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

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hooked at Central Hall

The Cast of Hooked, making its world premiere in Waterford this January
Hooked_Poster_clontarf_web  Hooked, written by Gillian Grattan and directed by Don Wyncherly is having a run at the Central Hall Theatre  in Waterford before moving to the Viking Theatre, Clontarf. Looking at the promotional shots  for Hooked,with a main protagonist sporting fishing gear and pink smalls,  you might expect a light hearted, farce, While there is an element of whimsy, Ballykissangel it ain't and  it is quite a bit murkier that. The plot synopsis is set out as  'Attractive young Dubliner, Lydia retreats to a small country village in an attempt to escape from her past and reinvent her future. She moves in next door to Tom and Mary, the typical country neighbours, or are they?
Lydia quickly becomes the object of curiosity not only for Tom and Mary but the community at large . Tension mounts between the two women, setting in motion a gripping and unexpected chain of events that threatens to expose the secrets and lies bubbling beneath the surface in this small, close-knit rural community'. 

The  characters and their entanglements  are revealed through a series of monologues  with a simple backdrop a washing line and   a shelf of domestic odds and ends.  The performances are terrific. Tina Kellegher is the surly scheming  house wife. Steve Blount plays husband Tom -a bit of a gom with a penchant for satin and Seana Kerslake is hippy dippy  Lydia. The language is at times quite salty. It is funny The midweek  preview audience cackled frequently throughout. But there is an edge to it that did reel me in over the 90 minutes or so. With good sound effects, the piece has the rhythm and feel of a radio play.
This production is described as a professional directorial debut for the well known TV actor. (A radio version of the play garnered a PPI award in 2011). In 2012, a version of the play  was produced in New York under the title Fish Out of Water. While we rue  the loss of our professional theatre company Red Kettle it is good to see a good quality theatre in this intimate space.

Hooked  by Gillian Grattan continues at Central Hall, Waterford  until Saturday 31st Jan €15

Q& A with Director Don Wyncherly after Thursday performance.

Venue Notes.  Lighting was very subdued, too dark to read a programme during the delay before curtain up.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Soundtracks for Superpowers: Galway Mid Winter Festival

Note Jan 2016 : Looking back over the years' events, I noticed this report on the Galway Midwinter Festival languishing in the draft section.   This year's festival is  titled 'Captive Music from the Abyss' Read more about it here!midwinter-festival/cyxe

Sunday, 18 January 2015, 15:00, Town Hall Theatre
HAYDN Quartet
SHOSTAKOVICH Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110
HAYDN Berenice che fai?
SHOSTAKOVICH Piano Trio No. 1 in C major, Op. 8 *
SHOSTAKOVICH Two Pieces for String Octet, Op. 11 * 

Tickets: €20. MfG Friends and Concessions: €16. Students (full time): €6. Festival Ticket: €55/€45 

I don't often get to Galway but a fine sunny day and an afternoon time slot and an opportunity to hear a range of top class performers in one fell swoop prompted me into making the trip from Limerick  and I was glad I did. Here is my review of the final concert of the Midwinter Music Festival. 

Review Midwinter Festival Galway
Soundtracks for Superpowers was the catchy  title for the Midwinter Festival in Galway , a weekend of chamber music performances juxtaposing two composers centuries apart whose work was inextricably linked to the powerful patrons they served.  In his second festival as Artistic director, Finghin Collins used the format which has served him well in the New Ross Piano Festival.  Rather than assign one ensemble to an event, a panel of high calibre performers participated in each performance thus imparting contrast of timbre and style. There was a convivial salon ambiance with Collins and his committee front of house to greet patrons and performers sat in the audience to listen to colleagues. These little things mean a lot.

What’s finer than a string quartet – two string quartets. On Sunday afternoon, the visiting Carducci Quartet were joined  by the home team, Galway Ensemble in Residence, the ConTempo for two pieces by Shostakovich.  Both quartets were well matched in their animated vigorous style of playing and it made a change to hear something more modern and robust than the Mendelssohn Octet.
Helen Kearns Soprano
Artistic Director Collins   Connaught Tribune 
The first half nicely set light against shade. The ConTempo  Quartet  opened with a playful  Haydn quartet, the Rider named for it’s jaunty opening bars. The quartet play with a unanimous energetic delivery that often sees them momentarily  lift off their seats.  The Carducci Quartet  are soon to  embark on performing all fifteen Shostakovich quartets around the world.  On Sunday we heard their  committed performance of the mighty eight, the most popular,  inspired by the destruction of Dresden in WW2. The young  quartet  delivered  the three solemn  largos with a degree of gravity and poise that conferred an almost  palpable stillness on the auditorium.

It was unforgettable! Thank you! @FinghinCollins @CarducciQuartet @HSOPKEARNS @GalwayMusicRes
— Music for Galway (@musicforgalway) January 18, 2015 

A regular in opera houses in France and Spain, it was good to hear Irish soprano Helen Kearns perform here.  She brought out the drama of conflicting emotions in Haydn’s vocal piece, Scene from Bernice in a rich but controlled coloratura voice.  With a virtuoso pianist shaping the programme, it is no surprise that piano featured prominently over the weekend.  On Sunday , Collins was joined by Bogdan Sofie and Adrian Mantu of the ConTempo  in a spirited  performance of the youthful Piano Trio in C . The festival was officially opened by the Russian Ambassador.  All ten performers took to the stage at the Town Hall Theatre  for a communal final bow at the close of a stimulating event.

The Carducci Quartet launch their Shostakovich 15 project  at the Curtis Auditorium, Cork  Jan 29th as part Cork Orchestral Society Series .

If you like the sound of this programme, check out the New Ross Piano Festival in September 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Music for a While: Scholl and Allhoff at Schloss Elmau

Chamber Music Festivals: Kammermusicwoche Schloss Elmau

Schloss Elmau

Klais Bahnhof
                                                                         Leaving Garmisch Partenkirchen , a short train journey through the Wettersteiner Mountains  brings you to  Klais,  Bavaria's  highest station. From here it is a five minute taxi ride to Schloss Elmau. I made the excursion from my base at Garmisch last week to hear an extraordinary artist. Here is my festival report of an evening at Kammermusikwoche.61

Schloss Elmau is an Alpine resort hidden away in rural Bavaria, 60 miles south of Munich. In the uber-swish hotel, that will host the next G7 summit, the lighting is subdued, the lounge room musak is of a superior laconic quality and the book shop is full of weighty tomes on science and politics. You wouldn't be surprised to see Frau Merkel in the corner de-stressing after a week of keeping the show on the road at the Reichstag. 

Live music is a major feature and during a week in January, the hotel  assembles an A list roster of star classical performers for a week of  concerts to please and soothe the pains of guests after a heavy day on the slopes or at the eye watering spas. This year, Dutch violinist Janine Jansen appeared here before her sold out recital at London’s Wigmore Hall. I made an excursion to hear the celebrated counter-tenor Andreas Scholl perform not the German Baroque repertoire for which he is best known but a programme of English songs.
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Scholl Halperin at Schloss Elmau
Konzertsaal Schloss Elmau
The lachrymose programme opened and closed in the Renaissance. The pathos of a pair of tear stained lute songs by John Dowland mingled with mirth of a Jacobean ditty by Thomas Campion. After the cleansing sorbet of a Bach Prelude sensitively played by pianist Tamar Halperin, came the serenity of Purcell’s, Music for a While and Evening Hymn. Benjamin Britten’s arrangements of familiar folksongs included WB Yeats’ The Salley Gardens. The gentle songs were wrapped around poignant sentiments of regret and despair in settings by Haydn of poems by Anne Hunter from his London sojourn. Scholl throughout had a genial stage manner speaking to the audience in German. For an encore he gave us another bite of Britten in the simple ‘I Will Give My Love an Apple’ . A photograph in the hall reminded us that Benjamin Britten and counter tenor Peter Pears performed here in 1959.

The countertenor voice is a musical high wire act, an enthralling blend of strength and fragility.  The impossibly beautiful tones of Herr Scholl, seemed to drop effortlessly down from another world entirely to a rapt audience in the Konzertsaal at Schloss Elmau and music  did indeed  ‘for a while, all our cares beguile’.   Wunderbar!
(Most of the programme can be heard on the Grammy nominated Purcell album ‘Solitude’ 2010 and English Folk Songs and Lute Songs (1996)
No Irish dates listed but several London dates in 2015).

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Scholl wasn't the only class act at the schloss that evening. In the Al Camino lounge  jazz pianist, Tim Allhoff  was quietly impressive  as he worked through a set of complex improvisations  on standards (including a  version of the Danny Boy) accompanied by an occasional cocktail shaker for percussion. 

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Set List  Scholl

Dowland Flow My Tears
                I Saw My Lady Weep
Campion I Care not for these ladies

Bach Prelude in C
Purcell    Music for a while
               Evening Hymn
Britten Folksong arr. The Ash Grove
Haydn  Despair/ Recollection/ The Wanderer

Haydn Piano Solo Minuet and Finale Piano Sonata in A 
Britten Salley Gardens/ Greensleeves
Robert Johnson Have you seen the bright lilies grow
Encore I will give my love an apple 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Kaleidoscope Night at the Odessa Club

Cello Suite No 3 in C Bach
Conversation for two tambourines Bobby Lopez
African Trip Mike Nielson
 Duo for Marimba and Vibraphone Losa   Sejourné
Passacaglia for  Violin and Cello Handel- Halverson
Preludes 1/3 for Classical Guitar Villa Lobos
Trio Elatha  The Crow B Walsh: Salamanca Reels: Trasnan? A Mc Donagh, Iniseer; Croí na Mara O Connor; Reels ; Encore Slipjig The Butterfly

It's Wednesday night at the Odessa Club and the  top floor of this trendy Dublin  venue is jammed. There is a buzz of anticipation as clubbers collect their drinks at the bar and settle down in the elegant top floor chamber for the first of the  Kaleidoscope Night series in 2015.  The lighting is subdued , the vibe is mellow, the informal setting is what vou might expect at a jazz  gig or the prelude to a soulful songwriter. . Under the title Rhythmic Crossings, we heard a two hour programme featuring a mix of standard Baroque repertoire, contemporary new music and a classy fusion of  trad and classical genres from a handful of excellent young professional soloists.
Trio Elatha

Percussion Duo 
The evening opened with a solo item,  Bach Cello Suite No 3 played by Ailbhe McDonagh .  The physical closeness of the audience to the player  added a thrilling intensity to McDonagh's  fully committed performance.

 If you thought that all there was to playing a tambourine was to tap it a bit,  percussion duo, Catriona Frost and Maeve O Hara showed us otherwise in  the variety of techniques deployed   in a fun duet, Conversation for two tambourines. It must have been quite an effort to get a marimba and  a vibraphone up the several narrow flights of  stairs, It was rumoured that the instruments had arrived via helicoptor on the roof terrace.  (This is very cool venue!) The  cross rhythms in Mike Nielson's African Trip and the Latin American flavour of French composer Séjourné were  mesmerising.

The exuberant high voltage playing from Lynda O Connor on violin in a  Handel-Halverson  passacaglia was startling, jolting us out of our trance like state induced by the hypnotic percussion  rhythms. (Those  and a large glass of merlot)

The  second half of the programme exploited  the potential of  varied timbres within  Trio Elatha in various combination of solo, duo and trios.   After the arco fireworks of his colleagues, Brendan Walsh calmed us down with the soothing  timbre of pizzicato guitar strings in preludes by Villa Lobos. The evening closed with a spirited set of numbers from Trio Elatha drawing on classical and traditional elements. O Connor was extraordinary,  proving adept at mixing  it on the style front. It is rare to find a performer equally at  home in classical and traditional styles.  There was an energy and inventiveness in the trio's arrangements of familiar and new material.

The audience were for the most part in the 35-55 age bracket, younger than you might find at a more formal recital. A cocktail of elements combined to make this a good night out; a  varied   programme,   a  selection of highly accomplished engaging performers, and proximity to performers and food and drink . The 9pm start  allowed plenty of time to enjoy a dinner in the clubby first floor bar. Good value at €14.50 for 2 courses) and following the gig there was no hurrying you out of the venue as the bar stayed open to facilitate patrons and performers lingering to chat.

 Despite losing their arts council funding, the salon series continues under the stewardship of  musicians Lioba Petrie and Karen Dervan.  Long may it flourish
It takes place on the first Wednesday of each month at Odessa Club, Dame Street Dublin.  

Monday, January 5, 2015

Cultural Events to Banish Post Festive Blues 2015

Grand Opera House 

 Mid Winter is a time when I retreat to the sofa and wrestle for domination of the remote control. But this will pass and  I enjoyed putting together this round up of cultural events to tempt culture vultures off the couch. My selection  appeared in the print edition of the Irish Examiner  on Friday 2nd January.
Arts Events Selection for month's ahead.

 Here are some further  suggestions.

Opera in Belfast .
I visited Belfast for the first time in decades back in the September  and was impressed with the scale and elegance of the city centre and the many venues. With a journey time of less than 2 hours by bus to Dublin, it is closer than I imagined.   I have a yen to see some opera in the Grand Opera House with it's splendid red brick Victorian facade.
 In February, Northern Ireland Opera present  Richard Strauss’ potent late Romantic setting of Oscar Wilde’s play based on the biblical femme fatale, Salomé.
Belfast-born Giselle Allen sings the title role of the bloodthirsty Princess .  Nicholas Chalmers conducts the Ulster Orchestra in this new production directed by Oliver Mears. There is more opera at the venue when English touring company Opera North  brings two rather more genteel   productions , to this historic venue
Opera at the Grand Opera House
Salomé   Strauss 6-8 Feb
Marriage of Figaro Mozart  Mar 19th and 21th
La Travaiata Verdi Mar 18 and 20th 

Special Consensus at Sixmilebridge

Superpowers in Galway
Festival of Youth Orchestras NCH Feb 7th
RTE Philharmonic Choir celebrate 30 years