Category Archives: forthcoming events

Steve Reich talks about composition

This lovely little video appeared on Twitter today. It’s by the London Sinfonietta, who are soon performing Steve Reich’s ‘Music For 18 Musicians’ with the composer.

It’s really a video programme note – Reich explains the genesis and history of the piece and describes the compositional method and instrumental choices he made. We also see the musicians rehearsing, of course.

Performing groups – and not just those with the clout or resources of the London Sinfonietta – would do well to embrace this model. Imagine travelling to a concert and watching tailor-made videos on the train that feature the players you’re about to see explaining the music you’re about to hear.

World premiere

At the beginning of this year, NDV were recording some Christmas music for a proposed CD release. In between takes I wandered over to the upright piano in St Ann’s church and quietly played some chords – the first comprised two Bb triads in second inversion either side of middle-C, the second was formed by shifting the lower three notes to an Eb triad in first inversion. The effect was lovely to my ears and I expanded the idea a little before we left and then more when I got home.

I have almost entirely reworked the piece since the choir sang through the first draft in February. I listened to a recording of them singing through it and felt it needed to resonate more: it was too chordy, too blocky.

On Saturday – in the very church where it had its genesis – my finished piece, ‘Confession’, will be performed for the very first time…

The Marriage of Figaro

In my first year at Edinburgh University I was involved in the student production of Mozart’s opera, ‘The Marriage of Figaro’. The cast sang in English, as I recall (the opera is originally in Italian). It contains some of the most wonderful music and, from my position in the orchestra (I played clarinet), I watched each night as the drama played out. Mozart loved the clarinet – a relatively new invention in his day – and he gives it some lovely melodies.

I knew the guy playing the continuo part, an older student called Gareth Wilson, and he would excitedly point out the sublime, exquisite harmonies with which Mozart tells Da Ponte’s story of class struggle and love. The words ‘sublime’ and ‘exquisite’, if not invented for the purpose of describing Mozart’s art, surely found their calling when he began to write his music.

Don’t take my word for it – go and see this production by Opera Theatre Company!

My other excitement about this particular staging is that my fellow Edinburgh music graduate and fellow Northerner, Emma Morwood (pictured), is playing the lead female role of Susanna. You know those people who just stand out from the crowd and draw people in with their warmth, good-nature, and sense of humour? Emma was one of those at university and she lit up the music faculty 🙂

Don’t take my word for it – go and see this production by Opera Theatre Company!

DUBLIN May 7+8, DUNDALK May 11, SLIGO May 13, GALWAY May 15, DERRY May 20, CARLOW May 22, TALLAGHT May 25, THURLES May 28, TRALEE May 30, BRAY June 2
Tickets: €18-€30. Booking fee may apply.

Kirk Franklin

I’ve been a big fan of Kirk Franklin ever since my sister lived in Philadelphia for a year back in ’98/’99.  His gospel choir compositions are certainly among the absolute best and the choirs and bands he has worked with over the years have been eye-wateringly groovy.

At Edinburgh I conducted one of his pieces, ‘Blessing in the Storm’, as part of a carol service and usually sneak at least one of his pieces into the repertoire of any choir I work with.

Tomorrow he plays his first concert in Ireland and I’m quite the excited bunny!  It’s in the National Show Centre in Swords – a venue I’ve never been to – and tickets are available at this website.  I spoke to the organiser yesterday and he seemed up for doing some deals on tickets.  There are a number of different prices available, with significant discounts for people under 26.

Major recommendation, no matter what you may think of the subject material 🙂

Here’s a taster:

Something beginning with B

Imagine confining yourself to a single letter.

“Platoon” and “Peter Pan” in a month watching only films starting with “P”. Cornflakes and carrot-cake on a day devoted to food beginning with “C”.

For their winter concerts on November 21, 22 & 28, the international award-winning New Dublin Voices have done just that: everything in the concert begins with “B”.

What could have been a constraint in fact proved liberating. NDV burrowed deeply into all that “B” has to offer and came up with a wonderful programme embracing the new – the 2008 surround-sound effect of Sea Swell by Irish composer Enda Bates – and old – madrigals by Bennet in the 16th century – and the familiar – Brahms, Bartók, Britten and Bernstein – and the excitingly obscure – an incredible, unforgettable piece by one Wolfram Buchenberg.

And to round things off, some Beatles, some Barbershop. And The Barber of Seville.

“B” there!

St. Ann’s Church, Dawson St.

Sat Nov 21st @ 8pm

Carlingford Heritage Centre, Louth

Sun Nov 22nd @ 7pm

St. Augustine’s Church, Galway

Sat Nov 28th @ 8pm

Programme includes:

Britten: Hymn to St Cecilia

Brahms: Drei gesange op 42

Buchenberg: Klangfelder

Bates: Sea Swell

Bernstein: Warm-up

Biebl: Ave Maria

€16/€12 (con) at the door or 0818 205 205

For further information please contact Lucy Champion at +353 87 983 2553 or

New Dublin Voices was founded by conductor Bernie Sherlock in October 2005. It has since become a leading Irish chamber choir presenting concert programmes that are fresh, innovative, and exciting, ranging widely in style and period from the medieval to the contemporary. The choir takes special pleasure in exploring the often weird and wonderful music of living composers, and has given numerous Irish and world premieres.

Competitive successes include National Choir of the Year at the Navan Choral Festival (2006, 2007, 2009), several awards at the Cork International Choral Festival, including National Choir of the Festival in 2006, and various prizes at Dublin Feis Ceol.

Awards in 2009 include the Grand Prix at the 12th Budapest International Choir Competition, third prize at the International Chamber Choir Competition in Marktoberdorf, Germany; third prize and the special prize for the best interpretation of the set work (Laudatio Domini by Kokkonon) at the 3rd Harald Andersen Chamber Choir Competition in Helsinki, Finland; and the inaugural ESB Feis Ceol Choir of the Year.

First gig with Hamlet in ages

Last Wednesday Hamlet and I played our first gig together in ages. He’s been busy at work (and honing his stand-up comedy skills) and I’ve been teaching full-time in primary schools. It was great to play his songs again and dust off the keyboard. I’m sure it’s been glaring at me, albeit in an inanimate, non-ocular sort of way.

Hamlet doesn’t often do covers so I was very pleased when he said he wanted to do Christy Moore’s wonderful ‘Ride On’.

Here’s the evidence, courtesy of Franziska Blum:

Next gig with Hamlet is on 15 December in the Odessa club.

My dear sister was also using my keyboard this week – playing on the RTÉ Sunday Morning mass with some other Trinity alumni and students. You can watch it here until 29 November.

Rothko Smile

My jazz trio is doing its second gig tonight at Anseo on Camden Street in Dublin.  We’ve been thinking of a name and have paused for a little while on ‘Rothko Smile’, inspired by the famous painter.  His paintings are very popular and yet are rather abstract, so the idea of someone smiling a ‘Rothko Smile’ is quite an enigmatic one.  A friend pointed out on Twitter that Mark Rothko himself wasn’t a particularly happy person – maybe the pleasure we feel when seeing his work is tinged with a little sadness for its creator?

I found a blog post by a fellow WordPress user that describes some of their feelings on Rothko (and includes three very nice examples of the painter’s art).

The first time ever I heard you sing

I’m looking forward to playing The Stables in Mullingar on Friday with Hamlet Sweeney.  We’ve played there a couple of times and it was there that I first heard Audrey Ryan.  This time we’re supporting ‘Villagers‘, who I first heard in the distilled form of village chief, Conor J. O’Brien, performing solo at the launch of the Purty Loft a couple of weeks ago.  I was also introduced to the music of Andrew Bird yesterday.  This is a radio slot he did on Californian station KCRW’s ‘Morning Becomes Eclectic’ show (thanks to Gail for this and, indeed, for introducing me to Mr Bird).

There’s something wonderful about hearing somebody for the first time and them drawing you in with whatever it is.  It’ll be different after that, but the first time everything is new.  The lyrics may be the aspect that delights you, some turn of phrase that makes you laugh or catches you off guard with its honesty.  It may be the music, some charming riff or perhaps an instrument or combination of instruments that sounds beautifully fresh on your ear.  Whatever it is, it hooks you and beguiles you and crowns your day.

What a perfectly marvellous thing this music can be 🙂