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.

At one end of the scale there were children no older than five years old sean nós dancing, with some style, to a hornpipe; at the other there was the venerable Paddy Berry singing his heart out about ‘Paddy the Whale’.

The highlights throughout the evening were many. Aisling Cadogan and Olivia Walsh on harps gave a fine rendition of Aileen Kennedy’s ‘There Is No Night’ and followed up with Ó Carolan’s ‘Sí Beag Sí Mór’.

The six young lads of Skins & Strings played a powerful set of reels (‘Easy Club’ & ‘The Congress’) and jigs (‘The Mouse in the Kitchen’ & ‘The Jug of Brown Ale’).
Alice and James McIntyre (fiddle and guitar) played some more reels – ‘George White’ and ‘Over the Moor to Maggie’.
Barbara Walsh (accordion) and daughter Una (harp) performed a short, but perfectly balanced, set – ‘Strike the Gay Harp’ and ‘Hannah’s Polka’. Multi-talented Una had danced earlier in the evening with her young sean nós dance colleagues.
Julie Walsh Kurylo read a couple of poems by her much lauded late brother John Francis Walsh.
Dance teacher Niamh Page, along with Jim Ryan and Ciara O’Grady, gave a demonstration of the fancy footwork required to cut it on the sean nós dance floor. Ciara was particularly impressive, her feet moving with lightening quick dexterity.

Bi-lingual poet Máire Ní Bhriain has the happy knack of being able to slip effortlessly from Irish to English in the one poem. She loves to work at the interface between both languages, especially latching on to Irish words that we use in everyday dialogue. Her lightness of touch combined with an economy of style and a subtle humour means she gets you on her wavelength every time. She recited four of her own poems at the Arts Centre: Teanga Dhúchais (Mother Tongue); The Bird in the Bush; A Mummer’s Dream and Faoi Cheilt (In Hiding). The latter compares the heron to our native language: 

“Bhí sí ann ceart go leor –
an corr réisc,
much like the old language, 
on one leg, 
faoi cheilt, almost.” 

One of the most engaging performances of the evening came from writer, poet, journalist and musician Peter Murphy. Once he steps into the spotlight it’s like he has been plugged in! There is no such thing as a Peter Murphy reading – this is full-on performance art. Peter started with his own ‘Foxhole Prayer’, a narrative poem with punch, and followed up with ‘The Lost Alice’ from his novel ‘Shall We Gather at the River’. He then gave new life to two classics by two great poets: Louis McNeice’s ‘Prayer Before Birth’ and, from Dylan Thomas, ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’.

If Peter Murphy showed just how much music lies hidden in the spoken word, poet Deirdre McGarry took the process a step further. Deirdre was involved in the most interesting collaboration of the evening as specially selected pieces of music were matched with each of her poems. The poem “Brian’s Bodhrán’ was followed by a bodhrán solo courtesy of young Darragh Doyle; ‘Carolan’s Farewell’ was followed by the tune of the same name played, with exceptional poignancy, by Alice and James McIntyre. The final poem ‘The Piper’ led into a beautiful set of tunes from Clonroche uileann piper Éanna Harrington.

“He closed those intense eyes,
and like a shaman he passed beyond our vision
to the ‘other’ place,
where he communed on our behalf
across the weaving-knot centuries,
across the boggy land,
across the famine and the still black lough,
from where he hauled up all our sunken sadness and our pain
till we became ecstatic in our power again.”
(from ‘The Piper’)

Singer, songwriter Fergal O’Hanlon is a folk singer par excellence, his singing bringing to mind both Scottish/Irish troubador Dick Gaughan and English folk hero Sam Lee. Add to this a natural sounding country/bluegrass sensibility and you have a musician working off a very eclectic palette. Fergal sang ‘When a Man’s in Love’, ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsies’ and ‘Madam I’m a Darlin’’. The popular Glynn man, currently working on his debut solo album, was unquestionably one of the musical favourites of the evening.

No less popular with the audience was the uber-talented Amanda Kehoe. Amanda’s sublime singing of ‘Caledonia’ to her own piano accompaniment really hit the spot. Steeped in music both academically and through her very musical family, Amanda is the most natural and versatile of performers. She showed this earlier in the evening with her piano accompaniment to Davy Roche’s fantastic accordion and banjo set. Amanda’s own piano set included, on the one hand, melodious Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin-style reflective pieces and, on the other, a couple of lively barn dances. She then switched to piano accordion and invited Fergal O’Hanlon, and his guitar, to join her for a few tunes.

Audience Participation Prize of the evening, had there been one, would have gone to traditional singer and Craobh Loch Garman Chairman, Matt Murphy, for his rousing ‘Auld Triangle’. This is one of those songs that, notwithstanding its relative simplicity, very quickly separates the singing sheep from the bleating goats. Suffice to say that Matt nailed it!

Before the curtain dropped on a fabulously entertaining evening the Skins and Strings ensemble was joined by sundry musicians for a rousing finale jam.

Not surprisingly the evening ran slightly over time notwithstanding the sterling efforts of Fear an Tí, Padraic Larkin. He kept a strong hand on the tiller throughout and ensured that the whole evening was a seamless, albeit multi-faceted, tapestry of surprises.

Craobh Loch Garman, with its member organisations, runs seisiúins, céilís and concerts along with music and dance classes. Find details at

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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. With more than half a century of experience to call on he has served his apprenticeship and has now attained the status of sárscéalaí or master storyteller. Along the way he has picked up a Traditional Singer of the Year Award and been awarded the prestigious Gradam na mBard CCÉ. To listen to him tell and sing the stories and songs he has gleaned from his travels is to be taken on an intimate journey into a hidden side of our lived heritage. And just as a story is in the telling, his distinctive “rich, grainy voice and fluid, unhurried style” make him the perfect storyteller.

Len was at Wexford Library on February 14, St Valentines Night, to present an unscripted presentation entitled ‘Tall Tales and Musical Stories’. Over the space of a fleeting hour and a half he regaled a full house with a selection of songs, anecdotes and poetry.

As if to demonstrate the organic power of the song to tell a story he opened with a many-versed witty offering, one to which the great and the good of Irish traditional singing continue to add as the notion takes them. One can almost see a couple of ould lads before a smoking turf fire supping porter and building their own ridiculous and hilarious tower of song!

Len sang Pádraigín Ní hÚllacháin’s translation of the hauntingly beautiful and timeless An Bonnán Buí, written in the bitterly cold Winter of 1673 by the Cavan poet Cathal Buí Mac Giolla Ghunna.

He went on to sing the Belfast song, albeit one now more associated with Dublin, ‘Spanish Lady’; a 1798 song from Ulster ‘The Rights of Man’; Paddy’s Return, a song which features in Patrick Kavanagh’s autobiographical The Green Fool; and The Rambling Boys of Pleasure, a song which influenced the WB Yeats favourite Down By the Sally Garden.

And there were poems. Len recited Heaney’s Requiem for the Croppies, Kavanagh’s The Epic and The Song of Wandering Aengus by Yeats.

Len talked of his friendship with the poets Paul Muldoon and Seamus Heaney and of the time the latter came to Enniscorthy to soak up the spirit of ’98. He told an hilarious yarn from the early 1700s of a farmer driven by the iron frost and a hungry family to try his hand at hunting – he literally lost his head! We learned of the time that Ronnie Drew first met the Patrick Kavanagh and the resulting not-so-glowing review which set Drew’s music career on its way. We also heard how, even as a farmer and a ploughman in his native Inniskeen, Kavanagh had a reputation as an intellectual – in this case he helped a very young neighbour with a well-embroidered contribution to an essay on Brian Boru in which the latter’s errant big toes played a major part! The last of the evening’s stories, entitled ‘You’re A Liar’, told of the meeting between an ambitious and risk-taking young Fionn Mac Cumhaill and a no-nonsense Donegal king.

The Mule Song by Packie Manus Byrne brought the curtain down on a great evening of storytelling and song.

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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.

The present Conductor of CWYO is Emily Redmond. The current Co-Leaders are Aisling Gouldson and Emma Martin.

Cellist Beth Powell put pen to paper to give an insider’s view of CWYO’s trip to Dublin:

“Playing in the National Concert Hall was a huge honour for everyone in our orchestra. When I recall all the practise and rehearsal time we put in I have no doubt that I speak on behalf of everyone in the County Wexford Youth Orchestra in saying that it was all worth it for such a brilliant and unforgettable day. We are all so grateful to everyone that helped in getting us here, all our leaders and chaperones and especially our Conductor, Emily Redmond.

The weeks coming up to the concert were a time for us to perfect our pieces. In rehearsals, we outlined the most difficult sections for each instrument and practiced them as much as we could at home. It was all about learning to perform the pieces and not just playing the notes. Many of us brought our music to our individual teachers to get the markings in so that that they might point out small things we could do to improve our technique. We also listened to recordings of the music to help get timings and rhythms into our heads. Personally, I spent a whole two-hour plane journey listening to our three pieces on repeat! Our last week consisted of two three-hour rehearsals to fix any remaining mistakes and to add the final finishing touches. At this point it felt brilliant to know that we were performing to the best of our ability.

Saturday, February 11. Our day began with an early morning bus journey from Wexford up to the National Concert Hall. Although the journey was long, it was fun as everyone was excited about the day ahead.

Our main rehearsal at the National Concert Hall took place at 12:30PM. Truthfully, it did not go as well as we had hoped but this just motivated each one of us to concentrate even harder on our music. The rehearsal gave us an opportunity to take in the layout of the stage and to view the wonderful hall itself. There were two levels of seats with the first-floor balcony going all the way around the stage. Above the stage stood a large, elegant organ, green with golden pipes. The walls and columns were a delicate fern green. It was beautiful. At this point it was beginning to feel more real with the realisation of just how big of an honour it is to play in the NCH.

Following lunch we attended the afternoon concert. Many of the players making up each of the four orchestras were quite young. It was great to see so much young talent. You could see how hard each orchestra had worked. It was a bit nostalgic for some members of our orchestra who had played in the afternoon concert a few years previously, to think that we were once that young playing, for the first time, in such a large concert hall! The wonderful playing at the afternoon concert served to set the bar quite high for the evening concert. No pressure then!

Following the afternoon concert, we walked the short distance to the Russell Court Hotel for dinner. The main focus at this stage was simply on keeping relaxed.

The evening concert began at 8PM sharp. Since we were the final act, and therefore in the second half, we had the luxury of watching the first two orchestras that performed. Our orchestra was sitting in the choir balcony, just behind and above the stage. Both orchestras were astounding and we were a little worried about meeting the high standards expected of us.

Ahead of the second orchestra’s performance, the compere, Seán Rocks of RTE Radio 1’s Arena, commenced the presentation of awards. He presented an award to the orchestra that was about to perform, the Irish Midlands Youth Orchestra, and we all clapped and cheered, not thinking for a moment that maybe we might deserve an award of our own. The compere then started to describe why one of the orchestras would be receiving the IAYO Outstanding Achievement Award. We all looked at each other with some bemusement as he talked about this orchestra. He was describing things that we had done! He talked about playing abroad and listed countries in which our orchestra had played. We sat there, stunned into silent wonder, none of us daring to believe he was talking about us. The compere then mentioned how the said orchestra showcased some Irish culture through traditional music and mumming – an Irish dance with sticks. As soon as he said the word ‘mumming’ we knew he was talking about us. We whooped and cheered as loud as we could as Emily Redmond walked on stage to accept the award. We were all ecstatically excited and as ready as we ever would be to get out there and perform.


At the interval, we rushed back to our dressing room and began to tune our instruments. This caused a bit of panic as, due to the heat of the room, most of the string instruments’ tuning had slipped. One of the cellos was completely out of tune and as Emily was tuning it, a string snapped. Replacing a string so close to performance is usually a bit pointless as it goes out of tune almost straight away. Such was the case here. Luckily, we were able to secure a replacement cello from the orchestra that performed before us, thanks to the efficiency of the IAYO staff. As we were waiting to go on, I looked at all the photos of the musicians and orchestras that had played on this same stage. It was, and still is, surreal to think that we had been given the opportunity to play where so many renowned musicians, groups and orchestras had played before us. Then came the call to stage. We walked on and took our seats with our Conductor joining us shortly after and taking her place before us. We proceeded to do our final tuning of instruments. The sound of an orchestra tuning up all together is one of my favourite sounds and as we were tuning I knew we were going to be amazing.

Emily raised her baton. There was complete silence throughout the hall for a few seconds as we sat, instruments at the ready. Before us, notes on a page waiting to be transformed into aural splendour. Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture. We began to play, all of us concentrating on our music, on Emily and on each other. Our months of endless rehearsals and practice were paying off at last, as we poured everything we had into the music. We came to the end of our first piece and I had goosebumps. Any nervousness I had disappeared. We started into our second piece, Forrest Gump Suite. More relaxed now and more in the zone, all the revisions and the corrections we had gone through in rehearsal came through effortlessly in our playing. It sounded amazing, though perhaps I am a little biased! Next came our final and most difficult piece, Queen of the Scals. In this Irish piece, composed by Neil Martin, we had a soloist on the uileann pipes, Mark Redmond, and a soloist on the harp, Eilís Lavelle. Everyone was concentrating fully, completely immersed in the music. We performed the best we ever had and there was nothing but complete joy, and maybe a little bit of relief, on everyone’s faces as we stood to the crowd’s roaring applause. I felt, throughout our performance, that we were an orchestra united. Everyone listened to what each section was playing and followed each stroke of Emily’s baton. We listened to one another and performed each piece and every note to the best of our abilities. It was a performance none of us will ever forget.

We are all so grateful to Emily for all the hard work and effort she has put in, and continues to put in. She has made us the cohesive unit we are. It is thanks to her that we have the confidence to shine at events such as this.

None of us will ever forget the fun we have had with the County Wexford Youth Orchestra, the concerts, the trips, the memories.”

Note: CWYO was founded in 1980 by Eileen Hurlihy and the late Alan Cutts as part of the County Wexford School of Music. It is made up of musicians aged 12 to 18 years from thoughout Co Wexford. They practise together weekly throughout the school year. Through regular practise and performance the orchestra serves as an important stepping-stone in preparing young musicians hoping to progress to senior orchestra playing.

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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.

Andreas Schaerer is a vocal artist in the truest sense of the word. He does things with his voice that effortlessly push aside parameters others take as the outer limits. It is no surprise that he was awarded the title of International Vocalist of the Year at the 2015 ECHO Jazz Awards (Gregory Porter won it the previous year).

With this live recording of The Big Wig Schaerer sets out to exploit the interplay between his band, Hildegard Lernt Fliegen, and the Orchestra. While the latter is largely asked to play it straight and focus on adding colour, the sextet – featuring saxophones, trombone, flute, bass clarinet, bass, drums, marimba and voice – points the way forward with an assured commonality of purpose.

Over the six tracks we get jazz, prog rock, stage musical, music for film and sundry bursts of sonic noodling. There is no doubt that everyone involved has loads of fun. One is not surprised to learn that, while Schaerer is inspired by Boulez, he also has a weakness for Frank Zappa.

Seven Oaks is a strong opener to the album. One can almost sense the sextet and the orchestra tentatively feeling each other out, Andreas Tschopp’s trombone shining through gloriously and Schaerer giving the first indication of where he can take his voice.

The ballad Preludium, my top pick of the six, has an almost orchestral Pink Floyd-esque vibe to it. A big sassy brass intro gives way to harp strings and Schaerer’s softly sung words. Tschopp’s trombone again features strongly, with a stunning solo. The strings combine with the brass, and later percussion, to gradually raise the intensity until, suddenly, everything falls away and we are left with a quietly unresolved, tension in the strings accompanied by Schaerer’s restrained vocals.

The playful and exhuberant Der Zeusler sees Schaerer pitting his vocal skills against the alto sax to good effect. I love the propulsive, hypnotic and almost tribal beat with sax floating delightfully above it all. The orchestra features strongly. The tempo falls off midway only for percussion to build again and lead into a light-hearted coda, Schaerer’s cod vocals combining with marimba and trombone.

Wig Alert has a South African feel to it thanks mainly to Schaerer’s exteneded vocal improvisations and mouth percussion with timpani accompaniment. Just when I started to think this was the vocal artist’s version of the drum solo, the tune opens up harmoniously with marimba and brass, a beautiful baritone sax solo taking us home.

If Two Colossuses, the longest of the album’s tracks at 13 minutes, is arguably the centrepiece of the album. Opening with human trumpet and tasty orchestration it shows how comfortable sextet and orchestra have gotten in each other’s company. The whole things weirds out at one point with Schaerer losing any remaining inhibitions as to where he might take his extraordinary voice box.

The composer describes the final track, Don Clemenza, as being the soundtrack to an imaginary movie. At times sounding like music from a stage musical it is full of intrigue and high drama.

Final word? The Big Wig is an exciting, eclectic and multi-faceted work. It signals the arrival on the big stage of an innovative new talent in Andreas Schaerer.

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Herskedal’s Arabian Rhapsody


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.

I could tell you that this is by far the most engaging and affecting album I have listened to this year, one which is sure to make the top ten, at year’s end, in both global roots and jazz categories. To do so would be to miss the true impact of this wonderful music.

Daniel Herskedal is a Norwegian composer and musician (tuba, bass trumpet). The album ‘Neck of the Woods’ (2011) with sax maestro Marius Neset served notice that there was a new kid on the Scandinavian-dominated European jazz scene. The subsequent ‘Slow Eastbound Train’ (2015) further raised his profile and, in style, acted as a springboard for ‘The Roc’ (2017).

On this album, which gets its title from ‘a great bird of pan-Asian mythology’, Herskedal is joined by Bergmund Waal Skaslien (viola), Svante Henryson (cello), Eyolf Dale (piano) and Helge Andreas Norbakken (percussion).

The music on The Roc is like the soundtrack to one man’s soul-searching odyssey back to the Cradle of Civilisation, a seeking out of some spiritual nirvana. The quiet piano intro to the opener ‘Seeds of Language’ leaves you in no doubt you are taking the first steps on a big journey, one which you will never forget. Running through all ten tracks is an evocative and timeless sound built around the Arabian tonal system. This was inspired, no doubt, by Herskedal’s travels through Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. Indeed, the music manages to marry the bleak, empty and ice-bound mountainous landscape of Norway with the sun-blasted sands of the Arabian Crescent.

Tuba, cello and piano work with percussion in creating a sonorous rhythmic foundation throughout. This can readily be heard in the insistent basslines running through ‘Kurd, Bayat, Nahawand To Kurdon’ and in the stormy mid-section of the moody and brooding ‘Thurayya Railways’. Viola, piano and trumpet add the animation and colour required by the narrative. Bergmund Waal Skaslien’s viola is particularly effective. His effortlessly languid playing, more than anything, adds flesh to the bones of these stories as he dances across the various Arabian scales underpinning successive tracks.

Among the stand-out tracks, in as much as one can choose favourites, is the fabulously titled ’There Are Three Things You Cannot Hide: Love, Smoke And A Man Riding On A Camel’. With its sensational cello opening, simple percussion and piano and viola elaboration it is a thing of stark beauty. ‘Eternal Sunshine Creates A Desert’, slow and sensual, has an air of quiet spiritual reflection to it that will slow the very beating of your heart. The final track ‘All That Has Happened, Happened As Fate Willed’ has a funereal string intro that opens, joyously, into a glorious piano solo.

This is a stunning album. Beautifully controlled, yet unforced, narrative-rich, yet minimalist. It defies categorisation. Each and every track is like a chapter in an epic travelogue. The music threatens, at times, to take off. Yet it never does. It does not need to. It is as close to a spiritual experience as one is likely to get outside of making a penitential visit to Lough Derg. Or joining the Mecca-bound throngs making the Hajj. Like all great spiritual experiences it is at times unsettling. And yet the story must be told.

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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.

There are many stories and legends associated with St. Brigid, many of which focus on her love of the poor and of the natural world. One legend tells of how she converted a Chieftain, on his death-bed, to Christianity by weaving a cross with rushes or reeds while telling him the Christian story. Many people today still like to weave a cross on the eve of the Feast and hang it indoors. They do this as a ritual to keep them in touch with the natural world and to mark the beginning of the new life of spring. The crosses were once believed to give protection against lightening and were often also hung in cow byres.

It was believed that St. Brigid travelled about the countryside on the eve of the feast. People would leave out a piece of cloth for her to bless and this cloth would be used during the following year as a cure for minor ailments, particularly for headaches. She was also famous for her ale-making. According to legend, one measure of St. Brigid’s malt would make up 17 lakes of ale!

St. Brigid is reputed to be a Patron Saint of the creative arts, especially of poetry. The Co. Kildare poet, Anne Egan, has written a series of St. Brigid poems. In one of her poems, St. Brigid’s Proposal to the Poet, the Saint wishes to marry a young poet who is fond of her. However, she feels she has to refuse his proposal, feels herself already too strongly drawn to the power of God in the natural world.

The poet, Brendan Kennelly, has a poem entitled St. Brigid’s Ale Soliloquy – ‘White cups of love I’d give them with a heart and a half, /Sweet pitchers of mercy I’d offer to every man, / I’d make Heaven a cheerful spot,/ Because the happy heart is true.’

Today, many Christians in environmental and ecological movements look to St. Brigid, as well as to St. Francis of Assisi, as inspiration for their work on behalf of the planet.

Máire Ní Bhriain


Remnant of a lost goddess,
of cattle and the dairy – patroness,
she spreads her brat to bring a cure
as she passes from door to door.

Companion to animals and birds,
miracle worker for the poor,
lady of renewal with healing powers,
guardian of early buds and flowers.

On the shore the giolla-bríde sings
praises to Brigid, this first of spring.

Máire Ní Bhriain

Foclóir: brat – cloak; giolla-bríde – oystercatcher, the servant of Brigid.

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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 –

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. Ó thaobh na Críostaíochta de, is Naomh caomhnóra na hÉireann í. Ba bhean rialta ar leith í a mhair sa chúigiú haois. Bhunaigh sí roinnt mhaith mainistreacha timpeall na tíre, an ceann ba cháiliúla acu ar ndóigh ná Cill Dara. Baineann an-chuid míorúiltí léi chomh maith, mar shampla maítear go ndearna sí bainne as uisce, is gur chuir sí biseach ar an-chuid daoine, go háirithe daoine bochta. Is í ag iarraidh bualadh le Naomh Pádraig féin, bhí an dream chomh mór sin gur chaith sí a cuid ama ag cur bisigh ar na daoine sa slua i dtreo is go mbeadh sí in ann bualadh leis an Naomh uasal!

Ach an í seo an t-aon bhean, nó fiú an fhíorbhean, a dhéanaimid a cheiliúradh ar an gcéad lá den Earrach gach bliain? Tá an t-ainm céanna ag an mbean uasal, Chríostaí seo atá pléite agam is atá ag bandia Ceilteach. Táid ann a deir nach bhfuil baint ar bith ag Naomh Bríd leis an seanCheilteach seo agus táid ann a mhaíonn gurb ionann Bríd an Críostaí agus Bríd an Págánach, gurb í an duine céanna í! Ar ndóigh, ní hé an t-aon uair a cuireadh i leith na Críostaíochta gur ghlac sí le pearsana agus le traidisiúin na Págánachta! Ba bhandia ar an Earrach, nó “Imbolc” mar a cuireadh air, í Bríd an Págánach. Bhí baint ag an Imbolc leis an ngrian, leis an láidreacht fhicisiúil agus leis an saol nua agus bhí Bríd i bhfeighil air seo ar fad. Bhí sí bainteach leis an bhfilíocht, leis an sláinte agus leis an torthúlacht chomh maith.

Is dócha gur cuma cén tuairim atá agat den charachtar stuama seo. Is léir gur dhuine cumhachtach, cráifeach a bhí inti, agus go raibh an-tionchar aici ar thír seo na hÉireann. Táimid, muintir na hÉireann, bródúil aisti, go háirithe mar bhean a sheas an fód agus a mhair mar dhea-dhuine.

Tracey Ní Mhurchú

Foclóir: samoinímid – we remember; lárnach – core; naomh caomhnóra – patron saint; míorúiltí – miracles; torthúlacht – fertility.

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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”.
Tá sláinte sa cheol agus san cultúr dúcasach. (pdf)

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Liam Ó Maonlaí & Cormac Begley: Quietly Impressive


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!

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.

Song of Lahore by The Sachal Ensemble and guests has something of the same vibe to it. Produced by Grammy Award-winner Eli Wolf and with arrangements and musical direction by Michael Leonhart, the album is a 5-star classic in every sense. There is no doubt that it is pitched at Western tastes but that’s ok. The Sachal Ensemble gets a new and appreciative audience and we get to hear tunes, many of which we already know, covered in way we have not heard before.

For generations Lahore was a city of great culture and learning famed, especially, for its wonderful music. In the 1960s and ‘70s it became the Lollywood to Mumbai’s Bollywood. This was good news for those virtuoso musicians steeped in the tradition, including those of Sachal Studios. In 1977 a conservative Islamic regime came to power and introduced strict Sharia Law. Music and film were all but proscribed.

At the beginning of the new millennium The Sachal Ensemble producer Izzat Majeed did like Jake and Elwood and got the band back together. With their audience long gone he needed a clever calling card to announce the group’s return. A life-long fan of the Dave Brubeck Quartet he had the musicians do their own take on Brubeck’s Take Five. YouTube did the rest. The video of the band performing the tune went viral. Jazz legend Wynton Marsalis liked what he heard and invited the Pakastani musicians to join him in New York for a collaborative one-off concert.

The movie Song Of Lahore follows the journey of the Sachal Studio musicians from their hometown of Lahore to New York City, their interaction with Wynton Marsalis and the musicians of the Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra, and the performance that ensued.

The album of the same name is a stunning East-meets-West companion piece as the Ensemble is joined by a host of guest musicians and singers. It’s hard to pick a selection of highlights as pretty much every track is on the money – even Meryl Streep coming across all Lauri Anderson on the spoken-word ‘Speak’!

The album opens with Duke Ellington’s Blue Pepper (Far East of the Blues) featuring the trumpet of Wynton Marsalis. Blues/soul singer Susan Tedeschi’s gloriously world-weary delivery of Dylan’s ‘Shelter From The Storm’ is buoyed along by partner Derek Truck’s slide guitar and the Ensemble’s dynamic percussion section. Allen Toussaint’s ‘Yes We Can Can’, featuring singer Bilal, is elevated from being just another funky New Orleans workout to a celestial multi-cultural joyride. ‘Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child’ gets the kid gloves treatment from Madeleine Peyroux. The song segues effortlessly into a lushly orchestral Mai Ni with Baqir Abbas on vocals. This and a couple of other traditional numbers brought to the table by the Ensemble sit perfectly well with the more familiar songs here although it is likely the latter that will garner most airplay on day-time radio. ’I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free’ is a song most associated with Nina Simone. Singer La Marisoul of La Santa Cecilia treats the song as if it were a just-conceived thing giving it an authoritative and fresh take. Brazilian sensation Seu Jorge gets the karmic vibe just right on George Harrison’s Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth). Cibo Matto’s version of the reggae classic ‘Get Up, Stand Up’, Michael Jackson’s ‘Man In The Mirror’, sung here by Becca Stevens, and Sean Lennon’s reading of Nick Lowe’s (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding are probably the most straight ahead tracks on the album, and none the worse for that.

Throughout the album the organic percussive sounds of tabla, dholak, claypot and daf, the ancient sounds conjured by the handmade bansuri flutes of Baqir Abbas and Nijat Ali’s violin and harmonium merge seamlessly with electric guitar, keyboard and assorted stringed instruments to create a magical backdrop of sound.

Song Of Lahore shows that music is a universal language we all understand and that we all share. It crosses borders both physical and cultural and it unifies in a way that nothing else can.

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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.

While the Autumn festivities that so enlivened Wexford may now be nothing more than a bunch of memories and fading arts page reviews the glow from those memories will shine bright for many a day.

It was not just on the big stage that one witnessed outstanding performances. The band Clang Sayne served up a truly memorable gig at the small and intimate Fusion Café on the last Friday of the festival.

Formed by songwriter, singer and guitarist Laura Hyland in London in 2008, Clang Sayne are a genre-defying force of nature. Laura’s vision undoubtedly drives this quartet, yet it is the synergy of four uniquely talented musicians that delivers in the end. Multi-instrumentalist and former Riverdance soloist, Carolyn Goodwin plays clarinet/bass clarinet; composer and improviser Judith Ring (PhD) plays cello; composer, bandleader and Fulbright Scholar, Matthew Jacobson, plays drums. All contribute to vocals.

Music so malleable as this makes categorisation difficult. Is this new nu-folk? Americana? Sure, they use the medium of the folk ballad to tell a story. But take away all sung words and the music itself tells the story. Indeed, the voice is frequently treated as simply another instrument in the mix.

When those voices rise above the maelstrom they do so to great effect, combining blissfully in ethereal union. The contrast of moving from stark plainchant to spine-tingling four-part harmonies fairly takes one’s breath away. The fact that, somewhere in between, you are likely to find yourself rocked by an all-hands-on-deck percussion-heavy storm of sound adds to the effect.sax‘Curse You, Mocking Moon’, with its sonic musings, sets the mood for the evening. It praises and berates the moon, ebbing and flowing, building to a crescendo of confusion and lunar madness before the grip is loosened and order restored.

In ‘Blackbird’, the wood of Judith Ring’s bow hops, bird-like, across the strings. To a ripple of softly strummed strings Laura sings, from the heart, “Sorcha come home, I missed you this Winter”. Add low, sonorous clarinet, gentle wash of percussion and three part harmonies. “I’ve been to see Charlie … She’s doing well despite all.” Absent friends. And what of the blackbird? ‘The Blackbird of Derrycairn’ is a poem by Austin Clarke in which the bird tells Patrick, with ‘throat rejoicing from the hawthorn” that ‘knowledge is found among the branches’. “The blackbird in the poem is a friendly, comforting force that tries to lure Patrick from his studies and his lonely dark cell,” explains Laura. “In this song the three characters (myself, my sister and Charlie) are all somewhat stuck in our respective ‘lonely dark cells’, and hence the summoning of said bird.” It is worth noting that the demons sent to test Patrick as he fasted on his western hill took the form of blackbirds!

The apocalyptic ‘Oh, Water Rising’ tells of the plight of a farmer faced with deluge after deluge of torrential rain: “The water, the water keeps coming”. The song, from Els Dietvorst’s film ‘The Rabbit and The Teasel” might well be a parable for our disconnect with the land, how far we have strayed from the soil. “Once it was said that we gathered nectar, naked in gardens, greener than pastures, without question to reason or purpose.” The ominous mood throughout suggests that we continue to move further away from the idyll of that first garden.

This is music as a living, organic thing. Songs of yearning, songs of loss, songs of introspection, songs of love, songs of life. One minute bleak and hard as a cold November wind, the next transcendent and joyous as the first breath of life.

‘Shipwrecks’, which is to feature in another Dietvorst film, has a mysterious and haunted air throughout. Funereal opening harmonies with tempestuous, swirling brushed skins and all manner of creaks and barely-there clarinet give the song an other-worldly feel. The vocals merge plaintively with the instruments to heighten the effect.

‘Lady Grey’s Allotment’ is, arguably, the biggest song of the evening. Opening quietly, it develops into a swirling, swooping epic. The power of Hyland’s writing shines through with lines like “Tricksters, troubadours and thinkers / Mystify me with your musings”. This song, more than any other on the night, suggests that she may be cut from the same cloth as the late John Martyn.

‘The Round Soul of the World’, the title track of the forthcoming new album and the last of the evening, builds with rush of sounds, stark harmonies and cross-chanting before the tension breaks and dissonance is dispelled.

Clang Sayne will, in all probability, never bother the pop charts. The reason is simple: what they do goes way beyond the business of simply making music. Scenarios are conjured from sparse sounds, detail and colour follow, layer upon layer. Nothing is rushed. The silence itself speaks volumes. At one level this is storytelling at its best. Look deeper and it is nothing less than a conjuring into form of the soul of the Earth, a cathartic exercise in self-realisation.

A special word of praise for the talented pairing of singer/guitarist John Browne and multi-instrumentalist “Whistling’ Alan Dwyer who opened for the band. They delivered a scintillating and hugely entertaining set of folk songs and trad tunes.

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Peter Maxwell Davies signs off on a high


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. Antonio Pappano conducts while Simon Halsey directs the chorus. The cd also includes the compact, at just over 15 minutes, Symphony No. 10 by Polish composer Andrzej Panufnik (1914-1991).

Very early in his career Peter Maxwell Davies took the decision to steer clear of the obvious in his compositions. His music, he decided, would not come to him from the muses or be plucked, as it were, from the air. He eschewed the idea of music for music’s sake. His would be a constructivist approach, focusing on the theoretical and following a set of pre-ordained rules or structures. He developed, in particular, a life-long striving to express architectural conceptions in sound. He looked to medieval and renaissance Europe for inspiration, to Thomas Aquinas and the architect Brunelleschi. He studied the sacred music of the time, not least plainchant. When, in the 70s, he moved to The Orkney Islands he was no less inspired to map in music the topography around him.

Maxwell Davies built his tenth, and final, symphony around the life and work of the Italian Baroque architect Francesco Borromini (1599-1667). Written while he was been treated for cancer it deals with creativity and mortality. Add to that the pressure to conform and the importance of staying true to your principles.

The music of Maxwell Davies, with its theoretical underpinnings, can be quite demanding on the listener. The composer made no apologies for this saying that, once you figured out the structure involved, all would become clear. This did not necessarily mean that the music would be any easier to listen to! Ivan Hewitt, in The Guardian, said his sound ‘embodies a keen-edged and tragic lucidity’. Wonderfully put.

Maxwell Davies said of his Tenth Symphony: ‘I feel I’m building a church in music, and I want to create something as aurally startling now, in its context, as a Borromini church must have been visually then’.

The work consists of four parts with alternating instrumental and choral parts. The first, an instrumental, builds slowly on the back of the brass section, ebbing and flowing, layers of intensity punctuated by reflective interludes. Metallic percussion suggests a helter-skelter rush of activity. All the while there is plenty of space – work like this should not be rushed. With one last clangorous outpouring and an end-of-day siren the first part ends with a self-reflective violin solo.

In Part 2 the choir sings the mean-spirited and anonymously-penned ‘Al Borromeino Sonetto’: ‘An architect without architecture … he and nature have nothing in common … his style is opposed to Nature and Art … he’s just an ass.’ This likely contributed to the already fragile architect’s decision to take his own life. Maxwell Davies clearly relates to the architect’s singularity of purpose.

The sonnet is followed by words from Borromini, sung by baritone Markus Butter, justifying his much criticised work on the Oratorio dei Fillipini. The choir ends the dialogue with the mocking and dismissive: ‘Weep and sigh, sigh and weep, the Great Borromini’.

In the next instrumental part we are back to work. The church before us is awe-inspiring in its scale and design. Again we have the ebb and flow, the work is becoming more detailed – less brass, more wind. Still we have those open spaces: time to appraise before pressing ahead.

In the fourth and final part the choir is in restrained and melancholic mode as it sings ‘A se stesso’ (‘To himself’) by poet Giacomo Leopardi. This, more than anything, gets across the despair in which the depressed and, by now, semi-deranged, Borromini found himself. ‘Now can you rest forever, / Oh weary heart of mine. Gone is the last illusion, / which I had thought eternal.’

Markus Butter then gives us Borromini’s last testament as he runs out of patience with life: ‘I took the sword … threw myself with sufficient strength to make the blade enter my body, right through to the other side’. His delivery is punctuated by appellations from the chorus to the saints.

Peter Maxwell Davies, or ‘Max’ as he was affectionately know, has produced a true parting masterpiece with his Tenth Symphony. It is almost as if everything he had done previously had been leading to this synthesis of structure and melody, dissonance and harmony.

The bonus track, Panufnik’s Symphony No. 10, was commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Consisting of one movement in four sections it personifies the personality of the composer: warm, passionate and somewhat introverted.

Panufnik fled Poland for England in the late 1940s as the Communist regime made ever greater demands of him. If he felt he would be lauded in his new home he was mistaken as he was seen as being somewhat old hat. While back in Poland Panufnik’s music was embraced by the people in their struggle to be free, it was not until the late 1970s that he finally received the universal credit he deserved. The composer, considered by his peers to be ahead of his time, found that his services were in demand again.

Like Maxwell Davies, Panufnik uses external influences to provide a structure for his compositions. In the case of the Tenth Symphony he uses something called the “golden ellipse” which is based on the Fibonacci Series (just look it up, ok!). He opens with a short invocation before strings and organ lead us into more meditative territory; an underlying tension begins to build, albeit initially cloaked in soft melody. The climax, when it comes is almost violent in nature. If this were a movie this would be the car chase, with guns! The tension then ebbs away in the final section and we are left with a gentle and reflective finale. Beautiful.

Other Peter Maxwell Davies compositions to check out:

Want to delve a little deeper into Pater Maxwell Davies huge body of work? The sheer volume of music available can make this a daunting task. Maybe start with the ‘light music’ compositions ‘Farewell to Stromness’ and ‘Mavis in Las Vegas’; his 1960s expressionist work has, according to the experts, stood the test of time – for a totally off-the-wall experience check out, on Youtube, his music-theatre work ‘Eight Songs for a Mad King’ (1969); ‘From Stone to Thorn’ (1971) gives a great sense of the topography and ever changing sea around his Orkney’s home; The Lighthouse (1979) is a misty, moody detective mystery cum ghost story which is, in its way, a page-turner. The Third Symphony (1985), like the Tenth, takes an architectural approach without compromising negatively on the aural front.

That poem which features in the final part of Maxwell Davies Tenth is so depressingly fantastic that I have included it below:

A se stesso

Or poserai per sempre,
Stanco mio cor. Peri` l’inganno
Ch’eterno io mi credei. Peri`. Ben
In noi di cari inganni,
Non che la speme, il desiderio e`
Posa per sempre. Assai
Palpitasti. Non val cosa nessuna
I moti tuoi, ne` di sospiri e` degna
La terra. Amaro e noia
La vita, altro mai nulla; e` fango il
T’acqueta omai. Dispera
L’ultima volta. Al gener nostro il fato
Non dono` che il morire. Omai
Te, la natura, il brutto
Poter che, ascoso, a comun danno
E l’infinita vanite` del tutto.

Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837)

English Translation:

To Himself

Now can you rest forever,
Oh weary heart of mine. Gone is the last illusion,
which I had thought eternal. Gone. Clearly I see how
die for lack of hope and desire.
Rest forever. You’ve laboured
enough. There is nothing that merits
your efforts, nor is the earth worthy
of your sighs. Bitter and tiresome
is life, nothing more. And the world is a slough.
Quieten down. Despair
for the last time. To humankind Fate
gave nothing but death. Then despise
yourself, and nature, the evil power
that secretly governs the common woe,
And the endless void of everything.


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Together, As One – new album by Dinosaur


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, a loose cooperative of musicians that showcases the work of young improvisers and composers.

Laura Jurd is a winner of a BBC New Generation Artist Award and the 2012 Worshipful Company of Musicians’ Jazz Award. She was also a recipient of the Parliamentary Jazz Award 2015. Bet you didn’t know that the UK has an All-Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group. That could never work here as there are some in the Dáil who still consider jazz to be the Devil’s music!

Jurd’s personality is written all over this album, albeit in barely visible ink! She threads lightly as she goes allowing time for the music to breathe and develop. The narrative is unhurried and yet the story will be told. Her classical influences shine through with shades of Bartók, Stravinsky, Ligeti and Messiaen.

A music fan puts it more simply on the band’s Bandcamp page: “Pretty much everything I love about jazz without any of the stuff that annoys me.”

The album opens with Awakening, a hushed affair with a simple, almost tribal, repetitive motif, a lick of percussion, flutterings, wind-sounds and avian-like trumpet trills, and some electronic trickery bubbling under the surface. Scene set the plot develops with soft-blown trumpet and shimmering keyboards. The sound builds with bass and percussion, neither forced. Building, building, but ever so slowly. It’s about pacing. And there’s that hypnotic motif again.

And so it goes. The whole thing is handled with a lightness of touch, even a sense of fun, that belies the prodigious talent of these young trail-blazers. The album flows with an ease that suggests it is a thing pre-formed, of every age and no age, forged in Promethean fires. There is a seamless symbiosis at play here.

Hear this commonality of purpose on ‘Living, Breathing’ with its insistent synth rep intro coloured by fluttering bass and pulsing Hammond, trumpet low and slow before the rhythm starts to build, driven by hip-shakin’ Latin percussion. The subsequent track ‘Underdog’ takes us deeper into Fusion territory driven by a reverb-drenched Fender Rhodes.

‘Extinct’ is the longest, and possibly the best, track on the album. The interplay of Hammond, bass and the lazy drum slap is mildly suggestive of The Doors song ‘The Wasp (Texas Radio And The Big Beat)’. While Elliot Galvin lays down the bones of this story Laura’s trumpet brings it to life, soaring, stuttering and slurring as though possessed by the spirit of Lee Morgan. Instant classic.

The album finishes with the reflective and gorgeous ‘Interlude’. Time is running down. The trumpet takes centre stage. Everything is muted. This is a quiet goodbye. Delicate as a butterfly kiss.

As a composer Laura Jurd effortlessly combines harmony with dissonance, traditional with avant garde. This can be heard on her debut album, Landing Ground (2012), and the follow-up, Human Spirit (2015). Her former trumpet teacher Chris Batchelor sums it up thus: “It’s easy for skilful musicians to hop from one genre to the next. But the awareness and technique to really mix things is rare.”

Quincy Jones said of trumpet player Clifford Brown: “It takes a young musician many years to rid the mind of clichés and to unscramble the millions of young ideas into what it takes to make a mature and original musical influence.” With this album Laura and her colleagues are displaying a maturity and originality way beyond their tender years. Or it may be that the Chaos Collective mindset encourages greater innovation and flexibility among individuals as they strive towards a common goal.

Together, As One is a wonderfully accomplished piece of work. It is yet another indication, if one were needed, that Edition Records really has its finger on the pulse when it comes to spotting and nurturing new talent. If you want to hear where jazz music is at right now, start here!

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Hot Buttered Soul stands the test of time


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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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.

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квадратуры круга!

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!

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Punch by Elliot Galvin Trio

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.

Punch is the second album by the Elliot Galvin Trio. Their 2013 debut, ‘Dreamland’, on Chaos Collective, received seriously complimentary reviews and signalled Galvin’s arrival at the forefront of the UK jazz scene. Innovative, audacious, mould-breaking and fun, its free ’n’ easy delivery belies the musical chops of the composer and pianist.

With both of Galvin’s bandmates coming from the Chaos Collective stable – Tom McCredie on double bass and Simon Roth on percussion and glockenspiel – it is no surprise that their music tends to avoid the obvious. I reckon it takes lots of talent and years of experience to get from a common start point to a notional end point with no map to get you there. That this youthful trio can do this, and have a load of fun in the process, tells you all need to know about their collective ability.

Praising the symbiotic relationship he has with his colleagues Galvin says: “Simon brings a massive sonic pallet and Tom brings a huge, beautiful sound”.

Elliot Galvin’s manic attention to detail can be seen in his decision to detune a melodica by a quartertone by painstakingly filing down the 36 reeds inside. Why? “I’ve always been a little frustrated that the piano can’t play the notes in between the notes.”

Punch was recorded in a converted old Soviet radio station in East Berlin. On first listen my ears didn’t know what to do with it! It is obvious that Galvin draws on a wide range of influences which include, we are told, “the films of David Lynch, the Dada movement and the literature of James Joyce”. The album is wildly theatrical with elements of old vaudeville coupled with slapstick timing. Add to that the excitement of the circus and the fairground. Sounds like fun doesn’t it? However, look a little closer and you will usually find a suggestion of something darker just out of frame.

The best way to enjoy this particular show is in one sitting (10 tracks, Total time: 38.14). At times you will be moved to ecstasies of joy by the fairytale beauty of the music, other times you will be hanging onto your seat as a head-wrecking rush of sound comes at you. An example of the latter can be found on Hurdy Gurdy as Galvin gets angry with his piano, seeking to create order from chaos. As with everything else on this album in the end it all makes perfect sense.

The album opens with a click and a hiss as a cassette tape starts to play a vintage recording from a live Punch & Judy show. 45 seconds later the piano comes in and we are rolling. The interplay between the three throughout the album’s many swells and dips is seamless.

Standout tracks include the tender and melodious ‘Tipu’s Tiger’ which tip-toes along on softly played piano, kalimba (African thumb piano) and glockenspiel, the double-bass giving a delicious suggestion of menace. The latter is justified when you know the anti-colonial basis of the story.

The track ‘Lions’ also grabs the attention with it’s unusual plucked string sound and grooving double bass. The former is actually achieved by Galvin covering the piano strings in duct tape!

I like the gloomy and sombre piano and bass dominated ‘1666’ which, the history books tell us, was a bad year for London – they were at war with the Dutch, the Great Fire laid waste to the city and, on top of that, the plague decimated the population. I say that was God punishing them for being so mean and nasty to their Celtic neighbours!

The band’s treatment of Kurt Weill’s ‘Mack The Knife’ is likely one of the most ominous and unsettling you will come upon. As such, one imagines that it captures the zeitgeist of 1930s Germany as intended by Brecht who, to that end, wrote an additional verse to the song in 1931. The tune ends, poignantly, with muted piano and glockenspiel.

The album closes with ‘Cosy’ which Galvin describes as “a nice tune … partly inspired by ‘A Day In The Life’ by The Beatles”. It is the perfect finale: a summing up of all that has gone before, and maybe a parting call to take the rough with the smooth because in the end everything will work out for the best.

Punch may challenge you on first listening. Stick with it and you will appreciate it for what it is: one of the most innovative jazz albums released this year.

Elliot Galvin is also a key part of the exciting new jazz ensemble Dinosaur which is led by award-winning trumpet player, improviser and composer Laura Jurd. We look forward to reviewing their debut album, ‘Together, As One’, in September.

Punch by Elliot Galvin Trio is out now on Edition Records.

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Collective Portrait by Eddie Henderson (2015)

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

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. Firstly there is his classical composition background which has led to his, not just appreciating, but improvising on the music of Ravel, Barber, Handel and Messiaen. Couple this with an ever curious mind and you find that he is, in the best sense, a musical magpie. Such is his penchant for merging Celtic roots, Latin grooves, 70s fusion, North African percussion, Flamenco and pastoral-themed classical that he might well be described as a musical polyglot.

His development as a musician and composer has been strongly coloured by the likes of Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny, Eberhard Weber and saxophonist Joe Lovano. You will also find Bill Evans, Ornette Coleman and John Coletrane in his record collection.

From making his initial mark in the 1980s with folk-jazz amalgam Lammas, Garland has gone on to work with, among others, Ronnie Scott, Kenny Wheeler, Ralph Towner, former Yes drummer Bill Bruford, and legendary jazz pianist/composer Chick Corea. He is still a member of Chick Corea’s Vigil.

Over the years he has formed small ground-breaking ensembles including Storms/Nocturnes (with vibraphonist Joe Locke and pianist Geoffrey Keezer), Acoustic Triangle (with pianist Gwilym Simcock and double bass player Malcolm Creese) and the Lighthouse Project (with Simcock and percussionist Asaf Sirkis). Where does this guy find the time!

The “ONE” in the title of this cd is the oneness at the essence of our being: one World, one life, one beat. Garland talks of using one’s own limitations to find one’s true voice.

To this end he quotes the Spanish poet Machado: “All our efforts must tend towards light”. Garland perceives sound in the same way a landscape artist sees light.

This album brings Garland together with long time associates and collaborators Jason Rebello (piano, keys) and the aforementioned Asaf Sirkis. Also present is guitarist (and physics graduate) Ant Law whose 12-string and 8-string guitars add an exotic touch to the music. Guest percussionist Hossam Ramzy brings a mellow Mesopotamian groove to the mix with doholla, Egyptian tabla and karkabou.

ONE is, unapologetically, a studio album. Yet despite the addition of “keyboard colours … layered udu (large clay pot), darbouka (goblet drum)” and, by his own admission, multiple layers of saxophones (soprano and tenor) all of the energy and feeling of the original is retained.

The album opens with the groove-drenched and Middle Eastern-inspired ‘Sama’i For Peace’. With an insistent piano intro from Rebello driven by Sirkis’s drumming, Garland’s alto swoops in from a height to give the album lift-off. In the first minute they present a microcosm of what this album is about: marrying elements of American swing with English lyricism, ornamented with the many influences picked up along the way, to achieve a cohesive fusion.

‘Bright New Year’ is a mellifluous taking flight with the soft-spoken sax carried along on a magic carpet of sympathetic piano and Ant Law’s resonant guitar.

Law’s guitar also colours ‘The Eternal Greeting’ giving it a sun-baked Moorish feel. As greetings go this one is heartfelt, unhurried, relaxed and universal.

The same relaxed vibe continues with the super-smooth ‘Colours Of Night’. We are in Pat Metheny territory: the keys carry the recurring theme, accompanied by shimmering electric guitar, understated sax, unobtrusive percussion, the Fender Rhodes fat bass-end making up for the absence of bass guitar.

The pastoral feel is well and truly dispelled with the harder-driven prog-rockish ‘Prototype’. Garland gets to let loose on his alto, Law following with scintillating guitar. As with ‘Colours’ Rebello and Ramzy ensure there is plenty in the low-end department.

‘The Gathering Dark’ is, for me, the stand-out track displaying, as it does, Garland’s skills as a colourist to great effect. He is a master at mood creation.

The album’s polyglot feel is evident on ‘Foretold’, the penultimate track, with an organic deep rumble, augmented by Asaf Sirkis’s groove-driven karkabou and doholla.

The only song included, ‘Pity The Poor Arms Dealer’, features Dionne Bennett on vocals. Invariably one prefers musicians to steer of social commentary and let their music do the talking. However, this one works as, musically, it is very much part of the kaleidoscopic river of sound running through the album. Bennett’s restrained and soulful delivery makes this as much ballad/lament as protest song.

The album ends on a sugar-rush high with ‘Youkay’. A steel drum hammers out a short opening leitmotif. Then it’s a case of all hands on deck as keys, sax and drums take us on one last whirlwind fairground ride.

If you want to explore Tim Garland’s extensive back catalogue start with his highly acclaimed 5-star double-album ‘Songs to the North Sky’ (Edition, 2014). It features “a small jazz ensemble on one disc and an ambitious classical/jazz hybrid on the other”. You get two very different sides to Garland, the first built on the successful Lighthouse project the latter a semi orchestral piece featuring the Royal Northern Sinfonia Strings.

Last October’s ‘Return to the Fire’ also merits a listen. Effortlessly melodious and lyrical throughout it celebrates some of those musicians who have inspired him such as McCoy Tyner, JJ Johnson and Wayne Shorter.

Final words? ONE nation in a groove!

One by Tim Garland is available now from

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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

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I am lost in Space with The Modern Jazz Quartet

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! 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

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.
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.
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.”
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.
Pix by Seán Rowe.

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What am I listening to now?

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

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

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And the prize for best festival supplement …

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!

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!

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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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.


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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

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Julie Feeney at GB Shaw Theatre, Carlow


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
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.
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 . 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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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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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