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

Monday, October 8, 2018

13 Years of New Ross Piano Festival

Joe O Grady takes a bow

The piano arrives at NRPF
On Sunday last,  New Ross Piano Festival wrapped up their 13th festival in the small town on the Barrow with an afternoon concert  with an interesting and diverse programme.  The festival ticks a lot of boxes. I had been at the launch back in September where Collins had introduced a 12 year old Joe O Grady   Yet again, Finghin Collins gathered an impressive roster of top drawer international talent, some of whom haven't been heard in Ireland before. Also featured were up and coming Irish  pianists. I heard excellent reports about the jazz day events and it is good to see jazz becoming established as part of the festivities. John Buckley was the featured composer  About 200 people had gathered  for the last event in St Mary's Church. The Romanian British pianist Alexandra Dariescu projected a sunny personality and seemed genuinely delighted to be in New Ross . Dressed in a mauve and green maxi dress picking up a reference in the programme note about the colours associated with the modes used in the Preludes by Messiaen. She included attractive works by a little known French woman Germaine Tailleferre whose "progressive musical ideas during the 1920's earned her a measure of notoriety throughout the Parisian musical establishment in the 1920's" the comprehensive programme note informed  us. I was interested to note that one of her first husband's ex-wives  had married the playwright Eugene O Neill who coincidentally also has strong links with New Ross.

My favourite work of the afternoon was the Schubert Piano Trio in B flat. Here Finghin Collins was joined by Bulgarian violinist Svetlin Roussev and cellist, Marc Coppey. Have a listen to the beautiful Andante in the video attached. The Andante is about 12 minutes in. The American pianist Anne Marie McDermott  was demonstrated a fierce virtuosity in a sonata by Prokofiev. On paper, New Ross would not appear to be endowed with any great advantages. They have a nice venue with a good acoustic and they hire a piano for the weekend. I think the committee under Connie Tantrum do a fantastic job in producing 5 days of fantastic daytime and evening events that can compare with the best in the world. Bravo tutti!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Round Up Sept 16-23

Culture Night, Bluegrass

On Saturday, Cork based independent promoter, John Nyhan brought a lively bluegrass band all the way from Tennessee to the Coastguard Station in Tramore. It was good to see the upstairs gallery full to capacity and this was an audience who knew their bluegrass music. The dungaree-clad quartet comprising of  mandolin, banjo, guitar and double bass were on their first Irish tour and played two energetic sets and had an old fashioned charm that won everybody over.  John himself stood in for a guest spot.  Check them out on the Bluegrass Ireland blog here

Culture Night. I was in Waterford Libraries with a big bag of ukuleles and fiddles to run a childrens' workshop as part of their Culture Night programme.  It reminded me of what wonderful inclusive spaces our public libraries are.  It was great to see the Waterford brass and reed bands performing on the streets. The De la Salle Pipe Band were installed outside the Crystal Centre on the Mall. The TF Meagher Fife and Drum Band were across the road at the Bishop's Palace. The Barrack Street Concert Band under Conductor Mark Fitzgerald were in their usual spot on Bailey's New St. Wonderful and all as the Viking Sword is, it did obscure the view of the band.

Cork Orchestral Society: It doesn't often happen that I have two articles published on the same day but Thursday's edition of the Irish Examiner carried my feature on the Cork Orchestral Society. On the same page, there's a piece on the early music tenor John Potter and his "Alternative History" programme. 


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Summer Miscellany at the Coastguard

 I enjoyed putting together a programme to mark Sea Sunday at my local arts centre. My idea was to present a daytime event-an hour long mix of music and words on a theme, along the lines of   Sunday Miscellany but with more music than words. I wanted enough variety to make it interesting for the audience but not too many soloists so that all performers got a good run. It all came together on Sunday. The sun shone and the fleet of  sailing boats in the regatta making their way from Dunmore to Tramore could be glimpsed through the windows .  It wasn't all plain sailing though.  We weathered the storms of an  erratic piano pedal and some  extraneous percussion. It was lovely to see so many friends and fellow musicians in the audience  Many thanks to my wonderful guests pianist Marian Ingoldsby, soprano Roisin O Grady and writer John Hannigan.  The hat collection in aid of RNLI came to €180. Thank you all who came along.
Summer Miscellany Set List

  Violin Lark in Clear Air TC Kelly arr

2Violin Amhrain na Leabhair trad Baidin Fheilimi arr TC Kelly

3Voice Caro Mio Ben / Giordano / Amarilli mio Bella Caccini

4 Piano  Mompou El Lago

5 John Hannigan Spoken word

6 Roisin An Die Musik / Auf dem wasser Schubert

7 Vln Roses of Picardie Haydn Wood / In a Monastery Garden Albert Ketelbey

8 Piano Carolans Concerto 

9 John Hannigan Walt Whitman/ Eliz Barrett Browning

10 Violin Neopolitan Serenades Santa Lucia/ Vieni sul Mar Toselli’s Serenade

11 Roisin The Meeting of the waters Thos Moore 

Lovely to see the Munster Express critic, Liam Murphy  and his wife Margaret in the audience. Here is Liam's review of the occasion.


SEA SUNDAY RECITAL REVIEW                       Summer Miscellany
It was an 'I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside' sort of summery feeling in the Coastguard Cultural Centre Tramore to mark Sea Sunday. Cathy Desmond (violin), Marion Ingoldsby (keyboards), Roisin O'Grady (soprano) and John Hannigan (spoken word) entertained. The sea shimmered out on the bay and gentle breezes filled the room where people relaxed and sang along to favourite tunes.
Organised by Cathy Desmond who has an estimable musical reputation and her reviews for The Irish Examiner and her excellent blog work are to be admired. She began with a beautiful violin work on 'The Lark In The Clear Air' and the tune 'Amhrain na Leabhair' that segued so well into 'Baidin Fheilimi' and people sang along sweetly and memorably.
Roisin O'Grady is a noted soprano and her singing of 'Caro Mio Ben' and 'Amarilli Mia Bella' was delightful. Poet and workshop leader, John Hannigan, read a poem about the Seahorse Tragedy, 'Pale Ghosts At Twilight' where the tide was in and the holiday-makers long gone and the men in uniform of a bygone era march again like pale ghosts as the light faded and a ritual was enacted in eternal memory was well suited to the location.
There was the rattle of cups from the downstairs cafe and a dog barked in the courtyard as Marion Ingoldsby delighted on keyboards with 'El Lago', a wistful tune where the notes rippled like sunshine on water.
The gentle nostalgia was wonderful for 'Roses Of Picardy' and Ketelbey's 'In A Monastery Garden', two violin tunes where Cathy Desmond excelled and she added two Neapolitan tunes; 'Santa Lucia' and 'Toselli's Serenade'. 'Two Lovely Black Eyes' peered out and the lilting and humming were beautiful.
John Hannigan touched on the hopes and dreams of children with 'Little Boy Blue' by Eugene Field, a sentimental but much-loved poem.
all three musicians joined for a wonderful 'The Meeting Of The Waters', bringing a wonderful afternoon hour of music, musings and memory to a close.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Opera at Death Valley, California

Thanks to guest blogger, John Hartery for this dispatch from California.

Image result for amargosa opera house

By guest blogger John Hartery
You know how it is? You’ve perspired in 96 degree below in Furnace Creek in Death Valley, California and when you emerge you’d like a spot of opera. Well this is America anything is possible.
The Amargosa Opera House and Hotel offers accommodation, opera / theatre on weekend nights and a fine café all in a unique venue.

The opera origins go back to Marta Becket who delivered on her vision of an operatic and arts venue close to the one of the warmest spots on Earth.

Here’s what Wikipedia has  to say about the place
Marta Becket rented the recreation hall in 1967, when it was known as Corkhill Hall; she began repairs, created the sets, and painted murals on the adobe walls.[2][6] She renamed it the Amargosa, the original name of the former mining town.[7] In 1970, journalists from National Geographic discovered Becket doing a performance at the Amargosa Opera House without an audience. Their profile and another in Life led to an international interest in Becket and her theater. She began performing to visitors from around the world,[6] including such notables as Ray Bradbury[7] and Red Skelton.[8]
In 1974, Becket completed her murals[6] and established the nonprofit Amargosa Opera House, Inc. to continue preservation of the property.[2] Through the Trust for Public Land, the nonprofit bought the town of Death Valley Junction, which was listed in the National "Register of Historic Places on December 10, 1981.[9] In 1983, the Opera House bought 120 theater seats from the Boulder City Theater in Boulder City, Nevada to replace the worn garden chairs[9] and the official National Register of Historic Places marker for Death Valley Junction was placed.[2
Image result for death valley

The hotel  is really a motel. It’s in the American motel style with rooms having individual access to the  exterior and interior.. There’s no restaurant. Instead you can drive 7 miles across the state border into Nevada to a dive bar with the novel name of,  eh,  The Stateline Bar. Across the road from the bar  there’s a casino ready to mop up your spare change.
Related image
The Amaragosa Hotel offers basic standards but good value given the epic location. Breakfast is available in an adjacent cafe with a cheerful host and freshly made biscuits, bacon and eggs. 
Oh  and there’s something else. Supposedly the place is haunted with  various characters from the past turning up in the middle of the night. Of course that’s all nonsense. Only there  was a knock on my window in the middle of the night that awoke me. But there was  with nobody outside when I looked. That’s my story..........

Saturday, March 3, 2018

On Song: Larchet and Moore remembered at NCH

Songmakers at NCH photo Dan Butler
Two interesting song projects tempted me to make a trek to Dublin recently.  Both were brought to the platform
Promoter and Painist Niall Kinsella
by the seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm of artists who found  something new in something old. It is one thing to play well but to coordinate and manage all that needs to done in bringing an event to an audience is a big task list.  Back in January pianist Niall Kinsella presented a lovely recital of songs by John F Larchet with singers Raphaela Mangan and Gavan Ring. It seems extraordinary that these songs have not much been heard or recorded. Bernadette Greevy did include some in her repertoire but otherwise they have been little aired. The dozen or so songs were full of melody and winsome charm. I particularly enjoyed  Padraic the Fiddler. I have a copy of the sheet music with an optional  fiddle part but have never heard it performed   I gather that a recording is planned and I hope that it will include this version.  Niall Kinsella presents the next in his series on March 23rd when the theme is Songs of a Gypsy Life and features tenor Owen Gilhooly with string players, Lynda O Connor and Gerald Peregrine. The concerts take place at lunchtime in the John Field Room.

Moore Reawakened: Baritone Simon Morgan assembled a fine  roster of performers to join him on the main stage of the NCH in a programme of songs by Thomas Moore under the title Moore Reawakened We are used to hearing the songs performed with piano accompaniments as they might have been heard in the 19th century drawing rooms. Pianist Una Hunt had a big project (My Gentle Harp) using young opera singers from RIAM and DIT recently .  Here is Simon talking about his project on RTE Arena.

The Moorings merged the trad elements of Karl Nesbitt and Drazen Derek , Martin Tourish on accordion and jazz stalwarts Myles Drennan and Dave Fleming on bass. A total of 16 performers on the night  ensured there was plenty of variety. It was like a very classy sing song. The duets were some of the  highlights of the evening. Jack O Rourke sitting at the piano joined Morgan in a duet of the Last Rose of Summer and there was a lovely guitar accompaniment from John McGlynn of Silent O Moyle. Not everything worked as well as a bossa nova version of Come Oer the Sea but most of it did. Cormac de Barra's harp was somewhat submerged in the busier numbers and Eleanor McEvoy's rockabilly Oft in the Stilly Night was a bit too sassy for the gentle lyrics to bear. An album launch is due in April. I can't wait.

My Funny Valentine:Simon Morgan was in Waterford  with trumpet player,  Niall O Sullivan's band  Feb 14th. The show titled My Funny Valentine was entertaining easy listening stuff  executed with panache by the excellent band. We would have listened to Brian Connor on piano all  night. Rod Patterson on bass and Guy Rickerby on drums were admirably understated.  James Nash on guitar added a completely contrasting timbre. We  had the luxury of two vocalists and Shona Hennebry was impressive. It did have a jazz club feel to the presentation. We could have only enjoyed it more if we were sipping champagne while listening. So pour yourself a glass and  have a listen  to Shona and Niall for yourself here

Wanders in Wales

No gallivanting this week as the nation retreats into the bunkers and watches the snow show. While our sympathy is with those who have to brave the elements to keep animals fed and emergency services up and running, spare a  thought for artists and managers stuck on the road. New Music Dublin had built up a nice of head of steam in their marketing and pre publicity. How devastating is must be for those involved to have all events cancelled. Also in our thoughts are the cast and crew of Irish National Opera who were forced to pull their Sligo and Navan dates. I enjoyed the opening in Wexford and have filed a review with the arts desk of the Irish Examiner. My preview is here which featured on Ryan Tubridy's news round up on Tues 20th Fingers crossed for the remaining dates of their inaugural production. Before the memories dim here is a round up of my recent trip to Wales.

New Opera Horizons. Wales is so close to us in the South East but up 'til now I've overlooked it although I did enjoy my trip to Fishguard Music Festival a couple of years ago. After the ferry, a couple of hours by train brings you  to the capital city of Wales, home of Welsh rugby and the Welsh National Opera.  Cardiff has long been on my to do list and I finally made it last weekend. My review of Don Giovanni the final production of WNO 17/18 season was published in the Irish Examiner. There was a notable Irish interest in that it marked a role debut for Irish baritone, Gavan Ring. The weather was bright and dry but very cold and the streets were full of young family's out and about for half term break. Cardiff is not the most immediately appealing city centre for sight seeing but a trip to the city art gallery  and Cardiff Castle delivered more than I expected. The National Museum houses one of Europe's finest art collections and. Admission was free to see "Five hundred years of magnificent paintings, drawings, sculpture, silver and ceramics from Wales and across the world, including one of Europe's best collections of Impressionist art". Most memorable though was a gallery cleared of paintings. For  The Sky in a Room exhibition, a young lady sat an ornate organ in the centre of the dimly lit  room singing and  playing an Italian pop song with an early music  Il cielo in una stanza. Guardian review of the experience here.

More surprises behind the walls of Cardiff Castle where Will showed us around the living quarters of the Stuart family. Having made his fortune in coal, the 3rd Marquess engaged the Dermot Bannon of 19th century England, architect William Burgess to do a makeover in a lavish Gothic Revival style. Here is the charming nursery complete with tiled tableaux of favourite fairy tales. The detail in the many rooms was eye watering.

While I made the journey home by boat, I flew in to Cardiff Airport. Change for the bus was in short supply but it is useful to know that you can pay the £5 fare in euro €7.

I stayed in the Futures Inn in Cardiff Bay. The Great Western Pub near the Central Train Station was full of Friday revellers just finished work and conveniently displayed the departure times.

With a population of 3million, Wales is not that different in size to Ireland and is probably a better comparison for what model of opera provision might work than say a wealthy German city The WMC hosts all sorts of events and is not dedicated to opera. The production was playing two nights there before touring to other UK venues.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

New Ventures in Chamber Music

Mozart Piano Quartet in G minor
Stanford   Piano Quartet in F major
Dvorak No 1 in D major
My Lagan Love  trad arr McHale

 The Vanbrugh roll on as trio since the retirement of their violinist Greg Ellis. A 4th wheel was added by pianist Michael McHale at a recital at City Hall Waterford last Thursday. McHale was last heard here with clarinettist Michael Collins. Piano quartets are not often heard on the concert platform. String quartets when they collaborate with a pianist will more usually play a quintet rather than leave a player sitting out.  The three quartets heard at the first recital on the Waterford-Music recital series in 2018 were unfamiliar to me. It was a thrilling if slightly terrifying experience to sit at the City Hall Steinway as page turner and see at close range the black dots of the score transformed into cascades of sound by the superb playing of McHale. The surprise of the evening was the quartet by Stanford, a four movement work full of contrast and exuberance. An encore of a gorgeous arrangement of the slow air My Lagan Love made the audience melt at the close. It was great to see a good house in to enjoy a terrific evening.

If you missed the tour, the Vanbrugh with McHale have a few dates coming up at the NCH and UCC later in Feb and March when they add a trio by Schubert and quartet by Schumann to the programme.
 Details here

Portraits: Debut of McGill/McHale Trio on Cedille Records

Pianist Michael McHale adds to his expanding discography with this most unusual collaboration. Flute and  clarinet merge with  piano in an attractive and refreshing programme of contemporary works. Adding much to the pleasure of the collection  is the addition of spoken word delivered by the clear measured voice of actor Mahershala Ali. The title of the album is taken from Portraits; a series of a dozen poems by American poet and social activist Langston Hughes.  Hughes I discover hailed from Joplin Missouri and is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance in New York City.The poems punctuate musical portraits by Valerie Coleman. I  enjoyed the suite of dance movements by Paul Schoenfield . McHale's flair for arrangement is beautifully  demonstrated in arrangements of Rachmaninov's Vocalise and The Lark in the Clear Air which suits the wind timbre perhaps,dare I say it, better than TC Kelly's violin and piano arrangement that we are more familiar with.

More rare quartet repertoire coming up at the next recital in Waterford on 1st March. Musici Ireland features Waterford's Emmet Byrne on oboe in a Mozart Oboe Quartet. Emmet is a member of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

Related posts Q&A with Michael McHale

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Diversions in Dungarvan

On Saturday, I took a trip down to Dungarvan drawn by the Tionól Nioclás  Tóibín, an  annual weekend of events dedicated to the memory of the famous  sean nós singer who was a native of An Rinn.  I was too late for the morning workshops but I was just in time for a lecture by Brendáin O Cróinín who has just published a book  on the life and work of 18th century poet, Piaras Mac Gearailt. Mac Gearailt is best known for the song Rosc Catha na Mumhan. O Croinin read from his prepared script and the local male voice choir. Cór Fear na nDéise enlivened the event with a rousing rendition of the Munster battle song and the song Sean O Dí.  The choir formed eight years ago under director Darren O Droma  have just launched a CD of songs with instrumental accompaniments from the area (Ceolta Néata)  and I look forward to hearing it on my journeys in the coming week.

Over in Mooneys, as the the Ireland Italy rugby match was in the final moments, fidils and accordions were striking up in the two  snugs. at opposite ends of the bar.   But it was songs we were after and we made our way to  Teach Ui Muirithe in Helvick Head where singers were gathered around the hearth in true sean nos fashion and taking their turn at the request of the bean an tí.  Among the many items I enjoyed was a stirring rendition of Sliabh na mban by a gentleman bearing a Nioclas Toibin  tee shirt. I much enjoyed hearing a young man from Connemara. Concubhar o Lughasa, winner of the 2017 Corn Ui Riada, the premier sean nos singing competition. There was room for sport and music in this convivial pub in Helvick. A large photo of local hero, long distance runner John Treacy took pride of place over the fireplace and a clutch of hurling supporters watched the broadcast of the Limerick Cork game with the sound off so as not to conflict with the singers.
Concubhar O Luasa in action at Tionól Niocláis Toibin

Tempting as it was to stay for the evening events, we came back into Dungarvan where a weekend of jazz events was in full flow at Lawlor's Hotel. We caught an early evening session with a very sophisticated  quartet in the bar. Fronted by trombone player Paul Dunlea, the line up included pianist Cormac MacCarthy who I had met in Cork at a Kaleidoscope event. My piece for the Irish Examiner is here  The quartet were staying on to play for soul diva Karen Underwood for the late evening Prohibition ball. Sadly we hadn't packed our flapper dresses and a little reluctantly we left what looked like the makings of a great party night if the style in the foyer was anything to go by.

Hurrah for Music Shops: Earlier in the day I was delighted to meet  Ben O Neill in his  music shop
in Dungarvan. Ben has been in business since 1973 supplying instruments and electrical goods as well as carrying a range of recordings in all their formats from vinyl, cd and cassette. It strikes me that music shops are one of the last family retail businesses on the high street. The challenges that face these shops are similar to those that face book shops and while there has been much lamentation the closure of  Liam Ruiseal's  book shop in Cork, there is not much point in moaning about the demise if you then do your shopping on Amazon. Long may independent music shops prosper.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Hometown Launch Gig at Coastguard, Tramore

I caught the first gig of a newly formed ensemble, Hometown at the Coastguard Centre in Tramore on Saturday night. A strong line up  included stalwarts, Gerry Madden on mandolin, guitarist Paul Grant and  Richie McDonald on bass. The group fully exploited the potential for a variety of timbres and  delivered an appealing and  eclectic  programme of jazz, folk and world music to a full house. Suzanne Rowe added a 'café orchestra' vibe on accordion. A new face to me was American singer , Bobby Carey who impressed with her classy renditions of jazz and folk numbers.   Set against the ensemble efforts, it was good to hear reduced instrumentation  such as a waltz on accordion, a guitar treatment of Gabriel's oboe and the Latin American riffs of bass and guitar. Highlights were the bossa nova version of folk standard, Black is the Colour and original  songs by  band member Paul Grant and Paul Foskin who was in the audience.
My sources tell me that you might catch members of the band in a more informal session on Tuesdays in Downes' Bar, Waterford.