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

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.