D’Enfants
  •                             In the Luxembourg garden
  •                             Madame Charpentier’s Children
  •                             At the Piano
  •                            The Baby with a Spoon
  •                            The Schoolboy
  • Martinet             Le Petit Papa Noel
  • Wade                  Adeste Fidelis   
  • Saint-Saëns       The Swan (from Carnival of the Animals)
  • Gruber/Mohr     Silent Night

I enjoyed the Irish Chamber Orchestra's festive French themed programme in the magnificent Gothic stone St Fin Barre's Cathedral .  You can read my review which appeared in Saturday's Irish Examiner here  It was a great pleasure  to hear soprano Ailish Tynan. I last heard her when she was  a guest soloist in Chansons d'Auvergne for a concert with Maynooth University Orchestra of which I was a member around 2001 or so. She was just setting off to begin her studies in London. where she now lives and enjoys a very successful career. The Francaix pieces escaped mention. They wee described by Liz Nolan in her comprehensive programme notes as 'bright, bumptious and gleeful'. Just right. 

Jorg Widmann
It isn't that long since I heard the ICO at their home base at UCH  . I had imagined that the Wunderkind of the programme title applied to the conductor  Jorg Widmann who was all over the programme as conductor , chamber music musician and composer in an impressive display of mulit tasking
. In fact the title applied to the Mendelssohn whose teenage works formed the mainstay of the programme.  You can read that review here 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Other Voices from the Other Side of the Street

Main Street Dingle

Cathy's Highlights Other Voices
Best Hang Out: Benners Hotel Lobby / Green Room
Best Spoken Word Event: Banter 98  at Foxy John's  guest Paul Galvin
Best Solo Perfromance: Colm Mac Con Iomaire on 5 string zither violin at An Lab
Best Act : Lost Brothers 
Best Local Contributer: Padraig O Sé Box Player 

Amid the   clamour of wind and rain, gig junkies and musicians made the annual pilgrimage to  Dingle for the annual niche  music festival, Other Voices.  At its core, three nights of  uber cool TV programmes featuring an eclectic mix of genres. The spin off--an   extensive fringe  of live  gigs from early afternoon  to late  draws pilgrims out of the cold into the huddle of cheerful  pubs and the more hallowed civic and sacred spaces in the South Kerry town on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.  
 If you are not in St James Church, Dingle  for the Other Voices broadcasts, the next best place to be is across the road in the relative comfort of Benner's Hotel, The elegant town house lobby acts as a green room for the performers and crew.  Phillip King looking dapper in skinny jeans and maroon bomber jacket greeted the new arrivals and artists breezed through the lobby all spruced up in their stage gear before being miraculously 'teleported' onto the big screen in front of us  like Mike Teavee in Willy Wonka's Factory

There are advantages to the hotel lobby OV experience other than proximity to the bar. The lobby audience are not bound by the same rules of etiquette such as applauding and refraining from chatting among themselves. There is a  moment on Friday though, when a hush descends, the chandeliers are dimmed and all eyes and ears lean forward, the better to hear the  sotto voceLost Brothers' beguiling close  harmonies. Flanked by  twin fiddlers, Colm Mac Con Iomaire and Steve Wickham,  something magical happens as the four musicians move onto a plane of perfect visual and melodic  symmetry and both sides of the Main Street seem to resonate  in a sense of communion.  You could hear a proverbial  pin drop and there is for the first time that evening an outbreak of applause. 

 More sibling resonances as real life French /Cuban twins Ibeyi  filled the ethic/ world music slot. Their expressive gleeful features leaped out of the box. They accompanied themselves on piano and beat box but it was  their a capella Yoruba songs that  most captivated the lobby contingent.

Colm Mac Con Iomaire 
It was standing room only for Colm Mac ConIomaire’s , solo fiddle gig at An Lab, a black box theatre space housed in a school. Known for his association with The Frames,  the Dubliner featured also on David Gray's hit album White Ladder. He augmented his sean nos inspired improvisatory fantasies with a series of loops from a foot pedal station, which he jokingly referred to as his recession quartet.  He was joined by Catherine Fitzgerald on piano for a portion of the set. The Dubliner plays a distinctive  5 stringed instrument known as a zither violin with a broad bottom and angular shoulders made by 18th century Dublin luthier,  Perry. 

Mac Con Iomaire joined The Lost Brothers for their late afternoon gig at An Diseart .  The audience  crammed into the mahogany pews  listened with an intensity bordering on reverence under the lilac glint of the Harry Clarke stained windows.  
Fireside Banter with Jim Carroll

Over at Foxy John's Pub, music journalist Jim Carroll took up a position  by the fire for the 98th Banter session, a series of interviews with musical interludes podcast for an online audience  Interviewing a somewhat guarded Paul Galvin about his new book, it emerged that his writing talents had been spotted at school and he might well have gone into journalism.  You can listen to that podcast here . 

Back in Benner's for the evening broadcast. Damien Rice had us swooning with his witty lyrics en francais and  we chatted among ourselves as Mercury winners, Young Father's  raucous heavily choreagraphed routine  didn't quite transmit effectively through the glass and chrome  receptacle.  'Not quite my cup of tea' was one punter's summary. It was good too to hear local  box player, Padraig o Sé's emphatic slides and polkas coming in on the Saturday night air in Main Street.

To stay near the main hub of activity, you won’t want to pass Benner’s Hotel .  Although the town was buzzy, there were plenty of vacancies with just a few premises displaying house full signs. We stayed at the Marina Lodge which offered bright and comfortable budget accommodation in a super  waterfront location a stones’ throw from the town centre .


Monday, December 8, 2014

Limerick Choral Union: Celebrating 50 years of Singing


On Sunday, it was my pleasure to join the orchestra for one of the biggest choral events of the year. Limerick Choral Union marked the end of their 50th year with an epic choral extravaganza featuring 240 choristers, a trio of soloists and a 53 piece orchestra. Always an outfit to do things in style, LCU invited Galway Choral Association, a teenage choir from Villiers Secondary School and boys and girls from Scoil Ide to join them . The collaboration across the generations and county borders made this a truly joyful vibrant occasion. Musical director Malcolm Greene pulled all the elements together with his customary energy, enthusiasm and attention to detail.

Soprano Jean Wallace
A fearless Jean Wallace stepped into the breach caused by an indisposed Franzita Whelan. Poulenc's Gloria is a gorgeous six movement work full of colourful contrasts. The comprehensive programme notes reminded us that the work was premiered in Boston in 1961 not too long before the choir was first formed. The dramatic stakes were raised with a performance of Carl Orff's epic choral cantata, Carmina Burana.  based on two dozen medieval Latin texts on the fickleness of fate and the perils and pleasures of  overindulgence. Jean was joined by Hungarian baritone Gyula Nagy and Derek Moloney in counter tenor mode The  varied palette of vocal timbres and textures enhanced with unusual rarely heard orchestral colours  in wind and percussion sections made for  rich musical tapestry  

The house was full to capacity and after a standing ovation, choristers, musicians and patrons lingered a long time in UCH foyer  to savour the occasion, a fitting finale to the Limerick City of Culture. I was proud to be a part of it.

The programme will be repeated in Galway with Choristers of St Nicholas Scola Cantorum at Seapoint, Salthill, on Saturday 31st January 2015

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Lines of Vision: Words and Pictures at the National Gallery

To celebrate 150 years of the National Gallery, 56 Irish writers have been invited to select  a picture from the house  collection and to contribute a literary response  to the work to a new book edited by Janet McClean, Lines of Vision: Irish Writers on Art. You can view all the paintings selected in a special exhibition running at the gallery until April. Many of them are familiar. Included is the Caravaggio, The Taking of Christ selected by John Banville. There are several of Jack B Yeats paintings and that misfortunate Monet now rehung is looking none the worse for wear Copies of the book are on hand so you can read the response and view the painting. Admission is free.

You can read Peter Murray's extensive piece in the Irish Examiner  on the project here

You can hear several of the authors interviewed by Sean Rocks on an RTE Arena special recorded in the gallery. Listen back here