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

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