All posts by Jay

Musician, aesthete, lover of concord.

Dinosaur at The Sugar Club on 21 February 2017 | Review

Laura Jurd has a real talent for composition and Dinosaur is a really exciting group to witness. They groove hard together and there is an easy chemistry between the four musicians. Parallels are inevitably drawn between Jurd and Miles Davis – trumpeters, confident band leaders, composers, embracing electronic instruments. Jurd’s command of the instrument is unquestionable, her tone is wonderful across the whole range. I was reminded of a Duke Ellington quote: “as a result of a certain musician applied to a certain instrument, you get a definite tonal character”.

The second half of the concert opened with a melodic trumpet and drums duet. The musical language of the piece – a solo instrumental line with rhythmic accompaniment – was very much in the folk tradition. Having overcome a ‘trumpet malfunction’ in the middle (a valve became blocked, strangling the sound until she cleared it after a few attempts), Jurd joked afterwards that it was just as well they were playing improvised music and it hadn’t happened in the “23rd bar of the Haydn trumpet concerto”! Her demeanour on stage is so relaxed and assured, and she dealt with the problem with a wry smile.
The next composition, Extinct, followed straight on, trumpet and drums being joined by keyboard and bass for a very funky contrast. Elliot Galvin’s organ solo was a highlight, an exploration of tonal variations on the drawbars and delightfully inventive. Galvin was using a Nord Stage as his main keyboard, augmented at some points by an Arturia Microbrute, both of which he manipulated expertly, searching inside the sounds whenever possible to find something new.
Corrie Dick’s opening drum solo to Primordial continued the spirit of exploration as he seemingly extracted every sound possible from his kit. His cymbal set up was interesting – lovely dark-sounding hi-hats, a riveted crash (giving it an extra ‘sizzle’ effect) and a smaller cymbal overlaid on the ride cymbal, giving it a denser, less resonant sound. His use of different sticks and brushes throughout the evening allowed for much variation.
Tonight the group finish out their set with Interlude, the final track from last year’s Edition Records release, ‘Together, As One’. On the album this track is quite contained, but Dinosaur present an extended treatment, Conor Chaplin’s progressively deeper bass guitar quarter notes providing a foundation for the others to scurry around. Jurd’s chorale-like melody at times floats serenely above the crackling energy. Chaplin lets loose some very tasty playing in the piece’s climactic jam section.
A joyful samba encore sends us off home, the odd souvenir LP under the odd arm. The group tour around Ireland this week supported by Music Network: Sligo, Castlebar, Letterkenny, Tinahely, Dún Laoghaire, Clifden, and Cork.

[Originally published on Goldenplec.]

Man in the Mirror

I accompany the Gardiner Street Gospel Choir each Sunday evening at the 7.30pm mass in St Francis Xavier’s Church on Gardiner Street. This Sunday was a special service to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Joseph Wresinski, who strongly believed that “extreme poverty is the work of mankind and only mankind can destroy it”. He founded the organisation ATD Fourth World in the 1950s and it continues to bring the voices of the world’s poor to the corridors of power.

Take a moment and read the last letter he wrote before he died in 1988:

last-letter-jw-1988

We sang Michael Jackson’s song ‘Man in the Mirror’ (written by Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard) after the mass as a special tribute to Wresinski’s legacy.

Such a great track (sidenote: there are apparently two versions in the new Lego Batman movie). The outro is just fantastic. The choir (The Andraé Crouch choir, The Winans, and Siedah Garrett), the synth bass, the whole thing in a slightly other world at the end. The song’s key change lifts us from G major up to A flat major (listen how the electric piano sound is switched out at that point for a grand piano…Greg Phillinganes really lets loose!). The whole last section rests on a variety of the IV chord – D flat sus 2 – which provides the ‘open’ feeling. The bass that punctuates every six bars rather than eight, as we might expect, and this also destabilises the listener. You just have to relax into it. The singers are so confident, though, as is the bass…it leans us out over the edge of the chord, starting on a B flat, but draws us strongly back in…B flat, F, C, A flat, D flat. So satisfying! I love that the song stays in this place right to the end. Michael’s final urging to ‘make that change’ flies off at the end with infinite possibility.

 

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-22-56-36

Really lovely feedback from the wedding ceremony I played at on Saturday at Celbridge Manor Hotel. The bride had organised everything with me via email, since she lives in Belgium. We’d discussed what songs she wanted and I sent snippets to them via YouTube so they could get an idea of how they’d sound.

The celebrant was Dara Molloy, a Celtic priest who I’d done one wedding with last year. I really like his manner and the meaningful ceremonies that he crafts for couples.

Nathalia Milstein @ St Ann’s Church, Dublin (11 October 2016)

Last year she won the Dublin International Piano Competition, in February she gave a recital at The National Concert Hall, and tonight Nathalia Milstein (“mill-shtyne”) begins a ten-day tour of Ireland with this concert in St Ann’s Church on Dawson Street.

Her wide-ranging programme takes in Bach, Mozart, Bartók, Liszt, Ravel, and the piece commissioned from Gráinne Mulvey for the Dublin International Piano Competition. The insightful programme notes, written by classical journalist and reviewer Pat O’Kelly, supply background and context for the diverse pieces: Bach walking for ten days to hear an inspirational keyboardist, Mozart as a busy 18-year-old musician performing his latest sonatas in Munich, and of course a few hints about the composers’ love lives. It is necessary (and frequently fascinating) to have these human reference points alongside an art form that can so easily become rarified.

Milstein gives a riveting performance of Gráinne Mulvey’s Interference Patterns, drawing on the lyrical style of the Liszt that preceded it, and also the intense energy of The Chase from the Bartók suite. Mulvey’s piece is inspired by the work of 19th century Irish scientist John Tyndall on the behaviour of waves when they meet an obstacle. A most vivid expression of this is achieved towards the end of the piece. It was as if Milstein sent two shockwaves through the piano – a remarkable gesture, the sound almost visibly emanating from the instrument.

(A very effective transition is achieved between the prayerful ending of Liszt’s Sonneto and Interference Patterns. Having consistently stood up to receive applause at the end of each of the pieces in the first half, the pianist remained seated at the end of the Liszt. This meant the audience didn’t applaud, and Milstein could begin the next piece without breaking the atmosphere just created.)

Maurice Ravel’s suite, Le tombeau de Couperin, was written one hundred years ago and remains one of the most delightful pieces of solo piano writing in the canon. Beginning with her head up, her demeanour calm as the delicate machinery of the opening Prélude flutters into life, Milstein’s performance of the six movements is a joy to behold. Ravel’s extraordinary writing for the piano is brought to life in her hands and the luminous shimmer in the last bars of the Prélude is a beautiful moment. Ravel dedicates each of the movements to friends and colleagues killed in World War I. Behind the piano, the ornate rolls of honour that flank the altar in St Ann’s serve as a reminder of its congregation’s own grief at the loss of their sons during that war. The Forlane carries itself with swagger and Milstein gives an assured reading of this courtly dance, gracefully partnering with Ravel’s melancholy harmonies and finely-wrought invention. There is something personal and intimate in Ravel’s writing. It’s there, too, in Bartók’s The Night’s Music, sometimes stellar and sometimes scrabbling, and in the Bach Toccata that opened the concert. Witnessing the artistry and technique of Nathalia Milstein’s playing tonight in the hushed church is a sublime experience.

Programme:

  • Johann Sebastian Bach – Toccata in C minor BWV 911
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Piano Sonata No 3 in B flat K 281
  • Béla Bartók – Out of Doors Sz 81
  • Franz Liszt – Sonneto del Petrarca No 104 S 161
  • Gráinne Mulvey – Interference Patterns
  • Maurice Ravel – Le tombeau de Couperin
img_5844
Nathalia Milstein at St Ann’s church, Dublin / photograph by Frances Marshall

Click the photo for more of Frances Marshall’s photos from the night.

This review was done for GoldenPlec.com

‘Hide and Seek’ video by Irish barbershop quartet, 4 in a Bar

I visited this room for the first time only last week — the City Assembly House, just beside the Powerscourt Townhouse on Dublin’s South William Street. It’s a beautiful, surprising, melancholic space and it works as a perfect backdrop here, an extra character in 4 in a Bar’s video for ‘Hide and Seek’.

Spin me round again…

…walls where pleasure moments hung before…

Like their Facebook page to encourage further beautiful things from this group: 4 in a Bar

Music for dancing (quote from ‘Every Song Ever’ by Ben Ratliff)

When people start dancing, a kind of ownership ritual takes over. They’ve marked out their own physical space: it now belongs to them. Likewise, they’ve started to take ownership of the music they’re hearing. They don’t want it to stop. After imitating other people for most of the day, or week, or year—their mothers or fathers or supervisors, their smarter or more beautiful acquaintances—finally they’re playing themselves, in whatever form they want. They can be as free as they want, as elegant or debased as they want. 

Dublin Brass Week concert (29 June @ TCD chapel)

I was invited along to this concert by my violin-playing friend, Feilimidh (pronounced FELL-uh-mee). I’ve just come on board with GoldenPlec.com as a classical reviewer, so I was happy to have a reason to write something before I get my first assignment from them!

Dublin Brass Week is now in its fourth year and, despite not receiving any public funding, is going from strength to strength. The calibre of guest players in evidence at this concert, the palpable enthusiasm from the attendees, and the remarkable energy and capability of its organisers will hopefully mean that funding can be secured for next year and beyond.

The concert was in the beautiful chapel in Trinity College. It’s an odd venue in some ways, with its rows of stepped pews facing each other across the central aisle. As the night went on, the various performers processed down the aisle, providing lovely moments of interaction for the audience. I sat up near the front, on Feilimidh’s advice, since the acoustic was rather reverberant for some of the crisper, rhythmic music in the programme. Best seat in the house!

The concert opened with one piece that was perfectly suited to the chapel’s acoustic – a sonata by Gabrieli, performed by eight players from the choir balcony. Four players stood on each side, forming two distinct groups that showed off the composer’s echoing and overlapping musical ideas.

Of all the amazing musicians performing at the concert, trumpeter Reinhold Friedrich stood out for me, utterly connected with the music and his fellow musicians. In the bars when he wasn’t playing he couldn’t help but ‘conduct’ with his free hand. Music of this period – the Baroque era – is usually not conducted in the modern sense, but is rather led by a communal language of gestures. This makes it wonderful to watch. I do think Baroque music represents a pinnacle in music as a beautiful artform. Music of later periods seems to move away from the togetherness of the Baroque (necessitating a conductor) and also into a celebration of a hero pitted against an orchestra. A generalisation, to be sure, but there is truth to it. Reinhold Friedrich’s ‘conducting’ was a reminder of just how enjoyable this music is.

Listen to him playing the Telemann concerto in D major that he played that night – tracks 6-9 on this 1996 album (link to Spotify).

If the trumpet sounds high it’s because it’s a clarino trumpet – a teeny tiny trumpet that Herr Friedrich made sing more beautifully than I’ve ever heard before. My friend Pat Morris, who was sitting beside me, turned to me after the first movement and whispered “I could listen to him all day!”

The backbone of Baroque chamber music is the continuo – usually a harpsichord and a cello. Both instruments play the bass line and the harpsichordist improvises an accompaniment, following the ‘figured bass’ notation on their part. David Adams is a master of the keyboard and it was a real pleasure to hear the sparkling flourishes of his playing underpinning the excellent ensemble. Yseult Cooper Stockdale, the cellist, almost stole the show with her sublime playing in the middle movement of the Vivaldi double horn concerto. The two soloists in this piece, the world-class French horn player Richard Watkins and (making her professional solo debut) Hannah Miller, stood on either side of the group, a choice that again gave an interesting manifestation to the musical interplay.

IMAG0085
Reinhold Friedrich and his fellow musicians after a triumphant rendition of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F

I just can’t get them to practice and I don’t want to nag!!

Great article for the parents of kids learning instruments. Thoughts on encouraging practice.

Blogging at Piano Teacher Press

‘He loves their lessons with you, but I just can’t get them to practice,

and don’t want to nag!’

I’ve heard this refrain oodles of times in my years of teaching and my answer to parents is …..frustrated-parent1

NAG BABY!!

OK; let me refine that a bit …. PERSUADE BABY!!

Let’s take a closer look at that statement.He loves their lessons with you, but I just can’t get them to practice, and don’t want to nag!’

Your child loves his teacher.  That’s a huge positive. The comment implies that you want your child to succeed in piano.  That’s also a huge positive.  This is NOT the time to give up when so much is going on in the plus column in the ongoing familydrama of piano lessons.  Like I said, I’ve heard this refrain from scores of parents over the years.

When a piano…

View original post 1,321 more words