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

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Red Iron: New Jim Nolan Play at Garter Lane

Michael Quinlan and Brian Doherty

Anticipation was high in theatre circles at the prospect of a new play by the Waterford's  favourite playwright. Garter Lane was humming for the opening night. The Blackwater Gin was flowing, the mellifluous sound of the Barrack Street Concert Band installed in the Gallery threw a cheerful aural glow over the pre-show buzz as stage folk gathered to say hello and see a new play brought from page to stage. Best dressed among the gathering was the Mayor wearing his chain and office and Munster Express theatre critic, Liam Murphy in splendid red shirt and matching shoes. Memories were triggered of the glory days of Red Kettle when the Waterford company was at the forefront of the national theatre scene. Although the company ceased operations, Nolan has acquired the title and 'The Red Iron' was presented under the Red Kettle banner.

After a tragic funeral, a group of friends reunite after decades on the eponymous Red Iron, a bridge that now can only be approached from the 'enemy territory' of Co Kilkenny. The bridge is  a haunt of their younger days. It happens to be the day of the homecoming of a defeated Waterford hurling team and we hear a recording of the reception voices of a stoic manager Derek McGrath and entertainer Richie Hayes so effectively drawing us back to the emotional occasion on the Quay. I remember; I was there!

Image result for mount sion centre

The dialogue is peppered with references to sport and particularly  hurling. Hurling jerseys and bunting adorn the beams of Dermot Quinn's impressive set. Nolan adroitly draws the characters from the streets around Upper Yellow Rd with sharp detail of local streets,  GAA  teams and pubs. The redemptive power of music is  a familiar theme in Jim Nolan's plays and there is much reference to the characters' involvement in the Barrack Street Band who feature in the sound track. Nolan has a sharp ear for local humour and the comedy dialogue rang as  true as if overheard in Jordan's Bar. The characters  pick at scabs to reveal some painful memories that produces some powerful and poignant drama if a little convoluted at times as one  reveal rapidly follows another.

The cast, with one exception, are professional thespians drawn from  Waterford and its diaspora  who delivered very  credible characters.

The opening night audience loved it and the a standing ovation swiftly followed the final lights down.

Booking is heavy for the first week and  the play runs until November 30th.

Cathy's  review of Jim Nolan's Brighton play here
Cathy's review of Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye here 
The Red Iron Bridge from

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Opera in Concert: Tosca in Cork ; The Veiled Prophet in Wexford

Tosca at Cork Opera House
Opera in concert has a lot to recommend it. Production costs tumble without the expense of sets, costumes  and with less rehearsal time.   If the music is gloriously played and sung, there is still plenty to thrill. Both of the nations designated opera houses presented successful concert performances last week.

Cork Opera House completed their 2019 Opera Concert series with a production of Puccini's Tosca.  Without the benefit of theatrical spectacle, the opera depends on the strength of the central performers. Producer Aisling Fitzgerald assembled an impressive cast led by Cork's own Majella Cullagh. All three leads projected convincing characters pushing beyond the confines of the format. Making her role debut, Cullagh was a fabulous Tosca, every inch the on-stage diva.  American tenor Michael Wade-Lee was splendid as Cavaradossi. (I last saw this tenor in a strange production of Carmen when many patrons might well have opted instead for a concert version.)* English baritone, Julian Tovey projected a rather suave Scarpia, 'a smiling demon' rather than a pantomime villain. Seated on stage behind the cast, the orchestra conducted by John O' Brien gave wonderful support. The darker timbres of viola and cello were to the fore there was super work from wind principals.

The choristers  of St Fin Barre's Cathedral clad in red cassocks and ruffs made a striking visual impact as well as  an authentic church choir sound and the act I Te Deum was a highlight.
The capacity house loved it and there was long ans sustained applause and quite a few on their feet. The loudest cheers were for Majella Cullagh. The party continued afterwards in the bar where spirits were high as artists and patrons mingled to discuss the evening's performance. Hurrah too for two intervals. It was good to have a breather after each act.

The Veiled Prophet at Wexford Opera House

Wexford Festival with Una Hunt's Heritage Music Productions presented a concert performance of an opera by CV Stanford on the main stage of Wexford Opera House. Here is an extract from the programme.

"The Veiled Prophet by Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford is based on Irish poet and songwriter Thomas Moore's most famous poetic romance Lalla Rookh. The opera is set in the Merou and the Prophet's Palace in Persia and the title is taken from the name of the heroine of the story, the daughter of the 17th-century Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.

Very few professional performances have been given of Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford’s operas in the last century. Stanford was a prolific opera composer, much more interested in the lyric stage than most of his contemporaries in Britain (his career was largely divided between Cambridge and London). But recognising the hopelessness of pursuing an operatic career at home, he turned to Germany – he had studied with Reinecke in Leipzig in the 1870s – and it was in Hanover that the first of his ten operas, The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan, was premiered in 1881. Given there as Der verschleierte Prophet, it had been translated again as Il profeta velato by the time it reached Covent Garden."

The standout aspect of the production was the chorus (prepared by Errol Girdlestone in his final Wexford engagement)  who filled the stage in Act 1 and 3 The Wexford chorus augmented by a Dublin Conservatoire Chorus did Stanford's choral writing justice. In Act 2 soloists were to the fore and there was much to admire in the performances and the score. I didn't however get a sense of the intrigue of the plot and all the characters seemed indistinguishable to me. I met members of a Stanford Society, a fan club based in the UK who were there in force and clearly delighted with the afternoon's entertainment. I enjoyed it and look forward to listening to the broadcast on RTE Lyric FM on November 9th. The broadcast will be available to listen back.

* (

Finghin Collins at City Hall Waterford.

Finghin Collins and Marian Ingoldsby 


Mozart Sonata in A major K. 331 “Alla Turca”

Marian Ingoldsby Ros Tapestry Suite XIV: Exchange: the Irish and Normans mingle at the fair

Philip Martin: Ros Tapestry Suite XI: Gothic Glory: The Building of the Parish Church of St Mary’s in 1210

Schubert Sonata in A major D. 959

22 years after his Waterford debut, Finghin Collins returned to play at the Georgian Large Room. It is part of the lore of the local history that he stood in to play for an indisposed Vladimir Ashkenazy here as a teenager. Collins took to the platform with broad smiles and seemed surprised and delighted by the warmth of the reception. The playing was superb and delivered with theatrical aplomb. Sustained applause wrung two Brahms' intermezzos as encores. Linda O' Shea Farren from the Contemporary Music Centre was in the house to interview composer Marian Ingoldsby about her piece based on the Ros Tapestry. The event was much enhanced by having a unique visual dimension. The two relevant panels framed the stage with the house Steinway C sandwiched between them. Many patrons lingered to chat and greet the virtuoso. It was a marvelous night

There are few, I believe, in the  business who have worked harder than Finghin Collins to shape and promote the classical scene in Ireland as well as developing a successful international career. What he has achieved both in New Ross and Galway in well planned and executed festivals is so impressive and has added enormously to the musical life of those towns well beyond the pale. It was good to see committee members of the New Ross Piano Fetsival in the audience to support their artistic director.

LAST 3 DATES: Finghin Collins plays in Glór, Ennis tonight, in Curtis Auditorium Cork tomorrow (Ros pieces by Linda Buckley and Sam Perkin) and in Galway on Friday. Next dates in Switzerland.
Panel 14 Ros Tapestry

Friday, May 24, 2019

Myth and Magic at the Gaiety

Oval Victorian Splendour

Daylight gave a bright lustre to the red velvet and mahogany fittings of the  plush interiors of The Gaiety Theatre and it was pleasant to dawdle in the comfortable bars of Dublin's Victorian pleasure palace on a midweek afternoon in anticipation of the first matinée performance of Mozart's Magic Flute from Irish National Opera. A different sort of vibe prevailed than is usual at an evening event, The audience a little less voluble with the younger and older generations more fully represented than usual in  the house which looked about 75% full.

Wren boy Ring 
Morrigans meet the boys
There was a  enticing storybook quality to Caroline Staunton's staging with an abundance of vivid colours and textures. The characters looked as though they are plucked from the handsome  illustrations of either Celtic myths or a Dickens novel.Sets and lighting by Ciaran Bagnall created a magical setting that was very beguiling. A confluence of  elegance flowed from the stage design to the historic venue itself.  The oval two tier set was echoed in the auditorium as though it been cut to fit this space.  Strong performances across large cast  and a 24 strong chorus.  A red cloaked Anna Devin was terrific as Pamino. Kim Sheehan as Queen of the Night re imagined as a stooped and horned pooka hit all the high notes with crystal clear accuracy. Gavan Ring dressed as a wren boy  made much merriment from the role of Papageno. Nick Pritchard was an excellent Tamino. Andrew Gavin impressed as Monostatos. There was a hint of "The Greatest Showman" in Lukas Jakobski's Sarastro in top hat and scarlet coat.  Berlin bound Padraic Rowan  made an impression in the minor  role of speaker. The Irish Chamber Orchestra worked hard in the sunken pit. The woodwind ensemble sounding so clear and effortless in this acoustic. Fiona Kelly on flute and Richard McGrath  on glockenspiel provided the sprinkling of instrumental  fairy dust.
'The Greatest Showman'
The production ended the 18/19 season of the company. Any qualms about INO maintaining the high bar set by the opening production of Marriage of Figaro were quelled in this fantastic production which proved a superb bookend for the season. Bravo tutti!

The production finishes on Sunday with another afternoon performance on Saturday. Well worth an excursion.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Weekend Roundup May 20th: Sea Shanties, Sensational Symphonies and Sunday Songs

The Irish Baroque Orchestra brought their latest project to Christchurch Cathedral on Friday night as guests of Symphony Club of Waterford. It was sensational. The guest director, Kristian Bezuidenhout directing from the harpsichord was mesmerizing and there was a super-charged intensity to the performance. It was thrilling to sit close up and feel the energy transfer from director to players as Bezuidenhout rose and fell, oscillating between shaping a phrase at the console and with a graceful flourish of his hands. I found myself musing on some of the late Fergal Qunn's retail advice. The 15 or so players were a good fit with the proportions of the beautiful Georgian cathedral space. Quinn's advice to retailers was to replace fruit baskets with smaller ones as stock dwindled so that the baskets always looked full and the produce more appealing to the shopper's eye. Matching the venue to the forces assembled is a important factor and in that repect, this event was more satisfying that the first SCOW event event where a paino trio and reduced symphony orchestra looked and sounded underpowered in the 'larger basket' of the WIT Arena.

The repertoire was interesting. I had never heard of Erlebach and the IBO made a convincing case for the merit of his music. Like JS Bach, he wrote 5 cycles of Lutheran canatas. The programme notes (posted below) were very scant extending only to a set list and members list. In the abscence of some background, a few spoken introductions would have helped to set some contexts.

Well done to SCOW for yet again in bringing high quality performers to our doorsteps.

Sea Shanties in Dunmore East

Dordán at Nimmo 200
Dunmore East,  Co Waterford  was a perfect setting for a  festival dedicated to the music of sea faring. Sea shanty groups converged on the fishing village for, Nimmo 200.  It was as if a scene from the film, Fisherman Friends had come to life.  Local group Hooks and Crooks as Festival hosts kicked off the proceedings at a gala concert at St Andrew's Church. There was a eurovision vibe with groups from The Netherlands and Norway adding the international flavour to the event. Dordán under Damien Kehoe were best in show with a a great rendition of Regina Coeli and the Rugby Word Cup Anthem, World in Union. Balladeer Richie Roberts was MC. All the events were free and it was a cheerful edition the local festival calendar. It was my first visit to this picturesque church built with local red sandstone.

Programme note on Alexander Nimmo tell us that he was born in Fife in 1883 and came to Ireland to join the Commission for the Bogs of Ireland. In 1814 he designed  a new harbour, pier and lighthouse for Dunmore East. "We are delighted to acknowledge the contribution of Alexander Nimmo to the development of Dunmore East,; the fine lighthouse in the harbour is a true testament to his ingenuity and engineering skills."

Pub Gigs Karen and Fitz at Murph's Bar Tramore.

Karen and Fitz 

Continuing our trail of local pub gigs, we made our way down the hill to Murph's Bar in Tramore where we enjoyed an eclectic and entertaining set of covers from duo Karen and Fitz on guitar and bass for a sparse Sunday night audience. I specially liked a mashup of Blue Moon of Kentucky and Working 9 to 5.

Programme: Irish Baroque Orchestra
Handel – Trio Sonata in G major, HWV 399/Op. 5, Nr. 4 (arranged by Kristian Bezuidenhout)

Telemann: Sonata a 6 in G minor, TWV 44:33

JS Bach: Harpsichord Concerto in D minor, BWV 1052


Erlebach: Overture Nr. 4, in D minor

from Ouvertures Avec Leurs Airs À La Manière Française

Telemann: Wassermusik Overture

Irish Baroque Orchestra are delighted to welcome world renowned guest director, Kristian Bezuidenhout, to Ireland once more for his first performance with the orchestra.

One the world’s finest harpsichord virtuosos, Bezuidenhout turns his soloistic talents towards Bach’s D minor harpsichord concerto which is beautifully complemented by Telemann’s Tafelmusikwhile mythological creatures of Neptune and water nymphs are all depicted in his famous Wassermusik.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Round Up 8th-14th April

It was all about choirs for me this week. I heard no less four laudable vocal ensembles within a ten mile radius of home in the space of 24 hours in churches. As I write, events in Paris have caused moments of reflection on what treasures these local sacred spaces are.

Wexford Festival Singers brought a programme of mostly Baroque music to Christ Church,  Tramore. New incumbent, Rev Trevor Sargent welcomed a full house of around 250 to this elegant Gothic revival stone gem. The audience spilled in to the galleries and there was great sense of occasion. A string quartet from the Musici Ireland sounded very fine in this acoustic. We liked an Agnus Dei by Wexford based composer, Liam Bates
I look forward to hearing the organ here when it is restored.

The Choir of the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity Waterford.

I enjoyed Dermot Keyes article 'A hint of home in Trafalgar Square' in the Munster Express this week on a visit to  St Martin in the Fields in London's Trafalgar Square. Keyes notes that the London landmark was designed by a James Gibb and completed in 1726 and suggests that Gibb was a major influence on John Roberts who visited London prior to designing the twin cathedrals in Waterford. The music for Palm Sunday included some Lenten hymns. is encouraging to see the words printed and available to all ,an invitation to add your our own voice to those in the gallery under the direction of David Forde.

Ad Hoc Chorale; De la Salle College Vocal Ensemble
Some of the choristors at the Cathedral turned up moments later for duty  at "Heaven and Hell", a lunchtime choral concert given by Ad Hoc Chorale at St Patrick's Gateway. Under director Pamela Harrison, we heard a wondefully diverse selection of old and new repertoire, (including a psalm setting by choir member Ben Hanlon), performed with ease by the choir which includes many leading  lights of the local music scene. A great pleasure too to hear a four part harmony wonderful male voice choir made up of senior students from De la Salle College.!rii=b9_11023929_67_14-04-2019_
. Radio Moment: I was fortunate to be in the National Youth Orchestra when they made their first visit to the USA. The orchestra played in amazing venues, The Lincoln Centre and Boston Symphony Hall and the Kennedy Centre in Washington. I was interested to hear a clip of  conductor Hugh Maguire from the archives on John Bowman's item on the occasion of publication of Gillian Smith's book on her mother Olive Smith.

TV : John Bridcut's documentary on British contralto, Janet Baker for BBC 4 was extraordinary.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Round Up 1st to 7th April

A week when opera on screen kept us in touch with some great events. For a live experience, it was good to join a full house at WIT Arena to hear the NSO at full throttle.

There was a lot of buzz around the ROH production of La forza del destino in the press with the dream team of Anna Netrebko and Jonas Kaufmann in the lead roles and Pappano in the pit. Rumours of tickets selling for €4,000 were circulating. With curtain up at 645 I missed the first two but caught the last two acts at the Odeon Cinema, Waterford on Tuesday night which was enough excitement for a midweek night. Shown in screen 7, there were some issues with the projection format and sound quality that had punters grumbling. I don't know what the technical term is but the picture did not extend across the screen but  appeared to be in portrait format and body shapes seemed elongated vertically. I don't usually complain about volumes being too low, but i didn't quite get the oomph I was expecting. A great midweek opera treat nonetheless.
I was all set to head to Cork for the latest production from Irish National Opera but sadly couldn't make it. Serious FOMO was assuaged by  catching the production on RTE player. It is very easy to access. The sound quality is very good and it is good to see synergy between national platforms being exploited. Why not give Ray Darcy a night off and make room on the TV schedule. As Ko Ko in the Mikado might say, "He never would be missed"

You can't beat a live event and it was  good to see the RTE NSO fulfill the remit of being a 'national' orchestra by getting out of Dublin for two concerts. A full house of circa 500 came to WITArena to hear a programme of Sibelius and the Beethoven and Tchaikowsky under conductor Thomas Kemp. A rough estimate of the proportion of  populations of the Dublin and Waterford areas would suggest a greater turnout by a factor of ten in Waterford. Full house also in Galway, I am told. An attractive programme and glad  to hear the Fidelio Trio on my doorsteps. Programming a work that is essentially a chamber music work requiring a reduced orchestra was not however  ideal programming for this venue which is a huge sports arena. The Fidelio gave it socks but the cavernous auditorium was a challenge particularly for a solo violin timbre. Constructed posthumously from sketches, Tchaikowsky Symphony of Life  was one of those works that was good to have heard once. Perhaps a good choice for a Dublin audience bored with all the other symphonies and ballet suites but not compelling for an audience who hear a live symphony concert occasionally. Set against the stark grey walls, the honey hues of the strings stood out in sharp relief making an usually vivid spectacle.

Venue notes: The venue is not accessible by public transport. This is a drawback as it makes a car or taxi journey necessary to access the event.  I understand a shuttle service runs during college hours bringing students out to the facility from the main campus. It doesn't as far as I am aware operate on weekend nights. Is it possible to extend it to run a service from the city centre or the Cork Road campus returning after the concert? 

Monday, April 1, 2019

Round Up 24 - 31st March

There was a buzz on the Irish opera scene around the opening on Sunday of Madame Butterfly from Irish National Opera. Not everything was happening in Dublin though and I was delighted to be at Cork Opera House for the first of their season of concert performances. I'll be looking out to hear  more of  countertenor Viktor Priebe. He has a voice that will bring you to then edge of your seat..

@CorkOperaHouse #MarriageofFigaro My report for @irishexaminer here. Looking forward to more G&S and Verdi later

— Fidleir (@fidleir) March 27, 2019

Whinge!.  met a pal in the audience who was annoyed that the Cork Opera House  booking system would not allow her book a single seat if it had a vacant seat next to it reducing her choice of seating. I rarely book tickets preferring to take my chances as a walk up but  I had a similar conversation with a punter at the Theatre Royal in Waterford . who was similar baffled and annoyed when she couldn't book her seat of choice. Is it unfair to single attendees or prudent marketing strategy? What do you think?

I enjoyed talking to Patrick Rafter ahead of some Irish engagements for this article in the Irish Examiner  The young Kilkenny virtuoso was in the NCH on Friday performing with his mentor, the wonderful Russian violinist,  Maxim Vengerov.  I was in the Large Room for the Piano Day Waterford event and I caught up with his performance later. You can watch the video stream on this link here.

Piano Day Waterford.
We were blessed with beautiful weather on Friday and I couldn't drag myself away from the seaside for the daytime piano events in town. It all looked very jolly and I enjoyed catching Killian Browne's  plein air performance on line. See the tweet  below for a link . I did make it in for the evening concert and it was good to hear locally based performers enjoy the wonderful performing space .where Waterford Music welcomes international performers at their monthly series.   Doug Lowe is an excellent  American pianist based in New Ross., I have much enjoyed playing  chamber music  with Doug. Here he was partnered by cellist Ian McHardy,  a stalwart of many ensembles in the South East in Beethoven's Sonata no 2.  Both performers were making their house debut and I hope it won't be too long before I hear them both again here. Marian Ingoldsby wowed the audience with an eclectic selection and her drole spoken introductions. Marian's programme mixed her own compositions with work by Chopin, Mompou, O Suilleabhain  and drew a standing ovation.  An homage to Clara Schumann used some interesting special effects.  A layer of dance from Jess Rowell and others added to my engagement with the experience.

Venue Notes: There were some aspects of the event that marred the event.  I like it when a visual aspect, images or video clip is added to a musical experience but only if it it adds something. Here a busy moving projection displaying the sponsors names was merely distracting. The presence of a perambulating photographer  throughout the entire evening was irritating and gave the impression that the audience outside the room was more important than the one contained within. I would have liked a programme note.

High Plains Tradition.

Independent promoter, John Nyhan has brought so many terrific bluegrass and folk musicians to regional venues. On Saturday at Tramore, Coastguard Station, we heard High Plains Tradition all the way from Colorado. It was good to see the upstairs gallery full for the visitors. The five musicians had a collective senatorial air and apparently  all work in law enforcement when they are not on their annual tour. Nyhan himself lead the audience support from the front row and stepped up to sing a song himself- Freight Train. Check out the Bluegrass in Ireland blog for a comprehensive listing of gigs.

Pub Jam Croke's Bar

I had a lot of fun this week in at informal music evenings in my local pub. The Tramore Ukuklele Group met on Thursday for one of its twice monthly gatherings followed by a mellow song set from the house duo. On Sunday I joined a circle of terrific musicians who gather here usually on the last Sunday of the month for a lively jam that mixed trad, pop and jazz

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

History Lectures at Waterford Medieval Museum

By Guest Blogger Pat Rohan

Image result for noel browne against the tide

You know you're on to a winner when you fill a room with over 150 people for a lunchtime history lecture  at the Garden Room in Waterford Treasures Museum. On Wednesday we heard the 'season finale' of a series of lectures by Eugene Broderick. The series ranged over a number of topics in the 20th Century. The topic this time was Noel Browne and the Mother & Baby Scandal from 1948-51.
Image result for mother and baby scheme ireland
Topic of the day
Eugene Broderick is an engaging speaker and brings an enthusiasm and insightful communication style to his talks. The wonderful memoir from Browne, Against The Tide, was the platform from the talk and Broderick referenced it a lot as well as other primary research he had conducted.

It was noted that Browne's birthplace of Bath St, Waterford was mentioned en passant in the book but nevertheless a monument  is now at the spot. Browne detailed the abject poverty he grew up with following the death of his father and saw immediate family members die from the curse of the time, tubercelosis. 

Browne was fortunate to receive financial support that led to his qualification as a medical doctor. He entered politics as a member of Clann Na Poblachta the coalition government and became Minister for Health. He championed the Mother and  Child Bill that was aimed at delivering healthcare to young children and maternity care to mothers.
Image result for noel browne bath street waterford
Local Monument
Broderick unravelled the various forces that were active at the time. The conventional wisdom is that the catholic church was the cause of the bill's failure and Browne's departure as a minster. He illustrated that whilst the church was indeed against  the bill the medical profession played an equally hostile role albeit without putting this opposition on paper and then there was old fashioned political manoeuvres.

An excellent lecture and the  audience went away much informed on the topic. Watch out for more lectures here