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

Monday, September 28, 2015

10 Years of Piano Magic in New Ross

I spent a lovely day yesterday at the New Ross Piano Festival. My preview of the event appeared in Thursday's Irish Examiner The riverside town was blessed with Autumnal sunshine as patrons and performers congregated in the picturesque  St Mary's Church for two daytime events on the closing day.

To say Daria van den Bercken is a Handel entusiast is an understatement.It's bit like saying Rory McIlroy likes to play golf.  A trawl of her youtube videos shows her inveigling  passers-by to her appartmemt for impromptu recitals and literally taking to the air for a spot of extreme piano playing in her mission to spread Handelian vibes. You might expect that the Baroque master's work to be a bit dry and dusty. Not in Daria's hands. At a mid-day solo recital, the Dutch virtuoso imbued the Baroque master's work with such colour and feeling that was enthralling. There was charming Mozart too with a quirky Rondo a la Turca and a new piece bt Deirde Gribbin

The afternoon concert was a satisfying three course  banquet-a  shared effort .  The Fidelio Trio brought a stringy starter of Beethoven. There were dazzling Russian fireworks from Ukrainian pianist Alexei Grynyuk. Then onto a  generous dessert of all 21 of Brahms Hungarian Dances (which were originally written for 4 hands, the comprehensive notes informed us) performed-y Finghin Collins and Cedric Tiberghien. Who  doesn't like to sit down and eat a whole bag of bon bons occasionally. I don't think I've heard more than a handful of the most popular ones before.

We send a final burst of virtual applause to artistic director, Finghin Collins and the hard working team who put it all together and pull it off with such aplomb. It is a remarkable  achievement to keep this niche festival going off the beaten track with  such a consistently high calibre of performers into a tenth year. What is partcularly  pleasant is the sense of prevailing convivilality. It feels like a rather elegant house party as performers sit front of house to hear fellow artists and  Collins,administrator  Connie Tantrum with  fellow committee members mingle to greet patrons.
As a final blessing, a  magnificent amber moon glow beamed down as I drove home  adding a lttle extra sparkle to the close of a delightful day.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Waterford Jazz Weekender

There has been much handwringing over the economic woes of Waterford, the closure of the Glass Factory and the Red Kettle Theatre Co pointed as markers of a deeper malaise expressed in articles like Kathy' Sheridan's 'Unsunny South East' in the Irish Times. While the city centre can lack the vibrancy of other urban centres, there is no better location for a festival. We salute the efforts of individuals and groups  that get off their backsides and make things happen . While we love to travel, the best events are those we experience at home. Spraoi continues to offer the most inclusive, accessible fun filled weekend to suit all ages. Claire Lynch were the classiest bluegrass heard at Dunmore East Bluegrass Festival.  Imagine Festival will brighten the early days of Winter. I was encouraged to see a new initiative announced in 2014. Building on a launch in 2014, Waterford Jazz Weekender recently launched a second mini-festival devoted to the jazz genre.

Phill Collins introduces Louis Stewart Len McCarthy

Paris Swing 

Spearheaded by Phill Collins, (note two l's), a jazz pianist on the staff at WIT, the weekend schedule offered a mix of styles and gigs, most of which were free.  The signature event was a mellow evening with the veteran guitarist, Louis Stewart accompanied by Cork saxophonist Len McCarthy and guitarist Stephen O Keeffe. It was guitar night at the Munster Bar as guitar duo Dylan Bible and Orm Kenny played a set before the main event. While there was a suitable hush at the Munster, Jane O Brien Moran and trio fought a losing battle at Katty Barry's with a yappy Friday night crowd. 

  Paris Swing brought a whiff of Parisian Boulevards to Bailey's New St where played a mellow open air gig  . I love the Cafe Orchestra style line up violin and accordion with bass and guitar. I was only sorry that I hadn't worn my dancing shoes as there was a bit of waltzing in the forecourt of the French Church. 

It was good to see the Jazz Weekender link in with other initiatives . The Dublin City Jazz Orchestra came under aegis of Symphony Club of Waterford. While they lacked  a certain glam factor, they made up for it in sax appeal. Good to see local lads, Brendan Doyle and Gavin Roche among the ensemble. 

Cork vocalist, Laoise Hanlon accompanied by Phill Collins rounded the procedings off in fine style on Sunday night at the Munster Bar.

Maithiú Phill Collins . Here's to Jazz Weekender no 3. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Page Turner:

Green Room Snap Cooney & Collins 
Stunning virtuosity was on display at City Hall last night as Waterford Music opened their 74th season. Elizabeth Cooney violinist partnered by Finghin Collins were a wow at a buzzy gala occasion. Opening with  a brilliant Grand Duo by Schubert, they shimmered in otherworldy Szymanowski and calmed with the soothing elegance of Elgar and Faure. But enough about the dazzling duo. Today's post is all about me. Last night was a debut of sorts for me as I stepped in to take on that role I have been carefully avoiding for years and one  that very musicians covet- the page turner. Finghin Collins made it as easy as it could be with clearly pencilled in notes as to repeats and a clear nod when the moment apparoached. On the whole it was a thrilling experience to see at close range the notes on the page magically transferred to sonority. Should the job ever come your way here are Jessica Duchen's dos and don'ts of page turning from an article in Standpoint Magazine Just for a giggle,  a video clip of Victor Borge's encounter with a
page turner.


1. Check with the pianist in advance which repeats s/he is doing, if any, and exactly how they work.

2. Dog-ear the top right hand corner of each page for easy grabbing.

3. Make sure you've got something to sit on and can see the music clearly.

4. Remember that a lot of pianists read ahead so may need the page turned several bars before reaching its apparent end.

5. Agree with the pianist what signal s/he will give to alert you that it's time to turn.


1. Wear anything intrusive: plunging necklines, dangly necklaces or ties, long floppy sleeves and bright colours are real no-nos and could distract in a variety of ways. (Of course some pianists might enjoy the plunging neckline, but that leads to a whole different set of problems.)

2. Obscure the music from the pianist's view with your arm while preparing to turn.

3. Simply smile sweetly back when the pianist smiles sweetly at you. He's probably indicating that if you don't turn that page NOW, he will put you through the mincer.

4. Eat anything containing garlic before the concert.

5. Take a bow

Extract from article by Jessica Duchen

Monday, September 14, 2015

Waterford-Music:Launch Season 74

Waterford Music Committee members Elizabeth Twohig, Pat Grogan , me , Jim Walsh, Eamonn Phelan         photo John Power
September has been a busy month as I prepare to return to teaching commitments. I have also been working on  PR for Waterford Music, a society dedicated to bringing the very best performers of the classical music world to perform here in Waterford, something they have been doing for 73 years. The Large Room is a fantastic venue and the acoustic is perfect. I have been struck by how genuinely delighted overseas performers have been to discover it. It is about the same size as the Wigmore Hall in London, the premier London venue where most of our visitors have performed. A new series opens Thursday with an evening of violin and piano duos with Finghin Collins and Elizabeth Cooney dedicated to the memory of founding member William Watt. Details of all eight recitals have now been confirmed and are on the website.

We had a very jolly time with Mayor John Cummins who graciously  came along to help us with our launch photocall. Although not a pianist himself, he tells me that his aunt, Sr Redemptoris was a renowned piano teacher at the Mercy Convent and introduced many young players to the pleasure of playing piano.

Press Release 
Waterford-Music has just released details of their Autumn series of chamber music recitals at the Large Room, City Hall.  September sees the arrival of two major figures of the international piano scene to release magical sonorities from one of Waterford’s treasures- the house Steinway at The Large Room at City Hall. Acclaimed Irish pianist, Finghin Collins arrives on September 17th and French virtuoso, Phillipe Cassard follows a week later on 24th September.
Secretary of Waterford-Music Vincent Byrne explains- Following their highly successful summer tour including a sold-out Galway Arts Festival recital, violinist Elizabeth Cooney and Finghin Collins join us at The Large Room to perform a programme of works by Schubert, Szymanowski and Elgar.   Cooney wowed a Waterford audience at the WIT Sports Hall earlier this year when she joined the RTE NSO on their tour. This will be an excellent opportunity to hear this terrific player in a more intimate chamber music setting in the excellent acoustic at City Hall.  Collins is one of Ireland’s leading pianists and a great favourite of Waterford Music since his first appearance here in 1997 when he stood in at short notice for the indisposed Russian pianist, Vladimir Ashkenazy. It is a busy time for Collins who directs the forthcoming New Ross Piano Festival amongst many other engagements. ‘We are delighted to have this wonderful Irish duo to open our Autumn schedule’ said Byrne.
A week later on September 24th, Phillipe Cassard arrives on the Mall for a solo piano recital. Since winning the very first piano competition a quarter of a century ago, the French virtuoso has gone on to establish himself in the first rank of the world’s great pianists, much admired for his mellifluous tone and subtlety of phrasing.
The French accent continues when  the ladies of the brilliant Quatour Zaïde, arrive in Waterford for an  October date. The quartet’s daring and élan has garnered them many prizes at international competitions since their formation a mere five years ago. The distinguished Austrian cellist, Florian Kitt brings our 2015 proceedings to a close in November with a wonderful diverse 20th century programme.
Pat Grogan,  treasurer of  WM reports that during the Summer, a major figure of the piano world visited Waterford. But his name probably won’t ring a bell.  ‘Ulrich Gerhartz is a master technician who travels the world working on pianos for manufacturers Steinway. We are delighted to report that Mr Gerhartz gave our house Steinway C a tip-top rating’ said Mr Grogan.
Tickets are keenly priced at €15 and we have great value season ticket deals available with a family subscription of €150 for 8 recitals which is fantastic value to hear artists of international standing. Our mission is to continue to bring the best Irish and international classical performers to perform in Waterford and we are already looking ahead to our 75th season next year said Pat Grogan.
 You can hear the Steinway C piano played by superb soloists in the elegant Georgian assembly room, The Large Room at City Hall on September 17th and 24th September. All recitals begin at 8pm