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

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Victorian Day Out at Wells House

I had a lovely day out at Wells House in Wexford, this time last year. My visit coincided with one of the 'paint outs' by the Art in the Open participants and scattered all around the beautiful grounds were artists at their easels engaged in the suitably Victorian pursuit of  capturing the picturesque setting on canvas. Alma Hynes, event director of this painting festival, which draws amateur enthusiasts from all around the world to Wexford, spoke to me about the event.

I didn't tour the house leaving that for a return visit and concentrated on  the gardens. You can listen to my chat with the gardening team, John Scanlon and Deirdre Walsh  in the audiobooms below.
This weekend the owners Uli and Sabine Rosier celebrate their 4th year of opening Wells House to the public and there are splendid  events planned. There is open air theatre in the garden tonight and a Victorian Garden party tomorrow.  If you are travelling without a car, a pick up service from hotels in the region is offered through a collaboration with Wexford Heritage Tours.

Art in the Open takes place from 24th July and  picking up the zeitgeist of the Three Sisters Capital of Culture bid, paint outs will take place in locations in the three neighbouring counties, Wexford, Kilkenny and Waterford.

Wells House is between Gorey and Wexford on the R741
Art in the Open  Ireland's International Plein Air Painting Festival runs from July 24th -Aug 1

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Luthiers in the spotlight

I have never been to Bantry for the West Cork Chamber Music festival but by all accounts it is a wonderful festival drawing the best in the world to perform.  My recent feature for the Irish Examiner shone the spotlight on the luthiers and bow makers who exhibit at the festival. I enjoyed visiting Noel Burke's workshop in Carlow and indeed I have had my own bow rehaired by Bertrand Galen, my other interviewee. I also met Niall Flemming, working with Noel as apprentice and  who plans to open his own workshop in Kilkenny in due course.  Isn't it cheering to know that work of the highest quality is being produced here in Ireland.

Cork Midsummer Meanders

I spent a day  at the Cork Midsummer Festival recently . My review focusing on the concert performance of La Traviata at Cork Opera House appeared in the Irish Examiner  I had a lovely day and enjoyed the mix and spread of events, from early to late, most of them free.

I didn't have room to refer to spoken word events . I caught two of the stages of Kevin Barry's Crosstown Drifts, a series of readings by various writers including Barry himself.  The newly restored Elizabeth Fort just off Barrack Street was impressive and made a great setting for one of the stages. Writers don't always make good readers but Barry is one of the best readers I've heard. I also enjoyed Conal Creedon's yarn which included a reference to a review Barry had penned of Joe Mac and the Dixies at the Silver Springs which appeared in the Examiner.

Review Live Music Events Cork Midsummer Festival 2016

Writers reading on medieval ramparts, a bridge merged with a drum kit, and Verdi pared down to the essentials were among the highlights on the final Saturday as Cork Midsummer celebrated a 20 year milestone with a festival true to the original ‘Sense of Cork’ spirit.

After a run of boundary pushing productions at the Everyman, Cork Operatic Society was down but not out returning to the Opera House with a concert performance of La Traviata.

There was a sense of anticipation and pride in the local legacy in the air in the foyer of the capacity house. Without the distractions of staging, the evening relied heavily on the strength of the work and the quality of three main voices.

To judge by the alacrity with which the audience rose to their feet at the close, this production was a triumph.
Leading a strong cast and chorus, Cork mezzo soprano Majella Cullagh wrung every ounce of pathos from her role as a worldly-wise courtesan, Violetta. The brightness of her first act coloratura softened in Act 2 to give some of the most tender moments in her duets with English baritone, Julian Tovey as Germont Senior.
Korean tenor Jung Soo Yun’s also heard in Faust last year was an ardent, clear voiced Alfredo.
Among the supporting roles, Emma Nash and Brendan Collins impressed in their cameo roles. Under director John O’Brien and leader Alan Smale, the 23 piece orchestra played with precision and style. Macdara Ó Searadáin’s haunting clarinet lines and string pianissimos in the instrumental preludes were enthralling.


Earlier and for a much younger audience, there was a soothing simplicity in a charming theatre show, Blátha Bána with an ethereal soundtrack by Fiona Kelleher at Graffiti Theatre Co’s HQ in Blackpool.

The natural percussion of flowing water and the metal bars of a city bridge were incorporated into Alex Petcu’s drum kit in one of three site specific pieces by Tom Lane. Children in the audience lining the Mardyke Bridge jumped in the air with the drummer enhancing the good vibrations under our feet.

A memorable and marvellous day!