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

Friday, July 31, 2015

Hapusrwydd at Fishguard: Pianos, Pasties and Tapestries

I am just off the boat after a 24 hour trip to Fishguard. Following years of travelling through the Pembrokeshire ferry port en-route to London, I decided to make the Welsh coastal town my end destination rather than merely a pit stop. I was encouraged by an extremely  attractive programme at the 10 day annual classical music festival and the prospect of  discovering new territory practically on my doorstep,.  But  the excursion hit the rocks early  on Tuesday when the meaning of the term 'missing the boat' was  fully impressed on me. I found myself on the wrong side of the rising gangway contemplating an Indiana Jones style leap onto the soon-to-depart ferry. I made a second attempt on Thursday and at 9.00am I was afloat and on my way to catch the last day of the Fishguard Music Festival. I was glad that I did.  I had a terrific day. There was sunshine and  exhiliarating performances. I met interesting people,  discovered some extraordinary venues and upstairs in the Town Hall, I found a local treasure that  would have  merited the trip alone.

Pianos: In the afternoon, Peter Donohoe and Martin Roscoe shared  the second and third of Beethoven's opus 31 sonatas as a prelude to an evening of piano duos. The magnificent oak timbered concert hall in the rural retreat, Rhosygilwen was a stunning, light filled venue. There was a pause for supper in the orangery  and picnics in the courtyard before the evening programme of piano duos performed on two pianos. We heard SaintSaens Variations on a Theme of Beethoven's Sonata no 3 picking up a thread in the afternoon programme. As the evening wore on, Mozart  and Brahms gave way  to the impressionist, Debussy, In the fading evening light of the fine Summer evening,  Prelude de'lapres midi d'un faune' shimmered with the luxury of two sets of piano strings before all hell broke loose in a visceral performance of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.. Peter Donohoe's evocative context setting introductions conjured up images of Debussy and Stravinsky playing through the work in Paris salon. Debussy's nocturne Fetes, was an  exuberant celebration rather rather than a shadowy affair heard at a  adistance.

I was thrilled to meet performer and joint artistic director,  Peter Donohoe who  generously gave me a post-show  interview. Do listen to Donohoe talking about the importance of Spring to the Russin psyche and about the recent stepping up of  his involvement  in becoming joint Artistic Director of  the Fishguard Festival. Hear his  eloquent insights into the bond between Stravinsky and Debussy and his changing view of the groundbreaking 'Rite of Spring'.

'Build it and they will come' At the interval, a gentleman was delivering fliers on forthcoming events at the venue. I discovered later that he was in fact  our host, Glen Peters, MD of Western Solar who built the  striking concert venue on the grounds of his home. He spoke to me about how the decision to build came about and the inspiration for the design. Listen to Glen Peters on the architectural design of the concert hall.

The venue was full with 300 or so patrons for the closing recital.   I enjoyed talking to composer Geraint Lewis about the arts in Wales. It was good to meet  Gaye Williams, the face behind the  digital marketing platforms at the 2015 festival. The bus to the concert was full but this was Pembrokeshire and I was not left on the side of the road. I am grateful to Boyd Williams for getting me there and back.

Have a listen to Festival team member Boyd Williams summing up of the event at

Tapestries: The Last Invasion Tapestry:  Inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, the tapestry tells the story of the last invasion by the French forces and the formidable  Jemima Nicholas who captured a battalian with her pitch fork (that may be overstating slightly but you get the picture) This woman should have her own opera written about her. We don't know who stitched the Bayeux tapestry but you can watch the video and hear many of the seventy ladies involved in this marvellous community project.I was struck by the parallels with  another community tapestry unveiled about the same time. The port side town New Ross is home to the Ros Tapestry.and also host of a  music festival shaped by a pianist. The New Ross Piano Festival takes place on 24th-27th September under director Finghin Colllins

Pasties: I spnt a happy hour in  Ffwrn Meaning oven, an amazing bakery, cum bar, cum bistrot. Pianos  in various states of repair are arrayed around. The central piece is the oven out of which emerge pasties of Finn McCool proportions. Listen the Rod Smith about the Ffwrn and the  forthcoming bagpipe festival at the venue. Coming back for the crab hammer plank.

What else is on? The event schedule for Rhosgilwen Retreat  includes a literary weekend in September and a weekend Schubertiade in October. Check it out here  Fishguard is home to the weekend  Aber Jazz Festival in August  and a Folk festival  in May. FFwrn hosts a Bagpipe Festival in October

Fishguard International Music Festival is a ten day festival that runs at the end of July. Events were very keenly priced there was a good spread of events to suit a range of tastes. Tickets for final day concerts -£18 combined price for two recitals, remarkable value.

How to get there:  Boat is best. Some of the venues are walking distance from the ferry. Stena Line operate twice daily sailings to Fishguard from Rosslare. (9.00am  and 9pm returning at 2.30am and 2.30pm )  There are great value short hops with or without car. A return 24 hour ticket costs €42 booked online with a €5 supplement booked as a roll up at the terminal

Getting around: The festival runs a bus to some of the larger events in the festival but for a longer stay, I would recommend taking your car.

Where to Stay: There are lots of attractive options.  For a high end B&;B experience try Cefny dre . Cefn-y-Dre Country House, who offer evening meals with a Ballymaloe trained owner.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Wexford In the Picture at Europe's largest Plein Air Painting Event

A little preview piece on a painting extravaganza in Wexford. Fingers crossed for the weather, but there is always the contingency of 'The Sky and The Ground' one of Wexford's many taverns to retreat to

Wexford is accustomed to hosting international visitors. For more than six decades, the town has been a magnet for discerning opera buffs during the annual festival held in October.  Artexhibitions are a substantial element of the fringe activities of the opera festival.  From the 27th of July , art takes  centre stage as  an influx of arty types of a different hue is expected to descend on the South East seaside town when ‘Art in the Open’, Irelands international plein air festival gets under way.  The annual event , devoted to the practice  of painting outdoors, an activity associated with the French Impressionists,  is in its’ eighth year and ‘thankfully going from strength to strength’ according to festival organiser, Alma Hynes.  Last year, around 200 artistsfrom across Europe and the US set up their easels in some of the most picturesque spots in the county.  Six  ‘Paint-Outs’ are again the core of Art in the Open 2015 featuring some of the most stunning scenery, charming villages and historic towns the South-East Ireland has to offer. This year the locations include New Ross, Wells House and Gardens, Kilmore Quay, Hook Head, The Irish National Heritage Park and, of course Wexford town. 
The participants, a mix of amateurs and established artists can participate in a range of workshops, lectures and walks over the six day festival.  There are picnics, barbeques and designated pubs for painterly pints .
 ‘Quickdraw’,   a timed  charity event where artists have just two hours to complete a painting is expected to ‘draw’ a good crowd of local observers  to the Bullring on Sunday August 2nd. There are several sponsored prizes from local businesses.  At the sound of the steward's horn, participants put down their brushes and line up their easels for half an hour of judging, prizes and an on-street sale of paintings before the paint is even dry. Proceeds of an affordable entry fee (payable on the day) and 10% commission on sales will be presented to a local charity.
If you are not of an artistic persuasion yourself, you can come and watch paint dry and perhaps acquire an artistic impression of local landmarks.  Each artist may submit two works for the final exhibition. The works are framed and sell for between €100 and €500.  A   €5,000 prize pot will be  awarded .  Last year’s winner of the Gold Mayoral Prize of €1,000 was Mary Duffy for Purple Rasta Tree.
Let’s hope for all the plein air enthusiasts, the canvas stays dry and the sunny South East lives up to it’s reputation .
Art in the Open runs from July 27th – August 3rd More details on the festival

Monday, July 27, 2015

Andy Irvine at Waterford Folk Club

Impressario Garry Walsh with Irvine's string arsenal
Song in 5/8
Spirit of Mother Jones

Wreck of the Dandenol
Lillebjorn Nillson
Only a Miner
O Donoghues Song 
Bonnywood Hall
Folk Song
Sweeneys Men Song 
Sweet County Clare

3 Huntsmen Mick Hanley

As I roved out ( Brigid Tunney)
Death of Ben Hall
Empty Handed Greek author Pappageris
Song about Frank Ryan Spanish Civil War
The Rangers Command
Farewell to Kellswater

'I am delighted to be here . This is exactly like a folk club' said Andy Irvine  in the atic room of The Cove Bar, at the recently launched Waterford Folk Club last week. The bazouki balladeer extraordinaire appeared in his element in the intimate venue, more conducive to his style  than the black box theatre and bar room venue in which  I had previously heard him. My report  on his Glor gig in Ennis is here Accompanying himself on assorted strings and harmonica we heard a selection of songs from swashbuckling ballads. homages to political heroes and whimsical biographical songs. The selection was peppered with reminiscence and observations drawn from his five decades in the business since he crossed the rubicon that divided the beery thespian worlds of Nery's and folkie O Donoghue's.

 He has had an amazing long lived career with so many collaborations  and there was no sense that he is flagging yet. There were new songs mixed with the old in the repertoire.  I had a lovely chat with Irvine after the gig. He tells me he will at some point take a couple of months off the road and write his memoir. In the meantime his notes on his unusual journey and many collaborations  make interesting reading and are on his website

'I'm still learning, still enjoying myself and when people sometimes say to me ''Jaysus, it's well for you''.
I smile and nod my head.
Because they're dead right.
It is.'

Next guest at Waterford Folk and Roots Club Club is Buddy Mondlock August 26th

I had a chat with John Buckley about forthcoming events he is promoting

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Bel Canto with Emma Kirkby and friends at RIAM

Emma Kirkby Heather Tomala Nicholas Clapton at RIAM 
Simone Colavecchi
There was a teeny note of consternation at the door of the Organ Room at the RIAM in Dublin last Thursday. The performance by the tutors of the Bel Canto Summer School was sold out!. And no surprise really when the line up included  renowned early music specialist Emma Kirkby in a rare performance in  Ireland.
Thankfully , nobody was left outside the door of the elegant period drawing room and we were treated to a wonderful evening of singing and shared insights into the genesis of a  selection of  English and Italian early music by KIrkby and countertenor Nicholas Clapton .

When a performer is as lauded as Kirkby, you are a little apprehensive about hearing them , given the weight of expectation that accompanies the encounter. Kirkby was wonderful live. Added the purity of her voice was her  stance, the  graceful  gestures and facial expression  that animated her delivery. She wasn't just  performing -she was it , whatever iy was be it star crossed lover or the ghost of a little girl !  Particularly lovely with lute accompaniment by Simone Coalvecchi were two numbers by John Danyel to words by his brother Samuel. As an encore we heard participants Angie Hicks and Lauren ?  in a tender duet as a taster for the studnet showcase the following evening. A smiling Heather Tomala at the piano and harpsichord was excellent.throughout . I am facinated to read that in her spare time she indulges in a spot of Irish dancing. There now!

The organ room at the RIAM, Westland Row  is a most elegant double cubed space and a perfect size and acoustic for a chamber music concert.

Pride and Prejudice at Curraghmore Gardens

Any attempt at outdoor arts events is a perilous venture in  capricious Irish weather. But when the sun shines, it is a triumph of hope over experience and a glum muddy-field event becomes a glorious al freco spectacular. So with an eye on the sky, I made my first visit to the gardens  of Curraghmore House for Chapterhouse Theatre Company's touring production of Pride and Prejudice. The combination of fair weather and an opportunity for a  first glimpse at one of hidden Ireland's grandest houses was a compelling enough draw .  Add in all the  fun of fine spirited performances from the eight strong cast of Chapterhouse Theatre Company, whose theatrical presentation of Jane Austen's classic resonated in such perfect harmony with the grand setting that we could well imagine that we were sitting on the lawn at Mr Darcy's Pemberley.

There were a couple of aspects of the performance that impressed me particularly. I hadn't expected to be able to hear the dialogue so clearly in the open air setting. The voice projection and diction of the entire cast was impeccable. As you'd expect, some of the nuances of the more insipid of Austen's genteel characters were lost but the pantomime quality of the buffoons and baddies had the audience of all ages  chuckling on the lawn and  engaged over the two hour duration.

The  effectiveness of a solo flute to add a pastoral touch with music interludes was simple and delightful and much preferable to any  backing track, however sophisticated. The rendition of The Ash Grove  in a drawing room scene elicited a genuine ripple of applause.

And  if all that confluence of  elegance and harmony in architecture, horticulture and prose wasn't enough to ensure a memorable afternoon, there was cake too. We enjoyed  the best Victoria sponge in the newly opened Curraghmore House Tearooms in the courtyard. Have a listen to audience memberand local resident Alice O Brien's reaction in the audio clip

Jane at the Curraghmore Tearooms
Chapterhouse Theatre Company are touring a number of productions in Ireland until the end of August. You can catch them at Fota House on Wednesday , Mount Juliet Kilkenny on Thurs. They return in August to Wexford to Kilmokea and Wells House.  Catch them if you can. I wish them fair weather.
Best dressed lady: Jane Desmond in her beautiful  empire line gown on steps of Curraghmore House


FERGUS REES – Mr Darcy, Mr Bennet
JOSEPH GALE – Mr Bingly, Mr Gardiner, Col. Fitzwilliam
FERGUS LEATHEM – Mr Wickham, Gentleman Friend, Mr Lucas, Mr Collins
JANNA FOX – Elizabeth Bennet
AMY FORDE – Jane Bennet, Gerogiana Darcy, Miss de Borogh
EVELYN SHAW – Lydia Bennet, Caroline Bingley
LAUREN MILLS – Mrs Bennet, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Mrs Gardiner
ELLA SAWYERS - Mary Bennet, Charlotte Lucas, Mrs Reynolds


Wednesday 22nd July - 7.30pm Fota House, Arboretum and Gardens - Fota Island, Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork 021 481 5543  
Thursday 23rd July - 6.30pm Mount Juliet Resort - Thomastown, Co Kilkenny 056 777 3000 
Friday 24th July - 7.30pm Malahide Castle & Gardens - Co Dublin 0181 69 538  
Sunday 26th July - 3pm The Gardens at Rathmullan House - Co Donegal 074 915 8188 
Tuesday 28th July - 7pm Carnfunnock Country Park - Larne, Co. Antrim - BT40 2QG

1st August Wells House and Gardens. Saturday 1st August, The Jungle Book.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Preview: Chapterhouse Theatre Co at Curraghmore

Curraghmore House with 2,500 acres of formal gardens, woodland and grazing fields make this the largest private demesne in Ireland and one of the finest Neo Classical Houses in ireland. It has just recently opened it's doors to the public. Mored details on opening times here
On Sunday afternoon 19th July, much lauded Chapterhouse Theatre Company ,  specialists in open air theatre visit Curraghmore to present Pride and Prejudice.  Here is a note from the director Rebecca Gadsby 
The story and the setting suit the stately home environment perfectly and the
story translates well to the open-air stage. Once again, we will study the airs, graces and rules of
courtship of this period to bring you an accurate portrayal of romance in the 19th Century. Add in
your own picnics, warm summer's evening and a few stars and you have the ideal accompaniment for

this beautiful story.” 

The production runs for two hours plus interval with a cast of eight actors. The new tea rooms at Curraghmore will be open prior to the performance.
Pride and Prejudice
Curraghmore Estate

Curraghmore, Portlaw, Co Waterford

Sunday 19th July, 4.00pm

Curraghmore House (051) 387 101
Garter Lane Arts Centre (051) 855 038
See Tickets (0871) 220 0260 or

Adult €17 / Child €12 / Family (2 Adults & 2 Children) €48
10% Discount for parties of 10 or more

Gates open at 1.00pm.
Please bring your own rugs or low-backed seatin

Open-air Garden Theatre Tour of UK and Ireland 2015
Magical Theatre in Magical Surroundings
Pride and Prejudice
Adapted from Jane Austen's novel by Laura Turner.
Take a step back in time with Chapterhouse Theatre Company to meet Elizabeth Bennet, Jane
Austen's most loveable heroine. When Elizabeth meets the rude and abrupt Mr Darcy, she loathes him
at first sight. But is there more to him than meets the eye?
Join family and friends for what promises to be the most splendid evening of the summer as you
picnic under a beautiful summer sky and lose yourself in this unforgettable love story. After all, it is a
truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
Pride and Prejudice comes to Waterford on Sunday 19th July. .


Curraghmore Estate. Sunday 19th July, Pride and Prejudice. 4pm  Gates open at 1pm 

Kilmokea Gardens. Sunday 5th July, The Secret Garden.

Wells House and Gardens. Saturday 18th July, Pride and Prejudice.

Wells House and Gardens. Saturday 1st August, The Jungle Book.


Powerscourt Gardens. Sunday 28th June, The Secret Garden.  

Avondale House & Forest Park. Saturday 4th July, The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Tramore Promenade Festival

Oh I do like to be besde the seaside. I almost didn't make it to the prom. I dilly dallied and fell into the rose tinted hole that is  the Mother of Pearl Teashop where across the road, a  brass band  were adding a  diddly um pum pum  to the vintage  afternoon tea party. 'That's lovely music. No ding ding, bang bang like the modern stuff' said a passerby.  No sooner had the splendid boys and girls of the Barrack St Concert Band packed away their cornets than the Welsh Crew arrived. An disparate assembly of poets, troubadours and a dancer and the afternoon tea  morphed into a soirée. I loved hearing Dominic Williams read his poetry to dancing accompaniment and Anne Lister sang some terrific songs based on myths and folk tales. Captain Bob sang  comic song from his naval days. Eventually fortified by very good cake and sandwiches, I felt ready to venture to stroll along the prom, prom, prom. Too late for the airshow and sandcastles but I came across the splendid busking duo Richie and Jacob, two local young lads on guitar and mandolin and amps powered by audience pedalling who were going down a storm.(perhaps not the best metaphor for a weekend blessed with sunshine).
Well done director Sean Corcoran and team. Looking forward to next year already.

Check out the Tramore Prom Fest website  for more images and details.

 . Have a listen to  Richie andJacob them on audioboom clip

Monday, July 13, 2015

Preview: Summer Orchestral Manoeuvres

Orchestras  are like mobile homes -movable in theory but awkward and unwieldy in practice. There are the logistics- lots of people to transport to say nothing of bulky basses and capricious harps.  But every now and then,  the RTE  National Symphony Orchestra dig themselves out of their comfort zone of  Earlsfort Terrace to delight regional audiences in  major towns outside Dublin. The recent concerts with Elizabeth Cooney and Conor Palliser were season highlights that drew capacity houses to the City Hall, Cork and WIT Sports Hall,Waterford to hear a programme of Romantic classics. The NSO are off to the West next   for their debut at the Galway Arts Festival.   Welcoming this new departure,  John O'Kane, Executive Director, RTÉ Orchestras, Quartet and Choirs said: 'The Galway International Arts Festival is important because it enables people to encounter the arts in a uniquely dynamic and relaxed environment, providing an oasis away from routine and responsibilities. RTÉ are here to play a part in that heady mixture, by creating an opportunity for festival goers to encounter great classical music alongside the other artforms that the festival showcases.’
 Conductor John Wilson , a firm audience favourite leads the NSO in four works from the heart of the orchestral repertoire: the Elgar Cello Concerto with German cellist Leonard Elschenbroich  and Beethoven's 'Emperor' Concerto with Finghin Collins; Rachmaninov's Second Symphony and Nielsen's Symphony No. 4. 'The Inextinguishable'.  Completing the orchestral mix, the world premiere of Kevin O'Connell's homage to Early Music.

The RTE Concert Orchestra, although with tidier numbers, tends not to stray too far. The current season sees them keeping the fires burning at the National Concert Hall with an Autumn excursion to the BGET at the  Grand Canal Dock for a concert based on Fantasia,  Disney’s classic introduction to  favourite orchestral repertoire . 

In contrast, the Limerick based Irish Chamber Orchestra demonstrates extreme wanderlust.  The logistics are easier of course with a band size of around 20.  But even so, you have to admire the alacrity with which the ICO cranks up the tour bus and ventures beyond the salubrious base at the World Academy of Music at University of Limerick

There is a pleasing symmetry to their next trip when the ICO takes a robust four by four on the road to 8 venues around Ireland where they will perform The Four Seasons Twice!  The ever-popular Vivaldi violin concertos are a sturdy vintage vehicle for the vigorous virtuosity of leader Katherine Hunka and her feisty string fellows. They have performed them often but in quite different versions.  Finnish virtuoso,  Pekko Kuusisto’s  raspy rustic version was miles apart from Hunka’s own more lush treatment which had the added novelty of accompanying stanzas spoken aloud  by the players.  The  programme combines Vivaldi with the more modern treatment of Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires., a series of single tango movements with several references to Vivaldi’s famous work.  The diverse venues range from arts centre dotted around the midlands,  a seaside in County Clare, churches in leafy Dublin suburbia and rural Rathkeale. In Waterford they are presented by the Symphony Club of Waterford at St John's Church Waterford. Note the earlier start time of 7.30pm
These musical ambassadors take the ‘world’ brief seriously and have toured with great success across Europe, Australia, South Korea, China, Singapore and the U.S   Future plans include a first collaboration with Irish Youth Opera in a touring production of Handel’s Agrippina in September.

Increase in traffic of national professional ensembles is a welcome trend that  promises  top quality programming to enhance arts scenes and festivals around the country. Watch out for these ensembles coming soon to  a venue near you.
I plan to catch the tour on Thursday night in Waterford when they are again guests of Symphony Club of Waterford.

Here is a reminder of their last visit to Waterford 

The Irish Chamber Orchestra is touring countrywide (9-19 July) visiting 8-venues with The Four Seasons Twice!
Navan (9 July), Mullingar (10 July), Birr (11 July), Roscommon (15 July), Kilkee, Co. Clare (16 July), Waterford (17 July), Monkstown, Dublin (18 July) and Rathkeale, Co. Limerick (19 July).

RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra perform as part of Galway International Arts Festival
 6pm on Friday 17 July in Bailey Allen Hall, NUI Galway

RTE Concert Orchestra play Disney’s Fantasia Live in Concert Saturday 17 October 2015, 3.30pm/ 7.30pm.
Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin 

Telphone , Thief, Maid and Mistress: Opera at Castalia 2015:

Cast The Old Miad and the Thief : Frances Marshall Photography

Frances Marshall Photography
Rory Musgrave and Laura Gilsenan : Frances Marshall Photography
In a nice nod  to  local passions,  Ben (Rory Musgrave) wielding a hurl  and in  full Kilkenny kit arrives on stage at Castalia Hall,  bearing a gift, a pink sliother. ( Irish readers will know of course that Kilkenny natives spend at least some part of their adolescence with one arm permanently attached to this wooden sporting accoutrement). His amour {Laura Gilsenan) looks pleased if a little bemused and he is all set to pop the question but somethig thwarts his plans.  The plot of Gian Carlo Menotti's charming  one act domestic drama, The Telephone rings a bell with a  21st century audiece as distracted with a multitude of connecting devices as Laura  is with her elegant 1950's model.  And so begins a highly entertaining evening  at  Opera at Castalia 2015, a weekend festival dedicated to  one act opera under director Alan O Conchubhair.  The staging is simple but effective   The standard of singing is high end quality  with a mix of established professional singers and students at an advanced stage in their studies.  This year, there was no litany 
of woe and all three works were  bright and breezy works in a comic vein.

The second Menotti work was the meatiest work of the evening. Directed by Owen Gilhooly of Mid West Opera, The Old Maid and the Thief is said to be the first peice commissioned for radio performnce. Dara McMahon and Muireann Mulroney are the old maid and busybody Ms PInkerton. Highlights are "What curse for a woman, is a timid man (Steal me, sweet thief)," an extended aria where Laetitia (Maria McHugh) sings of her affection for Bob. Baritone, Tim Shaffrey shines in "When The Air Sings of Summer ' when Bob contemplates hitting the road.
McGrann Noonan France Marshall Photography

If Menotti's work springs from the opera buffa tradition, La Serva Padrona was one of the original Gerry Noonan's exasperated Pandolfo had us laughing out loud. Maria McGrann's was a powerful minxy maid. Tenor Andrew Gavin made the most of his cameo as a hip swivelling Elvis impersonator.
templates. Notorious for sparking the guerre des bouffons, a 18th century controversy on the merits of Italian comic opera versus French grand opera, Liz Ryan's contemporary production made this Baroque gem sparkle set between the two Menotti's .

While the spotlight is on the singers, one of the most impressive aspects of performance is the support given by all three pianists who bear the onerous task of single handedly providing the musical scafford to elevate their singing colleagues. The trio who made light work of some tricky parts were; harpsichord major, Adam Collins for The Telephone and Niall Kinsella served in The Maid as Mistress. Michael Young was a powerhouse in Menotti's Old Maid and the Thief.

Given the skill level and calibre of the event, |I find it extraordinary that this event appears to survive merely on good will of the participants and receives no funding.  It is still relatively young endeavour. It began in 2012  an initiative of the late Brendan Mills and Alan O Conchubhair. I hope it will become established as an annual event. The talented team under director Alan O Conchubhair provide terrific entertainment and a valuable platform for Irish singers and musicians. Next year, a work by composer Fiona Linnane is scheduled to receive a premier. Opera at Castalia ticks lots of boxes and is worthy of support.

The venue. Castalia Hall is part of the Camphill Community campus  near Callan in the heart of County Kilkenny. It is an unusual ceilinged octagonal space with an adjacent outdoor amphitheatre .

Bravo tutti!
Niall Kinsella
Afam Collins 
Michael Young

Friday, July 10, 2015

One Act Operas at Castalia

There is a lot to be said for one act operas. If you don't like them, they won't trouble you for very long. I note that Kilkenny Arts Festival has programmed two works this year. I enjoyed an evening devoted to one act works in Kilkenny last year. My report is here . This year's programme looks attractive, a Menotti sandwich with a Pergolesi filling and there are super young singers lined up and some big names scheduled for the Sunday Recital. Here is founder Alan O Conchubhair's programme note I note that baritone turned tenor Owen Gilhooly is director for one of the works Note the early start time of 7pm

'Opera at Castalia, Ireland's one-act opera festival takes place in July each year in the beautiful surroundings of Castalia Hall and Amphitheatre at the Camphill Community, Ballytobin, Callan, Co. Kilkenny. In its four year history this little festival has produced operas by Mascagni, Menotti, Sullivan, Walton, Rameau and Holst. Last year along with Riders to the Sea by Vaughan Williams, they presented two European premieres, In the Shadow of the Glen by Nancy van de Vate and The Bay of Fundy by Fiona Linnane. The last year has been a sad one for the Opera at Castalia family following the death of beloved co - founder, Brendan Mills.

Brendan's husband, Alan O'Conchubhair has said that Brendan's philosophy was that the show must go on and so on July 11th Opera atCastalia 2015 will present The Telephone and The Old Maid and the Thief both by Gian Carlo Menotti. Sandwiched between these two classics of 20th century opera will be an English language version of Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's La Serva Padrona. The cast includes Maria McGrann, Gerry Noonan, Andrew Gavin, Laura Gilsenan, Rory Musgrave, Dara McMahon, Maria Hughes, Muireann Mulrooney and Tim Shaffrey.
The Sunday Recital the following day at 1pm will feature young tenor, Andrew Gavin singing Dies Natalis and a preview of a scene from Composer in Residence, Fiona Linnane's new opera, The Breakfast Table, which will receive its World premiere at Opera at Castalia 2016. The recital will conclude with a musical tribute to Brendan Mills with contributions from Imelda Drumm, Laura Gilsenan, Virginia Kerr, Sandra Oman and Cara O'Sullivan.
The 11th and 12th July promises to be a wonderful weekend of music in rural Kilkenny. Why not come along and listen to some 'little operas with big heart'.
Composer Fiona Linnane

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Bloomsday: The Producers at BGET

The theatre's so obsessed
With dramas so depressed
It's hard to sell a ticket on Broadway
Shows should be more pretty
Shows should be more witty
Shows should be more...
What's the word?
No matter what you do on the stage
Keep it light, keep it bright, keep it gay!
Whether it's murder, mayhem or rage
Don't complain, it's a pain
Keep it gay!
People want laughter when they see a show
The last thing they're after's a litany of woe

'A show with a high cholesterol level' is how comedian Phil Jupitus describes The Producers.  I saw Adam Spiegel's touring production in Dublin yesterday.  I haven't been convinced by previous amateur productions of this show or indeed the 2005 movie version. Clocking in at just uner three hours long,it has to be uber slick to  work or it risks feeling  bloated. This is terrific!. A glorious flamboyant spectacle of singing dancing and outrageous comedy from a twenty strong  solid ensemble and eight piece pit band.

  Have a look at the behind the scenes promotional video which features, Spiegel,  the producer of The Producers talking about the production. Unusually it features not one but two established British  stand up comedians turning their hand to theatre and they do it very well indeed. Jason Manford as wannanbe producer, Bloom has a lovely warm lyrical  timbre to his voice and Ross Noble brings a manic intensity to the neo Nazi writer Liebkind. American actor Cory English plays Bialystock. His second act frenetic monolgue is a theatrical tour de force that would be worth the admission price alone. David Bedella has an excellent  singing voice and a mesmerizing stage presence . Stephane Anelli is delightfully OTT as his camp assistant Carmen Ghia. Tiffany Graves is a knockout as Ulla . Beyond the leads, the company play many supporting roles and I particularly liked Paul Hutton's choreographer and the Oirish dancing cops. 

The BGET is a very impressive  theatre. Striking modern exterior leads into a comfortable interior There is  good leg room and a  pleasant spacious foyer space  The Grand Canal Dock facing the waterside and lined with hotels and faux Italian coffee shops is an attractive environs to linger in on a Summer afternoon. At less than €40 for midweek  two tickets, this was extraordinary value for a West End quality production. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Turning Japanesy: Lafcadio Hearn Gardens Open in Tramore

 'verily, even plants, and trees, rocks and stones, all shall enter into Nirvana'

Russell Library Maynooth

A couple of years ago, I visited the Russell Library in Maynooth. Among the Gothic arches and ancient tomes, there was an exhibition devoted to the unusual life of  Patrick Lafcadio Hearn. A penchant for  Japanese culture was very much in the zetgeist of the Victorian era.   Gilbert and Sullivan's  The Mikado, was and remains the most popular of the G&S oeuvre. In 1890, Lafcadio Hearn travelled to Japan for a journalistic assignment and became enamoured of all things Japanese. He stayed on in his adopted country, married a local and rose to become a professor in Tokyo University and was considered to be the West's great interpreter of Japan.

Lafcadio had family connections in Waterford and often came to Tramore for his childhood  holidays. He is quoted as saying that his happiest hours  were spent at the seaside town . Standing in the gardens dedicated to his memory, with the sun shining, white horses racing to the shore and the 'wind making the trees speak to each other', it was easy to believe it.

You can read more about the venture and the occasion of the official opening last week in a Munster Express article here .  The gardens, Agnes Aylward of Tramore Development Trust told us  'were created in a Japanese spirit' and in keeping with that  procedings were conducted with due  deference and decorum.
I specially enjoyed hearing poet, Thomas McCarthy read Sean Dunne's poem inspied by Hearn. You can listen to it in the audioboo below. The gentle strains of pizzicato guitar were in the air and Joey Whelan looked as though he was in his natural habitat nestled between the standing stones in the American Garden.. We heard Moore's melodies sung in Japanese by guest singer, Yuki.

The gardens are lovely with splendid views across, Tramore Bay . This season, visiting times are restricted to allow work to continue  but the gardens are open every Thurday 1to Sunday

More information on the Lafcadio Hearn Gardens here