Condell’s Quiet Mastery Brings Poetry To Life


Seize The Day
Sonny Condell – Patrick Kehoe
(Self-released)

If every poet could get a top songwriter to give their work a musical make-over we would all be on much more intimate terms with our poets. Mike Scott and The Waterboys tackled the poetry of WB Yeats on the album An Appointment with Mr. Yeats; Cerys Matthews did justice to the memory of her favourite poet in Dylan Thomas: A Child’s Christmas, Poems and Tiger Eggs; and the album No Promises by Carla Bruni includes three poems by American poet Emily Dickinson.

Top marks, therefore, to Enniscorthy poet Patrick Kehoe for linking up with singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sonny Condell in this very fruitful collaboration.

Kehoe is the author of two collections of poetry, It’s Words You Want (Salmon Poetry, 2011) and The Cask Of Moonlight (Dedalus Press, 2014). John Banville has praised his ability “for conjuring up the South in all its sun-drenched, lush eroticism”!

Sonny Condell is one half of the ground-breaking folk duo Tír na nÓg which he set up with Leo O’Kelly in 1969. He is also a founding member of the band Scullion. Sonny also has a busy solo career. It is not hyperbole to describe him as one of Ireland’s most talented, inventive and enduring songwriters.

The dust of nostalgia sits heavy on the finely wrought stories of Seize The Day. One can almost hear the shutter click of the camera as the beautiful and vivid here-and-now is confined to the archives of the mind, a sepia-toned snapshot of something gone forever.

The simple unadorned production lets the words shine through in a way that stays true to the original. Apart from contributions by guitarist Robbie Overson on two of the thirteen songs, Sonny handles all duties, instrumental and vocal. His even-handed and restrained treatment of the narrative allows each piece space to breathe and, in the process, heightens the overall emotional impact.

The wistful tone of the nostalgia-filled Travelling Show turns it into a delightful melancholy-tinged waltz. The focus on time – past and passing – is one which runs through the album. Running Into Blue with its simple repeated refrain is a paean to the beauty of ordinary days which, like the tides, are no sooner here but they are gone. Likewise Don Quixote: “It was all in the game … / Once played, once over.”

The radio-friendly Empty Well has a breezy JJ Cale vibe to it with Overson’s blues guitar adding real substance. Again it comes steeped in what was, and is, no more, the memory “Of friends long gone”.

Condell has the same easy way with a song as the late Leonard Cohen. This can be heard on Interregnum, a quiet song of love and how, like the seasons, it develops: “By April they were brimming / In a dream of each other”.

The Gentle Bossa Nova of Miles To Hear does justice to the poet’s exquisite story-telling: “Better sometimes the song without words / Persian blue, and breathless with falling stars.”

Gold City is classic Condell. He takes a short five-line poem about big plans always just out of reach, and turns it into a slacker anthem.

The plaintive and elegiac Father is filled with love and regret as the boy becomes a man yet will never grow to be the man his father was.

Occasionally there is an unsettled blurring between the real and the imagined: “And the Sound still heard / And the sound never heard” (Entenza). This theme is continued in the haunting and somewhat ominous Ghosts in White Face and the album closer, Seize The Day, with its air of fevered ennui: “And the tidal dark / Wonders where to beach us.”

Seize The Day is a thing of faded grandeur and quiet beauty.

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Old World Elegance and Charm from Swedish Jazz Maestro

Potsdamer Platz: Jan Lundgren (ACT)

Just last week I met Wexford’s most famous Swede Fred Karlsson on the town. He was in fine form, attentive and courteous as always, and full of stories. One would never have known that Fred was suffering from jet-lag. That’s the thing with Swedes: not only are they among the friendliest people you can meet, they are also paragons of stoicism. So while they may be close to the top of the World table for happiness and life satisfaction, they are also right up there when it comes to keeping the best side out. Continue reading

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Modern Jazz Quartet: Django

On my turntable right now the album Django (1955) by the Modern Jazz Quartet. Lovin’ it.

Listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LFsuH1-YoM

This is what The Guardian says: https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2010/mar/24/modern-jazz-quartet-john-lewis

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Vesala’s Musical Homage to Helsinki

Helsinki Soundpost
Martti Vesala Soundpost Quintet
(Ozella Music)

Helsinki Soundpost is an aural pleasure from start to finish. Eight tracks, 50 minutes of majestic music. From the first insistent single note repetition of “Smoke” right through to the epic grandeur of album closer “Yamal” it engages totally.

In ways there are no surprises, no challenges to throw you. Sometimes that can be a negative. Not here. It’s like you have always known this music. Part classic East Coast American, part Scandinavian self-restraint. It insinuates itself into your mental soundscape. Half a century from now Helsinki Soundpost will sound as fresh to a new generation of jazz lovers as Birth of the Cool sounds to us now. Continue reading

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Seachtain na Gaeilge 2017

Wexford Echo 14 March, 2017: 032EC2017-03-14e1   033EC2017-03-14e1

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Morten Schantz – Godspeed


Godspeed is the name of a new trio headed by Danish composer, pianist and keyboardist Morten Schantz. He is joined by Norwegians, and fellow JazzKamikaze members, Marius Neset (soprano and tenor saxophones) and Anton Eger (drums).

The band’s debut album, recorded in 2015, has just been released on Edition Records. Morten Schantz describes it as “a leap into the unknown, about risk taking and seeking new territories”. The music can be filed under ‘power jazz’, ‘free jazz’ or ‘fusion’ – take your pick. Schantz cites Joe Zawinul and Weather Report as influences. He is also a big Herbie Hancock fan.
Continue reading

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Trí ailt agus dán álainn – Wexford Echo

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Cúpla ailt ón Wexford Echo, 4 Aibrean, 2017: 046EC2017-04-04e1  047EC2017-04-04e1

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Comhaltas Cabaret Gets The Mix Just Right


The Wexford town branch of Comhaltas, Craobh Loch Garman, presented a unique St Patrick’s Weekend event to a packed house at Wexford Arts Centre last Saturday. The Comhaltas Cabaret brought together some of the county’s top traditional musicians, singers and dancers along with poets and storytellers. The evening was about nothing less than showcasing the wealth of traditional arts talent, at all ages, present in our local communities.  Keep reading!

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A Storyteller at the height of his powers

The practise of storytelling is as old as mankind. The way we tell our stories now, in this time of mass communication, may have changed. However, the art of good storytelling is still as vital as ever.

Len Graham is a storyteller and a singer in the Ulster tradition. Keep reading!

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County Wexford Youth Orchestra at NCH

County Wexford Youth Orchestra travelled to the National Concert Hall in Dublin on 11th February for the 22nd Festival of Youth Orchestras. This is an annual gathering of some of the top youth orchestras in the country. CWYO was one of eight such groups given the opportunity to perform at this year’s event. The group was one of four orchestras performing in the second of two concerts presented over the course of the day. Each and every one of the musicians appreciated the fact that they were performing on one the biggest stages in the country before a critically appreciative audience. Keep reading!

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Schaerer’s extravagant and exhuberant style pays off


The Big Wig: Andreas Schaerer
Hildegard Lernt Fliegen meets the Orchestra of the Lucerne Festival Academy (CD/DVD)
Label: ACT Music

The Lucerne Festival Academy was founded by the great French composer and conductor Pierre Boulez (1925-2016). Andreas Schaerer, a huge fan of Boulez, was a regular attendee at the Academy’s highly regarded Summer School for talented young musicians. When the Academy commissioned him to compose a new work in 2014 he jumped at the opportunity. It took Schaerer five months, locked away in his studio, to come up with the six movements that make up The Big Wig. Keep reading!

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Herskedal’s Arabian Rhapsody

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The Roc – Daniel Herskedal (Edition Records)

I have listened to this album over and over. As I have listened, I have sat with pen poised, ready to note down those comments which, painstakingly distilled, would lead to a peerless review. 10 tracks. 49 minutes. Nothing to it. Every time I have forgotten pen and paper and become enmeshed in a trance-inducing weave of quiet aural magic. Keep reading!

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St Brigid’s Day

The Christian Feast of St. Brigid, Lá Fhéile Bríde, is traditionally celebrated on February 1st. Many churches and holy wells in the Ferns Diocese are associated with this saint. In Pre-Christian times this was the season of Imbolc, a festival which celebrated the beginning of spring. It is thought by some that Imbolc, meant ‘in the belly’, a time when sheep began to lactate and their udders filled and the grass began to grow again. Keep reading!

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Lá Fhéile Bríde

Joe Bonner as Dobhar Íochtarach i nGaoth Dobhair ag déanamh crosóg Bhríde. Job Bonner from Dobhar Íochtarach, Gaoth Dobhair in West Donegal making a Saint Bridget's cross.

Joe Bonner as Dobhar Íochtarach i nGaoth Dobhair ag déanamh crosóg Bhríde. (Seán Ó Dómhnaill – www.flickr.com/people/an_solas)

Titeann Lá Féile Bríde ar an gcéad lá d’Fheabhra gach bliain. Ar an lá seo samoinímid ar Naomh Bríd, foghlaimíonn daltaí scoile faoin bpearsa stairiúil seo agus ar ndóigh, déantar croiseanna Bríde i scoileanna agus i dtithe ar fud na tíre.

Is cuid lárnach de stair, de chreideamh agus de chultúr na tíre í Naomh Bríd. Fan ag léamh!

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Tá sláinte sa cheol agus san cultúr dúchasach

Great to see Wexford Echo doing its bit to promote “an chultúr dúchasach”.
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Tá sláinte sa cheol agus san cultúr dúcasach. (pdf)

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Liam Ó Maonlaí & Cormac Begley: Quietly Impressive

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I really enjoyed Liam and Cormac’s gig at Wexford Arts Centre last night. It was very relaxed and informal, almost like a parlour gig. Liam is like the lost member of The Grateful Dead in that there is nothing to stop him getting into a groove and playing all night long! How does he look? Young as ever. Mind you he needs a haircut. Cormac is a true concertina champion, his playing as effortless as it is mellifluous. He had his instruments ranged around him on the floor like toys in a kid’s nursery – big, middling-sized and small. Great to see a full house on a cold January night.

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Song Of Lahore – An Instant Classic!

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Remember the buzz of excitement generated by that first Buena Vista Social Club album in 1997 and the award-winning Wim Wenders docu-film that followed? Music producer Nick Gold had invited guitarist Ry Cooder to Havana to participate in a collaboration between musicians from Mali and Cuba. Visa problems meant that the African musicians could not be there so Gold and Cooder decided, instead, to work with local musicians on an album of Cuban son music. The rest is history. Keep reading!

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Clang Sayne on The Fringe: Gig Review

fullsizerenderThe 65th Wexford Festival Opera saw Wexford, once again, scrubbing up, tightening the bowtie and “puttin’ on the Ritz”. With the Wexford Spiegeltent Festival starting close to two weeks ahead of the festival fireworks on opening night it meant that the fun went on for that much longer. Keep reading!

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Peter Maxwell Davies signs off on a high

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Review of Symphony No. 10 by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Symphony No. 10 by Sir Andrzej Panufnik. London Symphony Orchestra and Choir. Sir Antonio Pannano conducting.

‘Sometimes, the music knows something you don’t’

So said British composer, and former Master of the Queen’s Music, Peter Maxwell Davies who passed away earlier this year.

The first recording of his Tenth Symphony has just been released on London Symphony Orchestra’s LSO label. Keep reading!

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Together, As One – new album by Dinosaur

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Together, As One is the debut album of Laura Jurd’s new band Dinosaur. And what an album!

The wunderkind trumpeter is joined by fellow composer, innovator and mould-breaker Elliot Galvin on Fender Rhodes and Hammond organ. We recently reviewed Galvin’s ‘audaciously accomplished’ album, Punch (Edition Records), on these pages. The quartet is completed by Conor Chaplin (electric bass) and Corrie Dick (drums). Jurd is, along with Galvin and Dick, a founder member of the Chaos Collective, Keep reading!

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Hot Buttered Soul stands the test of time

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Presently listening to the Isaac Hayes album Hot Buttered Soul (1969). Damn it’s good. You know that feeling when you walk into a quiet mid-morning coffee house and you can tell from the aroma of just-ground coffee beans, the welcoming smile of the barista and the unobtrusive sounds coming from the speakers that just happen to form part of the soundtrack of your life? That’s how I am feeling right now about Hot Buttered Soul. Isaac lays on the love like no other. He is an old friend come to tell stories and raise spirits. Let your soul pulse to that gentle Shamanic energy

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Cry WOLFF!

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WOLFF

Wexford band. Seriously good Wexford band. Life-affirmingly good.

You don’t need no doctor; you don’t need no pills; all you need is a shot of … WOLFF tonic!

Performing at Wexford Spiegeltent Festival on Oct 18. https://wexfordspiegeltent.ticketsolve.com

http://breakingtunes.com/thisiswolff

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квадратуры круга!

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Brian Keane of The Irish Times recommended this album in The Ticket last Friday. I have just had a listen and I am with Brian. These guys are very good. Maybe it’s time to turn the dial back up to 11!

https://russiancircles.bandcamp.com/album/guidance

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Punch by Elliot Galvin Trio

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I reckon Elliot Galvin was a horror as a child, the kind of kid who just had to find out first hand why you shouldn’t stick metal objects into live sockets.

This learning-by-doing approach is still very much a part of his make-up as a musician and composer. And one suspects he has an intellect to match it. Keep reading!

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Collective Portrait by Eddie Henderson (2015)

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What a classy album. I have just had my first start-to-finish listen and guess what? I can’t wait to do it all again.

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ONE by Tim Garland

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ONE is the new album by Grammy-award-winning jazz musician Tim Garland.

Garland is one of Britain’s most respected and versatile jazz musicians with saxophones and bass clarinet his main weapons of choice.

To describe Garland as simply a jazz musician, however, falls a long way short as there really is no pigeon-holing him. Keep reading!

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Gem of a Concert with Rising Stars of Classical Music

Chiral Quartet
The Very Best Young Irish Performers
presented by The National Opera House in association with Conservatoires Ireland
Sunday, 3 April, 2016

I nearly didn’t go to this concert last Sunday afternoon as TG4 had Kerry giving Cork a masterclass in free-flowing football only for Cork to start inching their way back. Anyway I am glad that I did go as I got an opportunity to hear some of the up-and-coming ones-to-watch on the Irish classical music scene. The Chiral Quartet are CIT Cork School of Music Ensemble-in-Residence. They may be just two violins, a viola and a cello but these guys and gals are hot. They played the gorgeous Quartet in e by Ina Boyle (composed in 1934, with subsequent revisions). I would happily have listened to them for the whole afternoon. They were followed by pianist Adam McDonagh, a graduate of DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama. He gave a beautiful and flawless performance of Chopin’s Polonaise-Fantaisie, Op 61. McDonagh was then joined by fellow DIT graduate, award-winning soprano Aoife Gibney. She sang the lovely Geme la Tortorella from Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera; Walter de la Mare’s witty/reflective poem The Pigs and the Charcoal Burner set to music by Ina Boyle; and three of Sibelius’s five love-found, love-lost songs from Op 37. Remember the name: Aoife Gibney. From Dublin’s RIAM came soprano Lorna Breen, Miriam Kaczor (flute), Seamus Wylie (clarinet). Breen, with Kaczor on flute, started with Corigliano’s re-working of Three Irish Folksongs. These were interesting arrangements of well known folk songs (Down By The Salley Garden, The Foggy Dew, She Moved Thro’ The Fair) with the music soaring and dipping around, sometimes running counter to, the singing. Yet it did not engage me. Corigliano may have had in mind to focus on “the more poetic side of Irish flute music” but I don’t know … perhaps he might have let them flow a little easier. Breen’s unaccompanied singing of The Lake Isle of Inisfree, set to music by Philip Martin, worked much better. She was joined by Seamus Wylie’s clarinet and Kaczor on flute for Copeland’s As It Fell Upon A Day. Not the most tuneful of pieces, the best that my inexperienced ear could tell was that there was a tension-filled interplay between the three. Wylie’s playing, on bass clarinet, of a short piece, Motus by Kevin O’Connell, was delightfully quirky. He was joined by Kaczor on flute for the little flight of fancy that is Choros No. 2 by Villa-Lobos. As the concert wound towards its end Kaczor’s solo flute on Philip Hammond’s Wavespace gave her a real opportunity to shine. All in all, a really enjoyable concert with oodles of virtuosity on display. One would love to see more young players attending concerts such as this. Not only might learn a thing or two, they would also see what lies ahead for them as musicians. Oh and did I say that Kerry won by five points!

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Standing Ovation for Macalla 1916 at the Opera House

Macalla 1916 at National Opera House, Wexford
“Éire ní hamháin saor ach Gaelach chomh maith.”

“Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart”
Easter 1916 – WB Yeats

Easter 2016 may, in time, come to be seen as one of those major coming-of-age moments in Irish history. Fifty years ago we remembered the events of 1916; twenty-five years ago we tried to forget them; now, one hundred years on, we have learned to look back with a more balance, a more reflective eye.

While Enniscorthy may, over the Easter weekend, have been the centre of operations for all things relating to The Rising, the National Opera House, Wexford was the place to be on Easter Monday evening for what transpired to be one of the highlights on the county’s 1916 commemorative events calendar.

Macalla 1916: A Celebration of Easter 1916 is a new suite of music by acclaimed composer Michael Rooney. This epic work conveys in music, song and story the birth of a nation. Indeed if ever a show could be said to capture the passion, the people, the politics and the consequences of Easter 1916 this is it.

Those tasked with bringing this story to life are the Comhaltas National Folk Orchestra of Ireland. The orchestra is made up of over sixty young traditional and classical musicians. They come from all over the island as well as from Scotland and England. Even before they strike a note the sight of their ordered ranks on stage presents a wonderful image: there, centre-stage, the fiddles, beside them the two pipers, to the left a platoon of harps, behind them the accordions, then the concertinas and so on through battalions of banjos, flutes and fifes, brass and percussion.

Joining the orchestra were All Ireland champion singers Tadhg Maher and Shauna McGarrigle. Narrative duties were provided by former RTE presenter Ciana Campbell and respected actor Diarmuid De Faoite.

This gathering of our brightest and best talent, under the baton of composer and conductor, Michael Rooney, put in a sensational performance in bringing this story to life.

Rooney had twin aims in putting this powerful work together: an echo of the past, a vision for the future. So on the one hand, he reaches right back to the Great Famine and the terrible price paid by the people of this beleaguered island. On the other he presents to us the modern, mature and globally-respected Ireland we have today.

The 1st Movement starts with “An Tírdhreach Loite”, The Blighted Landscape. We are back in the 1840s and the soul-destroying and desolate years of The Great Famine.

We then move, in the 2nd Movement, through the decades that followed when the country rose up in nationalistic fervor and set about re-building a long dormant cultural heritage. The music is upbeat and full of hope.

By the 3rd Movement we are a decade into the 20th Century and the divergence between those who wish to break free from the bonds of British rule and those who will stop at nothing to prevent this happening.

The focus then turns to the so called Great War as men from North and South fight and die in the trenches fighting for a common cause. This is conveyed in the sad strains of Marbhna don Ghlúin Chaillte – Lament for a Lost Generation.

The climax of the suite comes in the 4th Movement as we come to the events of Easter 1916. The music expresses the confusion, the fighting, the men marching to their execution, with the shock and sadness of what has just happened being expressed in Ómós do na Mairbh – Lament for the Dead.

Súil Siar takes a reflective look back at all that has taken place over a few short years, a world where “all is changed, changed utterly”.

The 6th, and final, Movement takes us right up to the present, to the modern, self-confident and re-imagined Ireland we know today. The Suite ends on a lively and joyful note with Athmhuintearas – Reconciliation.

The inclusion of well known songs such as The Bold Fenian Men, Óró ‘Sé do Bheatha Bhaile and The Foggy Dew punctuate the suite in a positive way, familiar, as they are, to most of us. Likewise the use of poems by Pearse, Douglas Hyde, Yeats and others, all eloquently delivered by Diarmuid De Faoite. The projection of images onto the backdrop adds to the overall experience.

Ninty short minutes later the show is over. And, for a moment, a stunned silence fills the auditorium. Not for long, however, as an explosion of rapturous and sustained lets conductor and orchestra know they have scored a bulls-eye! We are rewarded with an encore of the final movement!

Rooney, delighted with the performance and the audience’s reaction to it, said “It was an honour and a privilege for us to bring this suite to the National Opera House”. He praised the World-class acoustics of the O’Reilly Theatre and the staff who, he said, could not have been more helpful or professional. Producer Kieran Hanrahan expressed his gratitude to Wexford Comhaltas for their assistance in making the show the success it was.

Indeed the sterling work being done by all the Comhaltas branches in Co Wexford was acknowledged on the evening with Mayor Ger Carthy presenting each of the Chairpersons with a commemorative plaque.
Fous on the harpists at Macalla 1916 concert, National Opera House, Wexford

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The Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross, Op 51 by Joseph Haydn

Rubens' Cruxifixion

Rubens’ Cruxifixion


Last Sunday the RTE Contempo Quartet came to Wexford. The talented foursome – Bogdan Sofei and Ingrid Nicola on violin, Andreea Banciu on viola and Adrian Mantu on Cello – were in town, at the invitation of Music for Wexford, to perform Haydn’s The Last Seven Words of our Saviour on the Cross (Op. 51) by Haydn. The venue was, as it is for most of the Music for Wexford concerts, St Iberius Church on Main Street.

In Sarah M. Burn’s excellent notes, prepared for the performance of the piece, we read that Haydn was commissioned to write the work “as an aid to meditation during the religious services on Good Friday”. She goes on to say that the title page bears the following words in the inscription ‘Instrumental music on the last seven words of our Redeemer on the cross – or Seven sonatas with an introduction and at the end an Earthquake’. While the Introduction sets the scene, the finale depicts “the earthquake and rending of the Veil of the Temple that followed Christ’s death”.

Given the subject matter, and that this, on the surface, has the look of liturgical music of the most demanding kind, what materialises is something altogether more melodious, lyrical and uncomplicated. This uncluttered approach suited Haydn purposes as he set about telling the story with, as the work progresses, an ever heightening sense of emotional intensity. Ms Burn mentions that “A Viennese reviewer … wrote that ‘Anyone with even a moderate degree of feeling will be able to guess at almost every note what the composer meant it to express'”. This is done so simply and so beautifully.

Undoubtedly, the superlative playing of the quartet helped, in no small way, to convey the emotional power of the work. They nailed the ebbs and flows of the work wonderfully. I found the sad beauty of their playing of the pizzicato in Sonata V (‘Sitio” – ‘I am thirsty’) to be particularly affecting, something built on, even further, in the sonata that follows.

The words of Alan George, in reviewing another quartet’s playing of the piece, eloquently describe how the music unfolds:
“After the tremendous drama of the Introduzione, its moments of extreme tenderness continue into the flowing Sonata I: the concept of “forgiving” could be no more imploringly expressed. Sonata II is characterised by a march-like tread, whose gravity must be balanced with enough movement to enable the lonely melodic lines to give of their poignancy—and truly to reveal a glimpse of Paradise in the final transformation into the tonic major key. The sheer “maternal” warmth and humanity of Sonata III similarly requires a gently flowing tempo, and the anguished desperation and sense of betrayal in Sonata IV can only be inhibited by drawing out the music unduly. Sonata V is notated with two minim beats per bar, and in observing this it is possible to achieve the most eerily spacious stillness in the pizzicato before the cries of anger and “thirst” burst upon us. There is also a strangely upbeat quality in this piece, which sits uneasily with its title, and yet which, after the monumental severity of Sonata VI’s opening unisons, develops further into what can only be comprehended as sheer joy—underlined by Haydn’s “joyful” key of G major at the end. Thereafter, the profound sense of reconciliation and acceptance in Sonata VII may be realised with a genuinely broad and spacious tempo, such that in attempting to portray the fury of the succeeding “earthquake” the inadequacies of four solo stringed instruments are slightly eased: inevitably it is impossible for a string quartet to recreate the sonic splendours of a full orchestra, but this awesome moment is not necessarily dependant on decibels alone.

Between the sonatas reader Owen Brady read the seven verses of Mark Strand’s Poem After the Last Words. This is wonderful stuff with each verse a perfect primer for the music that follows. ‘”It is finished,” he said. You could hear him say it, the words almost a whisper, then not even that, but an echo so faint it seemed no longer to come from him, but from elsewhere.’

Strand’s final verse ends with: ‘And beyond, as always, the sea of endless transparence, of utmost calm, a place of constant beginning that has within it what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, what no hand has touched, what has not arisen in the human heart. To that place, to the keeper of that place, I commit myself.’ Sublime.

This concert was recorded by RTÉ Lyric FM and will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on Sunday, 20 March, 2016 at 8pm.
If you wish to read the words of Mark Strand’s Poem After the Seven Last Words as younlisten you will find them at http://jacketmagazine.com/19/stra.html.

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I am lost in Space with The Modern Jazz Quartet

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It’s a beautiful clear Spring morning in Wexford. I am sitting in the study listening to the album Space (1969) by Modern Jazz Quartet. This was the second of two albums they recorded on the Apple label. And it is a real gem. Their interpretation of Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo’s “Adagio From Concierto De Aranjuez” is a delight. It is obvious from even a first listen that these guys don’t care to be strait-jacketed. Anything goes. One reviewer was really bothered by their lack of interest to stay within the white lines … and their over-ringing the bell! http://blogcritics.org/music-review-the-modern-jazz-quartet. As for me, and notwithstanding what were probably innovative noodlings at the time by the producer, I can honestly say this album gets me into the zone. Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in Space!

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The Voice Squad Hits All the Right Notes

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One of the country’s most respected and best known traditional singing groups performed at Wexford’s National Opera House on Saturday night last.

The Voice Squad are Gerry Cullen, Phil Callery and Fran McPhail. Formed back in 1985, they have taken the unaccompanied singing of traditional and folk songs, in harmony, to new levels.

The recently formed Wexford traditional music 5-piece, Kitty’s Wedding, opened the evening with a short set of jigs, reels, slow airs and songs. Featuring Elaine Stafford and Tanya Murphy on fiddles, Darina Gleeson on accordion/vocals, Ned Wall on pipes and Fergal O’Hanlon on guitar/vocals their playing was effortless and sweet to the ear. Elaine and Fergal’s rendition of “What Will You Do Love” was particularly well received.
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Time then for the evening’s special guest Mick Hanly. At one time a regular visitor to these parts Hanly expressed his delight at performing in this august space for the very first time. With at least 14 albums under his belt he devoted his short set to songs from the forthcoming album “Homeland”. Showing that he has not last any of his skills as a song-writer and a story-teller his song “Endgame” told of how we have become so technologically adept that we can drop an excavator onto Mars but we cannot stop the Colorado bees from dying in California:

“Man you’ve come a long way,
You’ve a long way to go.”

His stories from his time working in a Breton fishing port were hilarious and led to his writing the song “Attention Sous”. Hanly finished his set with the crowd-pleasing You’re A Big Girl Now.
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And then, dressed all in black, the three amigos known as The Voice Squad ambled onto the stage, arranged themselves and launched straight into “Now Westlin Winds” by the Scottish poet Robbie Burns. The song, a favourite of Dick Gaughan and Len Graham, is summed up by Phil Callery as being about “guns and girls”.

Next up was the love song “Willie Taylor”, albeit one with rather sad consequences for the aforementioned Willie. When he is sent to sea “his youthful lover” dresses herself up as a sailor and follows him. When she finds him “walking along with his lady gay” she lets him have it with “a brace of pistols”. She then gets promoted for showing such spirited decisiveness!

“The Brown and Yellow Ale” also concerns itself with affairs of the heart. The VS picked it up from the late singer and song-collector Frank Harte. It gets a regular airing by traditional singer Karan Casey.

“I waited by the ford for an hour and a quarter

Oh the brown and the yellow ale

And when she came to me,
’twas without shame I saw her

Oh love of my heart

She told me her story, I lay down and I died …”

Another version, Cuach Mo Lon Dubh Buí, was recorded by Altan. The original poem was a favourite of the writer James Joyce.

The setlist took a spiritual turn next with “What Wondrous Love Is This”. This hauntingly beautiful 19th century deep-south American hymn, to a much older English ballad melody, comes from The Sacred Harp tradition of sacred choral music. The VS performed it with the late American folk singer Jean Ritchie.

The ‘love’ theme continued with the much loved Lough Erne’s Shore which many may know from the ground-breaking 1976 album of Paul Brady and Andy Irvine.

“Her hair it resembled gold tresses;
her skin was as white as the snow.
And her lips were as red as the roses
that bloom around Lough Erne shore.”
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The next song “High Road to Rome” came to The VS via the singing of Cavan man Paddy Moynihan. Both tuneful and witty it looks at the different outcomes for a rich man and a poor man arriving at St Peter’s gates. Probably the best received song of the evening.

Back to Robbie Burns then for “Ae Fond Kiss”, a song we last heard in these parts from the lips of Eddi Reader.

This was followed by the love-to-the point-of-desolation “I Am Stretched On Your Grave”. A Frank O’Connor translation of the 17th century “Táim sínte ar do thuma”, the poem was put to music by Philip King and was a favourite in the set of the band Scullion. Sinead O’Connor subsequently delivered her own both-barrels, emotion-filled rendition.

We head north again to Lough Erne and the story of “The Rambling Irishman”.

This is followed by Luke Kelly’s “The Night Visiting Song (I Must Away Now), a signal that the evening is drawing to a close.

Because this is Wexford the band sing the old crowd-pleaser, “Little Jimmy Murphy”, with its music-hall jauntiness. It’s 1798 and …

“We’re far from the last rout
From the East to Downpatrick
Where lies poor little Jimmy Murphy
On the sweet green mossy banks
Skinnymalink killymajoe whisky frisky tooraloo
Rank a diddle dido ding dural i doe!”

As for little Jimmy Murphy …

“Now Jimmy Murphy wasn’t hanged for sheepstealing
But for courting a pretty maid and her name was Kate Whelan.”

If there is one thing we have learned from this gig it’s that love is nothing other than a big pile of trouble!

The VS welcome special guest Mick Hanley back on stage and they harmonise with him on the eponymously named single from his new album “Homeland”.

Nothing more to do then but raise “The Parting Glass” and send us on our way into the night.
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Pix by Seán Rowe.

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What am I listening to now?

bjork
Thanks for asking. As I write I am listening to Bjork’s Greatest Hits. She comes across as a peculiar genius does Bjork. I wonder is she a bit mad. Her music is all over the place! One second you are marvelling at the incredible sounds she is making, the next you have a pain in your head. And yet she makes music that will not let go of your ears except, of course, on those, not infrequent, occasions where she lets go of one of your ears so as to whack you on the back of the noggin with a big mallet! And that voice: dream-like at times, like the voice of an angel. That’s on the one hand. At other times she can sound like a jilted Moore Street fishmonger spitting invective and vitriol at the Moon! She’s some woman all the same.

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Solid Ether by Nils Petter Molvaer

solid-ether
I have just spent a very enjoyable chunk of a St Stephen’s evening listening to Solid Ether by Nils Petter Molvaer.

“…some of the most beautiful writing next to enjoying the music itself.”
–Doug Payne (producer, writer, critic)

This is one of those albums that defies easy categorisation. And it is all the better for that. I thought about putting down some notes in an attempt at a lightening review. Alas, however much I tried to pull the whole thing into some sort of a cohesive and package-able listening experience, I found myself coming up short. For now I recommend you read the write-up at http://ecmreviews.com/2013/08/02/solid-ether.

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And the prize for best festival supplement …

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Wexford town is now well and truly in festive mode. And it’s wonderful. As Autumn fades rapidly to Winter and the nights close in, a deep-rooted primal communal spirit appears to take hold and bring out the pagan bacchanalian party animal in all of us. Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Both of Wexford local papers have festival supplements this week. One is a 20 pager with plenty of pictures, listings, a few previews/reviews, including short intros to the main operas. It looks well. The other is a 48 page opus magnum with in-depth previews and honest reviews, profiles, interviews with the stars of this year’s operas, details of some of the less obvious exhibitions and shows, nice images, reflections, well thought out commentary pieces, and a lovely piece by writer Colm Toibín. Did I mention the beautiful images in the latter publication? The photographer leaves us in no doubt that Norman Garrett (the character Koanga in the opera of the same name) is probably the snappiest dresser at this year’s festival … and he is a hunk! The same photographer captures Magali Simard-Galdès (Nicette in Le Pré aux Clercs) at her most beguiling wearing, as she does, a most delightfully muted come-hither smile.
First prize, then, to Wexford Echo on pulling out all the stops to produce what is a comprehensive and impeccably turned out festival supplement.

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Party Time in Wexford!

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The Spiegeltent Festival is underway. And it seems like the epicentre of the Wexford entertainment scene has moved closer to the water’s edge. Imagine, folks used to come to Wexford in October to hear opera music! http://wexfordspiegeltent.com

Wexford Opera Festival officially opens on Wed, Oct 21 with the traditional fireworks display over the harbour followed by the first of the operas, Koanga by Frederick Delius. The trio of this year’s opera’s is completed by Mascagni’s Guglielmo Ratcliff and Le Pré aux Clercs by Herold. Dress rehearsals take place Oct 18, 19 and 20. Time then to dust down the glad-rags and buff the brogues! www.wexfordopera.com
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Wexford Fringe Festival, which fits like a loose and well adorned overcoat over the main festival, runs Oct 16 to Nov 1. The first Saturday (Oct 17) is always a blast with the hordes moving from one exhibition opening to another and sensible people behaving as though they spent every Saturday afternoon downing hors d’oeuvre and vino! Always a great day on the town. www.wexfordfringe.ie
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There are too many exhibitions for me to list here so I am am just going to highlight a few. To see the full list head to http://www.wexfordfringe.ie/exhibitions.
The Cultural Imperative hosts the launch of ‘ROUND’ at the Saturday Gallery, Wexford this Saturday October 10th at 4pm. The gallery is at 88 South Main Street, Wexford. The exhibition includes hundreds of artworks from local, national and international artists. All artworks are for sale at €100 or less. Exhibition, which is usually a Saturday only affair, runs daily for the duration of the festival. All welcome – with the exception of quadrilateral types who don’t wash their armpits. Wine and water served.
Wexford Arts Centre hosts Yeats & Son – John and Jack Butler Yeats, selected works from The Niland Collection from 18th October – 21st November, 2015. Opening Reception: Saturday 17th October at 4pm with guest speaker Emer McGarry, Deputy Director The Model. Paintings on loan from The Model, home of The Niland Collection, Sligo.
Wexford County Council HQ at Carriglawn, Wexford hosts Selected Works: 2004-13 – A solo exhibition by Nick Miller from 19 October to 20 November 2015. Opening Reception: Friday 23 October at 7pm.
Greenacres Gallery, Selskar, Wexford hosts its annual Festival Art Exhibition with featured artists John Behan RHA & Ken Browne along with over 90 other top drawer artists. Official opening Saturday October 17th @ 6.30pm.
Great selection of affordable art at the Collins-Grant Gallery, Rowe Street, Wexford.
Neil Shawcross is showing at the National Opera House, Wexford (Oct 21 – Nov 1).
Pigyard Gallery, Selskar, Wexford hosts artist Trevor Geoghegan. Official opening Sat, Oct 17 at 7.30pm.
The Harmonics Visual Arts Group has a lovely little show in Selskar, Wexford, just across from Greenacres.
The Old Library, McCauley’s Carpark has work by a selection of Irish artists (Oct 17 – Nov 7).
An Tobar, Westgate Heritage Centre, Wexford hosts Marja van Kampen. Runs Oct 16-Nov 1, 10am-5pm daily.
Talbot Hotel and White’s Hotel welcome back their regular army of exhibitors. A favourite of mine is Senan O’Brien who is showing in White’s Hotel lobby. Also looking forward to Mary T Carberry and Mary Wallace, also at White’s. The Collins Grant Gallery has a selection at the Talbot Hotel. Perennial favourite Jacinta Crowley Long is there also.
The Artistic Endeavours at La Speranza (White’s Hotel), Main St. Wexford features the work of Andrew Kenny, Ewa Babiarczyk, Deirdre Tighe/Schulz, Fintan Ryan, Fiona Byrne, Kate Kos, Kevin P. O’Neill, Jackie Edwards, Jane Meyler, Peter Kelly, Zane Sutra. Photo Exhibition by Kristin Gray. Launch is 6.30pm, Oct 22.
The Tate Guerin Gallery at Well’s House, Ballyedmond hosts “The Makers” exhibition. It launches Tuesday 20 October at 6pm. Features selected portraits from an ongoing series of work by Claire-Jeanne Nash. www.facebook.com/TateGuerinGallery
Fusion Café, Monck St, Wexford has an exhibition of works by Serena Caulfield entitled In:fusion. (Great title!) Launch is 6pm, Thursday, Oct 22.
Artist David Daly‘s festival exhibition at The Pumphouse, Wexford Wildfowl Reserve is always a must-see. Launch happens 4pm, Sat, Oct 24. Runs to Nov 1.
The National Heritage Park has an exhibition of paintings and felted sculptures by Roisin Markham (Oct 16 – Nov 1).
Sift opens at Enniscorthy Institute, Church St, Enniscorthy on Oct 16 (7pm). Sift is a co-curated project initiated by John Busher and Trudi van der Elsen. Without addressing a specific theme, the works examine emerging developments in contemporary painting practice. Over a number of months, all artists will engage in dialogue to explore the shared concerns of their practice that will eventually conclude and unfold in the space. This dialogue will examine literary connections that may emerge, and eventually provide a framework for works through a series of spoken word events. Author Caroline Busher will write a series of short stories in response to the works that will be exhibited alongside the show. Enniscorthy Choral Society will respond to the space through works selected by choral director Donagh Wylde.
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Two annual events at the Talbot Hotel are part of the fabric of Wexford Festival: Wexford Antiques Fair (Oct 22-26) and Wexford Book Fair ((Nov 1). The Antiques Fair goes ahead this year without the presence of chief organiser and super-knowledgable Mairead Furlong. RIP.

There are some great talks over the festival at Wexford Library covering everything from history (1916 Rising) to poetry (Yeats) to children’s literature (Marita Conlon McKenna). www.wexford.ie/wex/Departments/Library/WhatsOn
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Then there’s the music, the comedy and the drama. There really is a jam-packed programme to look forward to. Some of my favourites in no particular order: Eleanor McEvoy, Humperdinck’s Hansel & Gretel, Delorentos, the ever droll Dylan Moran, the South Sea music collective showcasing the best of Wexford music, Oyster Lane’s Hairspray at Dun Mhuire, Ballycogley Players at St Michael’s Hall, Steve Earle and The Dukes, local heroes Corner Boy, film maker Barrie Dowdall’s Ruby Backdrop, WLOS’s Hits from the Musicals, Bridge Drama‘s performance of The Cripple of Inishmaan, Piano Recital by Nathalia Milstein, winner of this year’s Dublin International Piano Festival, Puccini’s Tosca.

Enjoy!
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Culture Night 2015

I am really looking forward to Culture Night (and Day!) in Wexford this coming Friday. There are few enough occasions in the year when the community comes out onto the streets intent on nothing other than having a good time. There’s Wexford Opera Festival opening night when the quays are packed with happy families drawn together for the always brilliant fireworks display; there are the occasional homecoming celebrations when we have sporting success; and then there’s Culture Night.

Here’s a selection of the day’s highlights:
4.30pm: Discovering Drama presents scenes from “The Picture of Dorian Gray” & “The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe” – Wexford Opera House;
4.45-5.15pm: Wexford Drama Group performs excerpts from “Dancing at Lughnasa” – Wexford Library;
5pm: The Festival Opera Children’s Chorus presents a short extract from the opera “Hansel & Gretal” – Opera House;
5pm: Newline Theatre perform series of short pop-up performances in venues across Wexford town finishing with a variety performance at Opera House at 6.30pm;
5.30pm: Dancer Deirdre Grant performs “Playhouse” – Opera House;
6.30pm: Wexford Festival Opera Singers – Opera House;
7pm: New Ross Singers – Opera House;
7pm: Valda Choir – Selskar Abbey;
7pm: Wexford Male Voice Choir – St Iberius Church;
7pm: WACT Youth Theatre – Wexford Arts Centre;
7.30pm: Wexford Improv Group – Opera House;
8pm: WLOS sing songs from the musicals – Opera House;
8pm: Wexford Sinfonia Wind Ensemble – St Iberius Church
8pm: Kieran Quinn – 32 Pianos Tour – with Dave Flynn and Vicky Clancy – Greenacres Gallery, Selskar.
8pm: Damhsa agus amhránaíocht le Conradh Na Gaeilige – Cearnóg Selskar, Wexford
9pm Moonlight Trio – St Iberius Church;
9pm Castlebridge Gospel Choir – White’s Hotel;
9pm: Culture Cabaret Night (drama, music and comedy) – Wexford Arts Centre;
9.15pm: Live organ accompaniment by Ger Lawlor to selected scenes from the movie “Faust” – Rowe Street Church;
10pm: Stagefright – St Iberius Church.

See the full programme at http://www.culturenight.ie/download-all-programmes

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Julie Feeney at GB Shaw Theatre, Carlow

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We went to Carlow’s new GB Shaw Theatre last Friday night to see the incomparably wonderful Julie Feeney. Her new album Clocks has just gone to no. 1 in the Irish Indie Albums Charts (or no. 7 in the Album Charts, nestling between Rod Stewart and Taylor Swift). Julie is coming to the end of a ten date tour of Ireland whereby she collaborates with a local choir in each of the towns she plays. Leo’s College Choir, under choir master Ian Curran, had that privilege in Carlow. Ian, a native of Newbawn in Co Wexford, is a former member, along with Julie herself, of the group Anúna. I can’t say that Anúna were ever very much on my register but what I can say is that Ian managed to wring a beautiful harmonious magic from these young ladies. They opened the show, from the rear of the theatre, with a gorgeous take on Impossibly Beautiful before joining Feeney and accompanists on stage. The next couple of hours flew by as our host took us on a fantastic journey to other-worldly places. In the process she proved that not only is she a master musician but a story-teller, a poet and a sorceress. I certainly walked out into the cold night air feeling bewitched, bothered (in a good way) and bewildered!

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Wexford Opera Festival 2012

This year’s Wexford Festival Opera was generally acclaimed as being one of the best in years – three fine operas, two well-received ShortWorks, and a bunch of great early and late concerts. The Fringe Festival benefited in no small way from the addition of the Spiegeltent. In fact, if anything, the latter gave the fringe a real focal point, something it has never really had. Maybe in years to come Wexford might follow the route taken by Edinburgh where the fringe ended up leaving that which it sat on the edge of way behind! I kept up an occasional listings/review on Facebook throughout the festival. Here it is:

Oct 20 Here’s a selection of the Wexford Fringe exhibitions opening from today:
Photographer Ray Flynn’s “Looking Back” exhibition opens at 2.30pm today at the Irish Agricultural Museum, Johnstown Castle. Ray has a fabulous collection of b&w photographs covering the second half of the 20th century. Go to this exhibition and see what life was like before this little island became a Celtic Tiger, before even we became members of that elite club the EEC and the future looked rosy and bright. There is no admission charge into Johnstown Castle grounds (hurrah!).
The Blue Egg Gallery’s “Bravura” exhibition is officially launched today at 2.30pm by Kieran Whitelaw, the prize-winning ceramic artist and teacher. The gallery on John’s Gate Street, Wexford. This exhibition of craft work in various media, curated by Mary Gallagher, features work by the following makers: Isobel Egan, Christiane Wilhelm and Derek Wilson (ceramics), Liam Flynn (wood), Joe Hogan (willow), Gillian Freedman and Jean Murphy (textiles), Reiltin Murphy (calligraphic art) and Helen McLean (mosaic).
Wexford Arts Centre has the exhibitions “Palimpsest” by John Noel Smith and “Long Journey in a Short Space” by Marie Hanlon. Both artists are highly regarded with Smith’s large scale abstract paintings getting lots of praise from top art critisc and Hanlon’s “delicate and cleanly composed works” finding their way into top private and public collections. Launching the exhibition today at 4pm is art historian Mairead Furlong. While at the Arts Centre be sure to visit D’Lush Coffee where Oonagh Latchford’s sumptuous paintings make a perfect match to the delicious fare on offer.www.wexfordartscentre.ie
Wexford Opera Festival Exhibition at Greenacres Art Gallery, Selskar, Wexford is launched at 5pm today by Ger Lawlor, Chairman-elect, Wexford Festival Trust. Many of the big names of Irish art are here. It’s great to see that the price tags attaching to many of our better established artists no longer bring tears to the eyes. I suppose that’s one good result of the Celtic Tiger getting his whiskers clipped. http://www.greenacres.ie
The Annexe of Wexford Arts Centre (John’s Gate Street) hosts … fished, cockerels, felines …, an exhibition of paintings and sculptures by Mary Wallace and Gilly Thomas respectively. Wexford troubador Pierce Turner launches the exhibition at 5pm today. Mary and Gilly have been exhibiting at this space for the past few years. Indeed it could be said that they have put The Annexe on the map! Their festival exhibitions are a perennial must-see.
Ó áit go háit – an exhibition of paintings by Paddy Lennon at St Helen’s Bay Golf & Country Club, Kilrane, Co Wexford. Launch by Brendan Howlin, TD and Minister for Public Exp. and Reform today at 6pm. “Paddy Lennon’s landscapes place him in the very front rank of Irish painters” says Diarmuid O Muirithe. Exhibition organised by Pigyard Gallery. Runs until Nov 4.
Padraig Grant’s photographic exhibition at his Rowe Street Gallery is like a “greatest hits” collection with 25 of his friends selecting their fav pieces from his vast back catalogue and putting stories to those pieces. The official launch is not until Saturday week (Oct 27) but the gallery is open through the festival. Highly recommended.
Denis Collins Gallery on The Quays has ceramics by Alan Boyle, paintings by Una Keeley plus much more besides. A real Aladdin’s cave looking out on the Spiegeltent.
An Tobar, or Westgate Heritage Centre as it was, hosts “Nósanna” or “Ways”, an exhibition of paintings by Martina McAteer and Wexford Camera Club’s annual festival exhibition.
Pat Sheridan exhibits his wonderful “Wexford and Beyond” exhibition of photographs at 16 Lwr Georges Street from Thursday next (Oct 25). Launch is at 7pm.
Lots more exhbitions open next weekend. Find details of all Fringe Exhibitions at http://www.wexfordfringe.ie . Wexford Echo has a well written informative piece on the main exhibitions in this week’s issue. Read it!

Oct 22 Wexford Festival update
Well the festival is underway and all the signs point to this being a really good one. Anyone on the town last Saturday will have felt that magical festival buzz that comes but once a year. And that’s before we even factor in the Spiegeltent and the bunch o’tricks that it has up its sleeve. Suddenly we find the Fringe rubbing shoulders with the Festival proper!

Today is a relatively quiet day on the festival (opera and fringe!) front with the second of the dress rehearsals – Le Roi Malgré Rui – this evening and the Singing Pubs later at Maggie May’s, Larkins of Kilmacree and Simon Lambert’s place.

Mind you it wasn’t so quiet at last night’s dress rehearsal performance of L’Arlesiana when the alarm went off during the 2nd Act leading to a mass evacuation (in less than 5 mins – well done stewards!). A fella in one of the houses across from the theatre, curious as to the cause of the hubbub, went about opening his upstairs window only to find that the hinges were rusted to oblivion. The window fell out and clocked a poor unfortunate woman on the crown. After the ambulance whisked her away to Wexford General we trooped back in to see the story out to the grim end. Note to director: would you mind having our knife-wielding hero aiming for the heart rather than the jugular – less messy? Also I would prefer if there was just the one interval rather than two as you are hardly back in your seat than you are up and out again. That said the music is beautiful and the orchestra and singers are rock solid. Federico’s Lament drew a huge reaction from the audience.
Take advantage of these quiet mid-week days to get around some of the exhibitions. There is some great stuff out there at relatively good prices. If the weather is any way kind be sure to visit Johnstown Castle (Summer is over so the ticket booth is gone – hurrah!). While there you should visit the Ag. Museum where photographer Ray Flynn’s evocative “Looking Back” exhibition is showing. Or maybe head to St Helen’s Golf & Country Club where rugged man-of-Aran-esque Paddy Lennon’s new landscape work is showing. A late addition to the exhibition trail is Ceadogán Rugs at the former Lost Weekend store on Trimmer’s Lane (opposite Greenacres).
Oct 23 Wexford Festival update
Last night’s dress rehearsal performance of Le Roi Malgré Lui went down a treat with the audience. Could be that this is the best of the three. Mind you, much and all as they loved it people were still coming out wondering what it was all about! Here’s hoping Delius’s “A Village Romeo and Juliet” gets as good a reaction tonight. Oyster Lane’s production of “Annie” has its first outing this evening at Dun Mhuire Theatre. Not sure if there are any tickets left – box office 053 9123061. The Sky & The Ground Pub has no Candlelight Sessions this evening as they are putting all their energies into tomorrow night’s Singing Pubs event. There is a very strong line-up with Paul Creane, Cillian Byrne, Miriam Donohue, The Darling Sins and Dave Hastie all performing with backing band Cillian, Lorcan, Donal & Footzy Byrne. Remember tomorrow is fireworks night on The Quays. What’s the weather like?
Oct 23 Wexford Festival .. mini update
Just back from the dress rehearsal performance of “A Village Romeo and Juliet”. Great set, great production. Maybe drags its heels a bit in places. Beautiful orchestral piece early in the second half (around act 5 I think). And we had another grim ending – but sure it is Romeo and Juliet after all! All systems go for opening night at the Opera House tomorrow. The President will be there as will the great and the powerful from throughout the land and the Champagne will flow like the good old days (that would be pre-2008!).
Oct 24 Wexford Festival … Exhibitions Update
Tour of Wexford County Council’s fabulous art collection at 3pm today (Wednesday) at WCC HQ, Carricklawn, Wexford with Fulbright Scholar and art historian Karla Sanchez. Meet at reception desk. No charge and loads of free parking!
“Land and Sea” is an exhibition of mixed media works by Christine Mooney at 24 Selskar Street, Wexford. The official opening is Thursday, Oct 25 at 5.30pm. Guest speaker is Patricia Robinson. Runs until Nov 5.
“Bodyworks” an exhibition of 17 digitally manipulated images on Japanese paper by award winning artist Lois Davies, Pigyard Gallery, Selskar Street, Wexford. Opens this Thursday (Oct 25) at 7pm. Guest speaker: Sinead Rice. Runs until Nov 18.
“Mantelpiece” is an exhibition of sculpture, painting and artists’ books by Kathleen Delaney showing at “Weston”, Westgate, Wexford from Sat, Oct 24 to Nov 4. Kathleen is a delightfully eccentric artist who somehow manages to get her personality across in her exuberant and colourful works. Look too long and you will find yourself getting giggly and dizzy! Exhibition is launched this Saturday at 3pm by Catherine Boland, Contemporary Irish Art Society.
Padraig Grant’s photographic exhibition at his Rowe Street Gallery is like a “greatest hits” collection with 25 of his friends selecting their fav pieces from his vast back catalogue and putting stories to those pieces. The official launch is at 3pm on Saturday (Oct 27) but the gallery is open through the festival. Highly recommended.
Ceadogán Rugs Annual Festival Exhibition can be seen on Trimmer’s Lane/Selskar Square, Wexford (just opposite Greenacres in former Lost Weekend unit). Ceadogán have an amazing collection of handmade rugs resulting from their many collaborations with top artists. You may have seen their awesome Mainie Jellet rugs on the walls at the Opera House – that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
“Images of Birds 2012”, an exhibition of watercolours and drawings by David Daly is launched by Jim Hurley at 4pm next Saturday (Oct 27) at “The Pumphouse”, Wexford Wildfowl Reserve, Ardcavan, Wexford. Runs until Nov 4 (10am-5pm daily).
Wexford Model Railway Club’s annual festival exhibition takes place next weekend (Sat and Sun) in the CBS School Hall, Green St, Wexford. Adm €4 adult, €2 child. Family €8.
The annual Colman Doyle Festival Exhibition on Peter Street at Wexford’s south end is showing the work of 25 artists, 5 sculptors and 8 crafts people. Definitely worth a trip – take the back streets so you can see a little of old Wexford.
The Talbot Hotel springs to life on the exhibition front today. Old favourites such as Fr Johnny O’Brien, Simone Walsh and Jacinta Crowley-Long are there again along with another half dozen artists.
White’s Hotel appears, once again, to be given over every inch of wall-space to art! There are perennial favourites such as Mary T Carberry, Margaret Kent and Jean English. There is handmade jewellery, art glass, silk scarves, bog oak sculpture. The South Wexford Craft Trail folk are there with a veritable Aladdin’s cave of handmade goodies from woven baskets to art hats.
Photographer Ray Flynn’s “Looking Back” exhibition shows at the Irish Agricultural Museum, Johnstown Castle. Ray has a fabulous collection of b&w photographs covering the second half of the 20th century. Go to this exhibition and see what life was like before this little island became a Celtic Tiger, before even we became members of that elite club the EEC and the future looked rosy and bright. There is no admission charge into this exhibition or, indeed, into Johnstown Castle grounds (hurrah!).
The Blue Egg Gallery’s “Bravura” exhibition on John’s Gate Street, Wexford may be small in scale but is proving to be a big hit with art lovers. This exhibition of craft work in various media, curated by Mary Gallagher, features work by the following makers: Isobel Egan, Christiane Wilhelm and Derek Wilson (ceramics), Liam Flynn (wood), Joe Hogan (willow), Gillian Freedman and Jean Murphy (textiles), Reiltin Murphy (calligraphic art) and Helen McLean (mosaic).
Wexford Arts Centre has the exhibitions “Palimpsest” by John Noel Smith and “Long Journey in a Short Space” by Marie Hanlon. Both artists are highly regarded with Smith’s large scale abstract paintings getting lots of praise from top art critisc and Hanlon’s “delicate and cleanly composed works” finding their way into top private and public collections. While at the Arts Centre be sure to visit D’Lush Coffee where Oonagh Latchford’s sumptuous paintings make a perfect match to the delicious fare on offer.www.wexfordartscentre.ie
Wexford Opera Festival Exhibition at Greenacres Art Gallery, Selskar, Wexford was launched lasst weekend by Ger Lawlor, Chairman-elect, Wexford Festival Trust. Many of the big names of Irish art are here. It’s great to see that the price tags attaching to many of our better established artists no longer bring tears to the eyes. I suppose that’s one good result of the Celtic Tiger getting his whiskers clipped. www.greenacres.ie
The Annexe of Wexford Arts Centre (John’s Gate Street) hosts … fished, cockerels, felines …, an exhibition of paintings and sculptures by Mary Wallace and Gilly Thomas respectively. Mary and Gilly have been exhibiting at this space for the past few years. Indeed it could be said that they have put The Annexe on the map! Their festival exhibitions are a perennial must-see.
Ó áit go háit – an exhibition of paintings by Paddy Lennon at St Helen’s Bay Golf & Country Club, Kilrane, Co Wexford. “Paddy Lennon’s landscapes place him in the very front rank of Irish painters” says Diarmuid O Muirithe. Exhibition organised by Pigyard Gallery. Runs until Nov 4.
Denis Collins Gallery on The Quays has ceramics by Alan Boyle, paintings by Una Keeley plus much more besides. A real Aladdin’s cave looking out on the Spiegeltent.
An Tobar, or Westgate Heritage Centre as it was, hosts “Nósanna” or “Ways”, an exhibition of paintings by Martina McAteer and Wexford Camera Club’s annual festival exhibition.
The Swift Gallery is back in town for the festival with its lovely collection of big name, hightly collectable artists. Find them just across from Macken’s Pub at The Bullring.
The Menapia Camera Club’s selection of eclectic Wexford images can be found on Slaney Street, Wexford – half ways between Aviva and Sherry Fitz. Open over the bank holiday: Sat-Mon. Also Sat, Nov 3 and Sun, Nov 4.
Pat Sheridan exhibits his wonderful “Wexford and Beyond” exhibition of photographs at 16 Lwr Georges Street from Thursday next (Oct 25). Launch is at 7pm.
Wexford Historical Society presents the Dr George Hadden Memorial Lecture on Thurs, Nov 1 (8pm) at St Michael’s Hall, Green Street, Wexford. The lecture, “South Leinster men before the Inquisition” is given by Dr Thomas O’Connor, NUI, Maynooth. Adm €5 to non-members.
Artist Mick Mulcahy, Aosdána member, and stained glass expert Vera Whelan exhibit on North Main Street (beside Xtravision), Wexford.
The lovely Mairéad Stafford of Ballyelland Pottery has a beautiful selection of work on show in her “Opera Collection” at her place in Castlebridge, just outside Wexford. Highly recommended.
There are festival supplements in both local papers this week with loads of profiles, previews, reviews, etc.
Oct 25 Wexford Festival … up and running
You know there is something wonderful about the first night of the festival, something joyous and communal that appeals to the child in us all. There we all are, gathered together in a great warm huddle of humanity on a cold dark night hemmed in by the sea on one side and the town’s rickety old sea-front buildings on the other. There are the heart-felt speeches which come in snatches over the wind and the happy babble of excited children. They tell us to be proud of who we are and where we have come from and they speak of great days to come. We are quietly pleased that the President – yes the President, himself – has made the effort to come and join the party and we lend half an ear to his exhortations to be proud of who we are and where we have come from. And then he declares the festival open and the skies burst into life with great explosions of colour and smoke and music. We are all rooted to the spot, eyes to the sky, transfixed. In less than ten minutes it is all over and, satisfied, from a potent mix of ritual, tradition and spectacle, we inch our way back into the town’s narrow streets and head for home.

Oct 25 Wexford Festival .. Day 2
Oct 25-29 (12 noon – 7.30pm) Wexford Antique Fair, Talbot Hotel, Trinity St, Wexford
Oct 25 (3.30pm) William V Wallace Recital with Una Hunt (piano) and Maire Flavin (mezzo-soprano), Jerome Hynes Theatre, Wexford.

Tel 053 9122144.
Oct 25 (6.30pm) SKYFALL™, new James Bond film, at Omniplex Cinema, Drinagh, Wexford in aid of Wexford Lions Club. Tickets €40 – includes post film reception in Riverbank House Hotel with live music from “Some Like it Hot”. Proceeds from the evening will benefit Wexford Lions Club projects.
Oct 25 (8pm) Le Roi Malgré Lui by Emmanuel Chabrier (opera), Wexford Opera House, High St, Wexford. Tickets Tel 053 9122144.
Oct 25 (8pm) 3 one-act plays by Ballycogley Players, St Michael’s Hall (SVdeP), Thomas Street, Wexford. The plays: Parental Guidance by Eamonn Kelly; The Try by Greg Brannock; The Fat Lady Sings by David Tristram. Adm €10.
Oct 25 (8pm) Annie presented by Oyster Lane Theatre, Dun Mhuire Theatre, South Main St, Wexford. Tickets from €8. Tel 053 9123061.
Oct 25 (8pm) 3 one-act comedies presented by Wexford Drama Group, Wexford Arts Centre, Cornmarket, Wexford. The plays: Losers by Brian Friel; Albert by Richard Harris; Shakespeare’s A Dick by Mark A Kenneally. Tickets €14/12. Tel 053 9123764.
Oct 25 TodayFM Singles Masked Ball, Spiegeltent, The Quays, Wexford.
Oct 25 (9pm) Red Chair Music, Bean ‘n’ Berry Cafe, KeyWest, Wexford. No cc. (weekly event)
Oct 25 Festival Singing/Swinging Pubs, Wexford town. Venues: Whites of Wexford (9.30pm), Brownes Bar, Bishopswater (10.15pm), The Loch and Quay (11.15pm), McGees (11.45pm).
Oct 25 (9.30pm) Stuart Burns, Thomas Moore Tavern, Cornmarket, Wexford. No cc.
Oct 25 (9.30pm) Gypsy jazz with Ain’t Misbehavin’, The Sky & The Ground, South Main St, Wexford. No cc.Exhibition Openings Today …
“Land and Sea” is an exhibition of mixed media works by Christine Mooney at 24 Selskar Street, Wexford. The official opening is Thursday, Oct 25 at 5.30pm. Guest speaker is Patricia Robinson. Runs until Nov 5.
“Bodyworks” an exhibition of 17 digitally manipulated images on Japanese paper by award winning artist Lois Davies, Pigyard Gallery, Selskar Street, Wexford. Opens this Thursday (Oct 25) at 7pm. Guest speaker: Sinead Rice. Runs until Nov 18.
 Oct 26 For the next week and a bit it’s festival time in Wexford. The bank holiday weekend looks like being one of the busiest since the recession hit. With good weather forecast for tomorrow expect town to be busy busy.

I am just home from the launch of the book ‘The Art of Billy Roche: Wexford As the World’ at Wexford Arts Centre. Guest speaker Colm Tóibín impressed the big attendance with his cúpla focail. Copies of the book are available from the Arts Centre.

Pierce Turner performs at Greenacres Gallery this evening (8.30pm). Best get your skids on! Bell X1 at the Spiegeltent is sold out. The band Smash Hits play there later tonight (10pm). The wonderful trad/World fusionists Kíla are above in Sean Óg’s, Kilmuckridge. Tonight’s late night concert (11pm) at the Opera House (small theatre) features Nathalie Paulin (soprano) and Adam Burnette (piano). Singing pubs action tonight is at Jordan’s Murrintown, The Wicked Swan (The Faythe) and Gaynor’s (Wygram). Tomorrow we will get up and do it all again!
www.wexfordopera.com
Oct 31 Festival enters it’s final few days – let’s send it on it’s way with a bang!
Here’s what’s still to happen today …
Oct 31 (& Nov 1) Halloween Haunted Tour (drama), Wells House, Ballyedmond, Co Wexford. Shows at 4pm, 6pm, 8pm daily. Tickets €9. Tel 053 9186737.

Oct 31 A Day At The Pictures, Speigeltent, The Quays, Wexford. A whole day devoted to some of the great classics. You can still get to see The Student Prince (1954) at 7pm and The Birds (1963) at 9.30pm. Tickets €10 from Wexford Arts Centre – Tel 053 9123764.
Oct 31 (7pm,8pm,9pm) Professor Arcati’s Asylum presented by Nocturne Productions, Wexford Arts Centre. Adm €12/€10 (Age 14+). Includes “blood” refreshments.
Oct 31 (8pm) Le Roi malgré lui by Emmanuel Chabrier (opera, sung in French) Wexford Opera House. Tel 053 9122144.
Oct 31 (& Nov 1) (8.30pm) “Hits from the Musicals” presented by Wexford Light Opera Society, Ferrycarrig Hotel, Wexford. WLOS booking office, High St, Wexford open 12-2pm and 4-6pm daily. Tel 053 9174808.
Oct 31 (8.30pm) “Lend Me An Ear” with Aileen Donohoe, Greenacres, Wexford. Programme of arias & musical theatre favs. Accompanied by award-winning West End musical director and composer Robert Scott. Tickets €15. Tel 053 9122975.
Oct 31 (9.30pm) Sticky Digit and Marabou, Chocolate Bar, Common Quay St, Wexford. No cc.
Oct 31 Festival Singing/Swinging Pubs, Wexford town. Venues: T Morris (9.30pm), The John Barry (10.20pm).
Oct 31 (9.30pm) Gypsy Jazz with Ain’t Misbehavin’, The Sky and The Ground, South Main Street, Wexford.And looking ahead to tomorrow morning/afternoon …
Nov 1 (11am) Morning Concert with members of the Chorus and Orchestra of WFO, Jerome Hynes Theatre, Wexford Opera House. Music by Delius, John Ireland and Frank Bridge. Tel 053 9122144.
Nov 1 (1pm) 47 Roses by Peter Sheridan with Verdant Productions (drama), Wexford Arts Centre. One man show. Tickets €18/15. Tel 053 9123764.
Nov 1 (1.05pm) Lunchtime Classical Recital, St Iberius Church, Wexford. Tickets €15. Queue up early!
Nov 1 (2.30pm) Song of Summer by Ken Russell (film), Jerome Hynes Theatre, Wexford Opera House. FREE ADMISSION but ticket required. Tel 053 9122144.
Nov 1 (3.30pm) ShortWork: Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Auditorium, Presentation Secondary School, Grogan’s Road, Wexford. Tickets €25. Tel 053 9122144.
Nov 1 Wexford Festival can see the finish line in sight. We are now into November. Winter! Let’s make the most of the last few days of the festival. Here’s what’s happening this evening:

Rebecca Storm, Spiegeltent (7pm). Tickets €29.50 from Wexfo

rd Arts Centre – Tel 053 9123764.
Enniscorthy Athenaeum’s 4th Operetta and Dinner by Candlelight, Riverside Park Hotel, Enniscorthy (7.30pm). Tickets €40 – includes champagne, 4 course meal, music & dancing. Tel 087 2637178.
A Village Romeo and Juliet by Frederick Delius, Wexford Opera House (8pm). Tel 053 9122311.
Wexford Folk Orchestra with guest artist Des Willoughby of The Willoughby Brothers, Riverbank House Hotel, Ferrybank (8pm). Adm €12.
47 Roses by Peter Sheridan with Verdant Productions (drama), Wexford Arts Centre (8pm). Tickets €18/15. Tel 053 9123764.
Bridge Drama presents ‘A Night of Comedy’ (a number of short comedy plays), Whites Hotel (8pm). Adm €10.
Wexford Folk Orchestra with Des Willoughby (tenor) and local artists present an Irish-American Night, Riverbank House Hotel, Ferrybank (8pm). Adm €10.
“Hits from the Musicals” presented by WLOS, Ferrycarrig Hotel (8.30pm).
The Red Chair Live Music Night, Bean ‘n’ Berry Café, Key West, Wexford (9.30pm). No cc.
The Random Canyon Growlers (USA), The Sky & The Ground, South Main St, Wexford (9.30pm). “Hard driving bluegrass & old time music boosted by lasar beam harmonies.” No cc.
Festival Singing/Swinging Pubs, Wexford town. Venues: Metro 17 (9.30pm), The Talbot Hotel (10.15pm).
Extreme Rhythm Unleashed, Spiegeltent (10pm). Tickets €24.50 from Wexford Arts Centre – Tel 053 9123764.
TOMORROW MORNING:
William V Wallace Recital with Una Hunt (piano) and Maire Flavin (mezzo-soprano), Jerome Hynes Theatre @ Wexford Opera House (11am). Tel 053 9122144.
The Dubliner’s Dilemma (drama), Spiegeltent (1pm). A vivid one-man show based on James Joyce’s collection of short stories Dubliners.
www.wexfordfringe.ie
Nov 4 Last day of the festival. Get out there and enjoy it. Here’s what happenin’:
Festival Book Fair (final day), Talbot Hotel. Runs til 5pm.
Song of Summer by Ken Russell (film) at 2.30pm, Jerome Hynes Theatre, Wexford Opera House, FREE ADMISSION but ticket required. Tel 053 9122144.

Wexford Festival Orchestra Concert, Church of the Immaculate Conception, Rowe Street at 3.30pm. With Nathalie Paulin (soprano), Alexander Bernstein (piano), Dan Newell (trumpet). Conductor David Agler. Featuring works by Shostakovich and Bach. Tickets €18 (accompanied child €5). Tel 053 9122144.
Chris Cosgrave, Crescent Bar on Crescent Quay at 6pm.
A Village Romeo and Juliet by Frederick Delius (opera, sung in English), Wexford Opera House (8pm). Tel 053 9122144.
Rebel Sundays: Domo Davitt @ Dbar, Templeshannon, Enniscorthy (9pm)
Bourbon Street Jazz, Thomas Moore Tavern, Cornmarket (9.30pm). No cc.Don’t miss American bluegrass/indie band HA HA TONKA at Candlelight Sessions @ The Sky & The Ground on Tuesday night.
 Nov 9 It’s ooohh so quiet out there. I miss the festival. Relatively lean pickings on the entertainment front this weekend. This evening I am going to check out Corner Boy and Common Wolf at the DMC on South Main Street. Tomorrow I (and some others) will be sharing an intimate evening with Eleanor McEvoy. If I were New Ross based I would be going to see Paul Walsh in The Producers. Here is a selection of events happening this weekend:
Nov 9,10 (8pm) The Producers presented by St. Michael’s Theatre Musical Society, St Michael’s Theatre, New Ross. Tickets €12/10. Tel 051 421255.
Nov 9,10,11 Country Music Festival, White’s Hotel, Abbey St, Wexford. Double bill each night (9.30pm). The acts: Jimmy Buckley, John McNicholl, Derek Ryan, Paddy O’Brien, Declan Nerney, Thomas Maguire and Fhiona Ennis.
Nov 9 (8.30pm) Corner Boy and Common Wolf play the Dynamic Music Centre, 59 South Main St, Wexford. €5 adm. BYOB. (Directions: right next to Lowney’s Mall)
Nov 10 (3pm) Nov 9,10,11 Theresa and the Stars @ Country Music Festival, White’s Hotel, Abbey St, Wexford.
Nov 10 (8pm) Eleanor McEvoy, Wexford Arts Centre, Cornmarket, Wexford. Tickets €18/16. Tel 053 9123764. She has a classical training in violin, a voice that would charm Mad Sweeney down from the trees and a sack full of great songs. Don’t miss.
Nov 10 (10pm) Down & Out, Wilson’s Bar, Templeshannon, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford
Nov 10 (10pm) Point Blank, Crescent Bar, Crescent Quay, Wexford
Nov 11 (3pm) Nov 9,10,11 The Moynihan Brothers @ Country Music Festival, White’s Hotel, Abbey St, Wexford.
Nov 11 (6pm) Aaron Berry, Crescent Bar, Crescent Quay, Wexford.
Nov 11 (9pm) Rebel Sundays: Hot Ash Felt @ Dbar, Templeshannon, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.
Nov 11 (10pm) Jason Travers, Ashdown Park Hotel, Gorey, Co Wexford. Adm €15.
Nov 11 (11pm) Gorilla Radio, Benedict’s Nightclub, Templeshannon, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford.
http://www.wexlive.com/news.shtml#1345471282
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Remembrance Day – Sunday, Nov 11, 2012

We had a wonderful Remembrance Day service at St Iberius Church today with music provided by the Loch Garman Band. Rector Arthur Minion was a wonderfully welcoming and eloquent host. His homily was a fitting tribute to the Irish people who died in both wars. As to why we should still be remembering those who died in wars that happened so long ago he pointed out that both WW1 and WW2 were significant in their scale, their geographical spread and in the use of new technology and science to such devastating effect. He did, ever, go on to say that war continues to tear countries apart and he listed ten major conflicts around the World which have led to the deaths of thousands over the past two years. In passing he mentioned that while close to 60,000 US soldiers died during the Vietnam conflict, twice that number committed suicide subsequently. The horrors of war stretch way beyond the battlefield. Revd Minion’s emotional summing up focused on the devastating effect of war on children – killed, injured, orphaned, scarred for life. Powerful stuff. Following the laying of wreaths at the War Memorial Pulpit LGB’s Anthony Nolan sounded “The Last Post” followed by “The Reveille”. We sang “Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale, Yet will I fear no ill; For Thou art with me, and Thy rod And staff me comfort still” (William Whittingham, 1524-1579). A fine rendition of Elgar’s Nimrod (Enigma Variations) brought us back on an even keel before the band finished with a rallying Onward Christian Soldiers (Martin Rinkart, 1586-1649). We may not all want to “join our happy throng” or make “Hell’s foundation’s quiver” as “Forward into battle see His banners go!”. Fightin’ talk!! I prefer to leave with: “Drop Thy still dews of quietness, Till all our strivings cease; Take from our souls the strain and stress, And let our ordered lives confess The beauty of Thy peace.” (John G. Whittier, 1807-1892). We are all just passing through but occasions like this help us appreciate the journey that bit more.

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