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

Monday, February 23, 2015

Munich Jazz Clubs

Daily regular flights from Irish airports carry thousands of holiday makers into Munich. While most head straight for the slopes, there are plenty of  attractions in the Bavarian capital to persuade you to dawdle for a day or two. The National Theater on Max Joseph Platz is a major draw for me  but an evening at a jazz club makes a good antidote to the excesses of the Bavarian State Opera. These two jazz clubs are good places to hear high calibre performers and enjoy the local beer.

At Voglers Jazzbar, in Rumfordstrasse, there was a soothing  contemplative vibe  as we heard house regulars Joe Kienemann and Tom Reinbrecht play a terrific set of mellow standards. As always when visiting, Thomas Vogler was on hand to top up your glass and rustle up a spagetti dish. There was lots of events in Munich that evening. (Roger Norrington was conducting at the Gasteig and Andre Rieu was in town -I admit it -I am a fan) Yet, not for one moment did I wish to be somewhere else and I stayed for two sets. Here is the website note for the evening. Particularly lovely was their rendition of  'The Nearness of You'

The Art of the Piano“ mit Joe Kienemann und Tom Reinbrecht!Joe Kienemann  is for me the Grand seigneur of jazz piano.
 "Some young talent you would like to suggest even his technique: comes without gimmicks from breathtaking runs, blinding timing, voluminous in the Middle, safe chords (which comes out almost entirely without pedal), an excellent attack (which makes him a gifted companion) - everything is here in the service of the cause (...)" (SZ)
Tom Reinbrecht known mainly as a soloist and arranger of prominent pop productions such as Paul Carrack (Mike & the mechanics), Bürgermeista (Sony/seven days music) or Lou Bega but also of sought-after as hot lead saxophonist in the Big Band scene (such as Dusko Goykovich, Harald ruffle tree, Al Porcino). Among other things he also played with the New York Voices, Bobby Shew, Jay Ashby, Don Menza... 2o h 3o, entrance only €2,-!

 Unterfahrt in  Eisteinstrasse  with British band Supercharge a seven piece band fronted by Albie Donnelly was a more frenetic affair . The club housed in an underground beer cellar was packed on the night we visited. It is not quite as comfortable as Voglers and has a  more student union bar vibe although the clientele were mostly middle aged and in midweek chill rather than weekend party  mode. Fun nonetheless!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Feast of Faust at the Everyman

Faustian Pacts loomed large on  Friday with the metaphor featuring in the Irish Times leader. In Cork, the curtain opened   on the much anticipated production of Guonod's Gothic morality tale based on the ill-fated philosopher who sells his soul to the devil in return for youth. The blend of fine bel canto singing with Victorian kitsch served up in three generous hour long plus  helpings brought the first night audience at the Everyman Palace Theatre to their feet..
Here are some  thoughts  on this production.

The Orchestra: In a change to his more usual modus operandi of using an on stage mobile chamber ensemble cum actors, John O  Brien here uses an expanded static orchestra, dressing them in 18th century quasi military  jackets. 42 pieces even in a standard opera house would be feast enough for any Faust. The relatively intimate space served to intensify the impact of the large ensemble. Strings filled the pit space, wind and percussion were embedded in the set and brass colonized the off stage  boxes. The excellent orchestra playing under leader Ioana  Petcu Colan did justice to the colour in Guonod's 19th century score We particularly liked the  terrific organ timbre  from the pit evoking the  Gothic mood in the  third act, Dies Irae.

The Cast: There was fine singing all round from the cast of Irish and international artists. Korean tenor, Jung Soo Yun was a tortured Faust, Julian Tovey a dastardly Mephistophiles and Cara O Sullivan  a warm and stately Marguerite . It was in the smaller roles that most got under the skin of the smaltzy melodrama. Sandra Porter in the character cameo role of  Dame Marthe brought a welcome shot of humour to the sludgy libretto. Owen Gilhooly as the valiant Valentin brought a degree of stagecraft that upped the dramatic ante in any scene he appeared in. The  spirited third act trio with  Gilhooly,  Tovey and Soo Yun, Redouble, O Dieu Puissant  was a vocal and dramatic  highlight of the evening. It was good to see Cork baritone Brendan Collins in the role of Wagner.  Anne Gill was the faithful Siebel.

Top Brass: The Barracka :
Anything is better with bit of  brass: The cast were upstaged (literally if not metaphorically) by the Barrack Street Brass Band. The full complement of the Cork institution filed in to fill the standing space at the back of the stalls to give a stirring rendition of the Soldier's Chorus accompanied by a male chorus to give a thrilling surround sound stereo experience. Quite the high point of the  evening. Long as the evening was, I would love to have heard an encore.

The Chorus: The ladies and gentlemen sang well and  were  animated and  lively  thoughout.

Set design:   Designer Lisa Zagone's set design for Pagliacci remains one of the most memorable of recent years. Here she  sets the action amid the Gothic wooden arches and dusty book shelves of a library, adding items like a suspended stain glass window  and a tomb stone to denote a church and garden. in later scenes  This worked fine for a first act but the unchanging backdrop  added to a samey-ness  to the production and induced a degree of cabin fever . Book stacks and on stage stairs made the stage area seemed cluttered and  constricted physical aspects of the performance, cramping the style of the choreography.

Costumes  were  monochrome  in  19th century Victorian style  serving  to enhance Mephistophiles dashing red rig out complete with top hat in the style of a Victorian music hall MD.

Programme, . The 16 pages A4 did not include a plot synopsis or any insight into the staging or anorak details like the edition..  It rather presumed that punters would a be  au fait with the Goethe's yarn or would take the trouble to look it up before the show.

Stage direction did not fully bring out some of the more sinister details of the plot. Marguerite's baby only becomes apparent to me when she picks up a Moses basket.

Running Time With curtain up at 7.30 and coming down at about 11.15, it did make for a long sit. While not of Wagnerian proportions, you will need  the stamina of the Victorians to last the duration. I could cheerfully have lost 30 minutes or so of the score and not feel short changed. Best to approach it  having had  a nap and your tea before the show

The Gothic horror vein has proved a rich one for the Cork Operatic Society.  Although not as much fun as Der Vampyr, I enjoyed their production of this  stodgy Victorian melodrama with it's catchy hit tunes. The music and singing is first class and well delivered here by the Cork Operatic Society under director John O Brien.

Faust runs at the Everyman Palace   4 more performances until Feb 28th

Review Orpheus

Review Pagliacci

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Listen at the Wellington Launch

Image result for listen at the wellington
One of the features of the music scene in Dublin has been the emergence of a more informal salon style musical evening along the lines of the Yellow Lounge in Berlin and London. Kaleidoscope takes place on the first Weds of each month at the Odessa Club with a  lucky bag of musical acts . My report on my first visit to the club is here .  On a recent visit, I heard the Xenia String Quartet and a set from jazz singer Sue Rynhart whose bell like soprano vocals made a beguiling  contrast with bassist Dan Bodwell.  A new residency for this type of musical pot pourri is being launched on Friday at the Wellington Pub on Baggot Street and is intended to run on the third Friday of each month. Curator   Dylan Rynhart explains:   

        we will be opening a new monthly night of creative music and spoken word, at The Wellington, 
​1 ​Baggot St. Bridge. This is going to be a​n ​ambitious project with 4 - 5 acts a night, on the 3rd of each month. 

Listen at Wellington will feature a healthy assortment of musical styles from​  jazz and classical composers, songwriters, sound artists, poets, storytellers and more. Audiences can enjoy a showcase of Ireland's finest musicians and artists and will unquestionably hear something new that will inspire them.  
​I hope that it will ​become more than the sum of it's parts; a place to experience new sounds, and have a fun night out.

Our first concert will feature: 
The long anticipated return of Fuzzy Logic Ensembleprogressive ​​jazz from composer Dylan Rynhart, Pianist,  Izumi Kimura will be performing Maurice Ravel's “Sonatine” on Fender Rhodes Piano
​,Aideen McBride will be telling the epic tale of Clann Tuireann from Irish mythology, songwriter Laura Hyland 
​will be ​perform​ing​ ​with h​er group Clang Sayne
And finally composers ​John Godfrey and Karen Power will be joining us for a rare Dublin performance of their exquisite Sound Art.

Also look out for our posters and flyers as visual artist John O'Reilly
​ (​   will be creating bespoke artwork for each event.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Superb Sonata Team at Georgian Large Room

Romantic Clarinet Sonatas
Weber: Gran Duo Concertante
Brahms Clarinet Sonata No 1 in F
Reinecke Sonata Undine

Brahms Clarinet Sonata NO 2 E flat

Encore Field Nocturne arranged for clarinet & piano McHale

Something rather special was called for in planning a recital in  memory of impresario John Ruddock, a great friend and collaborator of Waterford Music. It  has been a while since we heard the mellifluous tones  of Michael Collins in the South East. (He last played here in '97 with pianist Vanessa Latarche.)   On  Thursday night,  he returned with  pianist  Michael McHale to the Georgian Large Room. This superb team  gave us a memorable night of Romantic sonatas that exceeded any expectations and more that did justice to the occasion. As you would expect of these international artists, each player showed impeccable skill and virtuosity. Collin's lyrical tone  was so lovely, that we could have happily  listened to him playing scales and arpeggios at length . McHale made the house Steinway C sing broadly with it's  top up and at times barely hum.

Brahms Clarinet Sonatas Reinecke Sonata Michael Collins Michael Mchale ChandosThe mainstay of each half was a Brahm's sonata, considered to be the first chamber works to fully exploit the range of colour of the relatively new instrument. The Undine Sonata by Reinecke, a contemporary and supporter of Brahms was originally conceived for flute and a beautiful work of varying moods with gorgeous melodic elements and the work I most wanted to hear again. The programme of work  all cut from the same musical cloth might in less skilled hands have proved rather dull. Not a bit. Such was the musical empathy and sense of gaiety between the two players, the exchange between the equal virtuoso parts was often thrilling and  never less than interesting. At the end of each movement,  Mr Collins face broke into a serene  expression of satisfaction and contentment and the broad smiles from both suggested that they both  relished every note of their lively musical dialogue.

Rolling out the red carpet at City Hall Waterford


For an encore, we had a bonus- a  'world premiere' no less of  an arrangement by McHale  of a Field nocturne for clarinet and piano which drew murmurs  of approval from the audience in the elegant Georgian Room City Hall. It seemed fitting  that a new red carpet was laid on the City Hall Stairs just prior to the arrival of the two Michaels on this memorable night of superb musical collaboration.
    Most of the works in the programme can be found on an album (their 5th)  recorded for the Chandos label. 

Among the audience were Carmel and Noel McHale, Michaels' parents who had travelled from Belfast to join the audience.


Pat Grogan remembers a remarkable impresario

Q & A with Michael McHale

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Once a Year Days: Pajama Game at Presentation School Hall Waterford

The sports hall at Presentation School Hall in Waterford has undergone a magical transformation to theatre space  this week for an joyful production of the 50's Broadway musical,

The Pajama Game is based on the book 7 and 1/2 centsby Richard Bissell with words and music by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross, The story revolves around a conflict between love and politics and includes a set of breezy standards imcluding Hey There, Fernando's Hideaway and This is Our Once a Year Day.

Mary McNamara's and Mark Scanlon's production was a slick, exuberant production   that drew remarkably assured performances from the teenage cast. The choreography by Patrick Grant evoked memories of Fred and Ginger and was wonderfully well executed particularly by Pamela Ryan as Gladys,Chloe Wall as Hines . A  comic ballet  nicely done by the ensemble was a highlight of then second act.   Costumes were a cheerful riot of colour, a vivid visual treat to banish the gloom on these grey days on the cusp of Spring. Sophisticated  hair-dos added a finesse to the gorgeous 50 s styles frocks.

Susan Akintomide was poised and vocally secure as Babe in a range of numbers emerging in the insouciant I'm not at all in love. One to watch out for.   She was well matched by Sarah Kelly who had a good even sustained tone in their country and Western pastiche duet, There Once was a Man . There was strong  support  from Megan Delahunty as a graceful Mabel, Katie Devereux as philandering Prez and Aisling O Brien as the intransigent factory boss, Hassler. It was lovely to see lots of students from the primary school in the hall enjoying the efforts of  older siblings in this light hearted feelgood show. Charming!

Mounting a musical is major undertaking for any school.It  was uplifting  to witness a great tradition of 40 years continued so whole heartedly here tonight. More than forty young  ladies onstage alllooking like they were enjoying every minute .  I am proud to have cut my teeth as a pit musician here in productions between 72 -79.

Runs Weds /Thurs Feb 11th /12th

Monday, February 9, 2015

Live Broadcasts to Best Seat in Your House

There is nothing like being there. No- but  enjoying live music and drama in your living room is pretty damn good. You can curl up on your sofa in your pyjamas, and no one is going to poke you in the ribs if you snooze during the solo arias. For the cost of a cinema ticket, you can catch a new opera production every other week at my local Odeon multiplex, walking distance from my base in Waterford. There is something thrilling about enjoying the live  event at the same time as  patrons sitting in the parterre of the Met or Convent Garden.  I admit it -I  am hooked by the online experience. Here are some of the highlights of the last ten days.

London Orfeo at the Roundhouse
This co production between ROH and Roundhouse, London was broadcast live on January 29th .  A thrilling , visceral production with terrific performances and  rich new translation by Don Paterson . Available to view for a while longer. Watch it here  on  BBC Arts.
A smartstick plugged into your tv makes it easier to watch on a larger screen than a laptop. The signal failed intermittently  but on the whole, it was a good experience.

London Andre Chenier at the Royal Opera House 
Telegraph review here 
For €12.50 you got as good a view of the hot ticket,  tenor Jonas Kaufmann as you would if you were in the stalls of Covent Garden and if you pine for the crush bar experience, Phil Grimes pub next door has prosecco on tap.

Dublin  Friday Concert Live on Lyric Concert RTE Lyric FM
Friday's concert (Feb 6th) featured American violinist, Kurt Nikkannen in Korngold's Violin Concerto and a Schubert Symphony. The NSO sounded in fine form, the soloist shimmered in the lush Korngold score. Conductor Patrick Ringborg told a charming anecdote as a prelude to a Mahler piece,  I do miss the scripted interval piece though. The current interval filler features an informal chat with  two aficionados chatting at the bar. It doesn't make for good radio. Listen back here

NY Met Live on radio and on screen. Tales of Hoffmann

Most Saturday nights, you can tune in to RTELyric FM amongst others to hear a live broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera House . Last week it was Tales of Hoffmann. I went along to see the live broadcast the Odeon Waterford This was feast for the eye  and ear and great fun. You can read the NYT review here .  

I am not a fan of the interval chats with the performers. It spoils the illusion when the smouldering baddie turns out to be a genial pussycat, However, Deborah Voigt  with a touch of flirtation in her quizzing did a terrific job and almost convinced me. We were just a little star struck  when she replied to our tweet. 

Munich : Lucia di Lammermoor: Staatsoper: .

I had more than a passing interest in this production. In January,  I had climbed  in the Souffleur's box on a backstage tour and had a preview of the set before opening night. The run has been sold out for months.  I interviewed one of the cast, Dean Power and  interview is filed with the Irish Examiner. The most talked about production of the current season at Staatsoper had a fifties American makeover. The singing was superb from Diana Damrau and Pavol Breslik. Dean Power was excellent as Noramnno . Bachtrack review here

The interval feature put the spotlight on the glass harmonica  

Next live streaming features more Donizetti: L'Elisir d amore 21st April

Los Angelos Dean Friedman live @Kulak's Woodshed 
Finally if you are a fan of Dean Friedman you can watch his show at a small club in California. Friedman played at Garter Lane last year and I regretted not being free to hear his whole set. Through the wonders of modern technology, I can at least hear what I missed.