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.
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.
Great article for the parents of kids learning instruments. Thoughts on encouraging practice.
‘He loves their lessons with you, but I just can’t get them to practice,
and don’t want to nag!’
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…
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Today is the birthday of Mack Gordon (1904 – 1959), songwriter and lyricist. Soon after Mack was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1904, his family emigrated to America and he grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He and his songwriting partner, Harry Warren, wrote ‘At Last’ — Etta James’s signature version is the finest — and also ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’. Check out these brilliant lyrics:
You leave the Pennsylvania station ’bout a quarter to four / Read a magazine and then you’re in Baltimore / Dinner in the diner, nothin’ could be finer / Than to eat your ham and eggs in Carolina / When you hear the whistle blowin’ eight to the bar / Then you know that Tennessee is not very far / Shovel all the coal in, gotta keep it rollin’ / Whoo whoo, Chattanooga, there you are!
The melody that goes with this verse part of the song is really catchy. Listen to Glenn Miller’s wonderful arrangement of Chattanooga Choo Choo (from the 1941 film “Sun Valley Serenade”) which features the voices of Tex Beneke, Paula Kelly, and The Modernaires. It was the first record to sell more than one million copies and Glenn Miller was presented with a gold record at CBS Playhouse in New York City in 1942.
Sometimes the sun would sneak in. Then Marion beating barefoot on the linoleum. Entreaties. O do get up. Don’t leave me to do everything every morning. In my heart where no one else can hear me, I was saying, now for God’s sake, Marion, be a good Britisher and get down there in that little nest of a kitchen and buzz on the coffee like a good girl and would you, while you’re at it, kind of brown up a few pieces of bread and I wouldn’t mind if maybe there was just the suggestion of bacon on it, only a suggestion, and have it all ready on the table and then I’ll come down and act the good husband with, ah darling good morning, how are you, you’re looking lovely this morning darling and younger every morning. A great one that last. But I come down martyred and mussed, feeble and fussed, heart and soul covered in cement.
What a thoughtful review! It’s so exciting to see this EP making its way into the world. Can’t wait to play the songs live again soon, can’t wait to write more (we’re aiming for another few singles over the summer).
Have a listen. We’d really appreciate a ‘follow’ on Spotify — click the three dots beside any of the song titles and click ‘Go to Artist’, then click the ‘follow’ button.
We’re also on iTunes (your purchase would help pay for the mastering and uploading).
You can find us — @weareflecks — on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SoundCloud, YouTube…
Drop us a comment and say hi 🙂
The Last Mixed Tape reviews Girl, the debut extended play from Dublin based synth-pop act Flecks.
Atmosphere is a word I often use in reviews, and the thing about atmosphere is that it’s incredibly difficult to build one and even more difficult for it to be believable. Such is the case with a the dramatic synth atmosphere of Flecks’ Girl.
“Nothing’s every gonna feel like it was when you were that stupid girl at the back of youth hall crying” sings vocalist Freya Monks during the E.P’s opener and title track. I’d like to take a moment to point out exactly how important this lyric is the rest of the record’s success. In the space of one line, we get a sense of where we are, where we were and where we don’t want to be. This made all the more relatable by the inclusion of “girl at…
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Arminta Wallace interviewed David the other week and her article appeared in this weekend’s edition of The Irish Times — this weekend was the actual anniversary of the 1916 rising.
Here, from David’s forthcoming album, and with me on piano, is ‘The Rising’:
1916 as you’ve never seen it before
Arminta Wallace, The Irish Times — Saturday, 23 April, 2016
By his own account David Rooney was an unlikely person to be asked to illustrate a book about the men and women of 1916. “For me growing up, everything associated with 1916 was coloured by the Troubles,” he says.
“My dad grew up near Enniskillen, and came down here to join the guards, getting away from the poisoned land, as he saw it, of sectarianism in the North. And I wouldn’t be alone in this: many people of my generation would have a real repugnance about the continuation of violence.”
But when Rooney got into the nitty-gritty of his research for the project he was fascinated by what he discovered.
“I’ve been reading the 1916 stories for more than a year, and there are so many instances where everything changed in people’s lives – and the lives of everyone around them. They fragmented, altered, spun off in all sorts of directions. Maybe the anvil of an event like this produces really extraordinary arcs of story – or maybe the stories always happen, and we just don’t register it. But when war happens, when conflict happens, the natural trajectory of things is altered. Like the refugee situation now. And we’re still living in the broken mirror of 1916.”
Rooney’s 42 thoughtful black-and-white drawings give the book 1916 Portraits and Lives, a collection of biographical essays published by the Royal Irish Academy and based on the academy’s Dictionary of Irish Biography, a visual – and, indeed, emotional – heft that helps it stand out from this year’s 1916 publications.
Originally the plan was to use photographs of the characters concerned, but in some cases the available imagery was of poor quality or simply nonexistent. So the academy’s graphic designer, Fidelma Slattery, had the idea of using original artwork. Its managing editor, Ruth Hegarty, ran with the idea, and Jackie Moore of the Office of Public Works – “the third part of that triumvirate of powerful women”, as Rooney puts it – came on board to support the project by buying the originals for the State.
How did Rooney get so up close and personal with his subjects?
“A friend of mine told me to read James Stephens’s The Insurrection in Dublin. That had a huge impact on the colour of it, because Stephens’s account is really what a journalist would do now. “It’s moment by moment. ‘Here I am on the corner of Abbey Street . . .’ It’s amazing – and an amazingly neglected document.”
The 1916 Portraits and Lives project has taken off to such an extent that it now has a life of its own. The book won a design award and was shortlisted for the 2015 Bord Gáis Energy Book of the Year. The ebook was made available for free download, and such was the uptake – more than 65,000 copies downloaded worldwide – that the offer has been extended until the end of April.
Limited-edition prints of the portraits are available to buy from the Royal Irish Academy’s website, and the originals will be on display at an exhibition in Kilmainham Gaol from May 12th.
As for Rooney himself, after 30 years as a visual artist, the illustrator with the highly distinctive visual “voice” is now developing another voice – as a singer-songwriter.
“There have always been guitars around, and I liked the idea of writing songs but didn’t know where to go to find them.”
A chance meeting with Glen Hansard changed all that. “I went over to his house, and I saw him working on the songs that became his Grammy-nominated album [Didn’t He Ramble]. To see them as pencil sketches – well, I recognised something in that. I thought, I know where to find my songs. They’re in the same well as the drawings, but much further down – and much harder to get at.”
Hansard has become a close friend and a constant source of musical inspiration. And with Declan O’Rourke producing and a band that includes the jazz drummer Conor Guilfoyle and the pianist Jay Wilson, who plays with James Vincent McMorrow, Rooney has now recorded 10 songs for an album due to be released this autumn. “It has been an absolutely incredible journey. With the drawings the best ones come if I get out of the way and let it flow. With music I have to be totally present at all stages of it.”
As for recording and performing, that’s a collaborative process that is a shock to a perfectionist who is used to working at home alone. “I’m in total control of the images. With the music I have to let go. Take that de Valera image. If that was music, okay, I get to do de Valera, but I’ve to get you to do the swan, because you’re the person who can do swans. While we’re rehearsing, the swan is exactly like it’s going to be here. And then comes the day of recording, and you’re thinking more of a goose. ‘Why does it have to be a swan,’ you say. ‘Can’t it be a cormorant or . . . a shag, maybe’?” He laughs. “Yeah. And you have just to say, ‘Okay. Let’s try that’.”
We are a five-piece band. I play keyboard and sing, Freya Monks sings, Scott Halliday plays guitar, Alan Elliott plays bass, and the lovely Paul Kenny plays drums. (They’re all lovely, but I’m singling Paul out because I’m feeling guilty at listing him last.)
We recorded some demos in February this year. Please have a listen and pass on this link to anyone who you think might like us. As I wrote in our bio, we are ‘seeking to spread music and joy throughout the land’!
A full-on share on your Facebook page would be absolutely wondrous. A message to a friend who’s looking for a band for a wedding or event would be sublime.
Anyway, here are the songs we did demos of – enjoy 🙂
I thought I knew what I was going to do this morning. There are definitely things that I *should* have done, but I got terribly, wonderfully sidetracked.
I saw a tweet to a Joe.ie article about Michael Stipe performing ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ on The Tonight Show. I was intrigued – I perform that song when I play in The Candlelight Bar. If you haven’t already watched it, take a look:
I wondered who the piano player was. I wondered even more when I realised that he was accompanying Michael Stipe as an equal, with an obviously classical sensibility, not as some background chord player supporting a star. There was a notated arrangement on the music stand of the piano, it was a nice piano, it was a beautifully played, sensitive accompaniment.
A quick Twitter search gave me the answer, it was a composer called Paul Cantelon. His name wasn’t mentioned at all on the show, which really irked me. The various ‘articles’ that attach themselves to pieces of content like this did their usual job of contributing nothing. Jimmy Fallon is obviously a music fan, too, but it was an unusual moment for his show. The pop world has taught us not to acknowledge the musicians that accompany singers (either solo artists or band members). I felt bad for Cantelon when Fallon came over at the end and just impolitely ignored him.
Paul Cantelon is a fascinating character, as I just discovered by listening to a wonderful podcast conversation between him and Joseph Arthur. (I hope you can listen, as it’s on SoundCloud, which is currently changing its access model…) It’s a remarkable series of stories over two and a half hours(!), and what emerges is a picture of a fascinating life and the gracious, humble musician who has lived it. He grew up as a child of an evangelical preacher, was publicly shamed by Pierre Boulez at the age of 11, spilled hot chocolate over sheet music notated by Ravel, swung a piano into a 12th century Parisian church window, attended the 1st Church of the Surf, had an awkward encounter with Nina Simone, was in a coma for three weeks… Funny, charming, poignant, and profound. I thoroughly, thoroughly recommend you take a listen.
In a weird way, Jimmy Fallon’s rudeness did me a great service. If Paul’s name had just been noted in the blurb at the bottom of the video, I’d not have found out about him. Such is the world we live in. “Oh right, that’s that bit of information, I’ll hurry on.” This might not be that moment for you – it’s supremely unlikely that you will have anything like the connection and experience I’ve had this morning with this person I never knew before. That’s the joy of life, the joy of autobiography, of story-telling, of honesty, of seeking meaning and beauty and creativity.
Here’s a Spotify link to one of his compositions for the film ‘Effie Gray’.
Last night I recorded a version of one of my favourite songs by The Divine Comedy, ‘Bad Ambassador’. (One take, so as not to annoy our neighbours too much…it’s not the sort of song that works quietly!)
It was the fifteenth anniversary of the release of Regeneration, the album that the track is taken from, on 12 March 2001.
Fifteen years ago I had just moved back home after graduating from the BMus course at Edinburgh. I was working at the Ulster Orchestra as their Education & Community Outreach Assistant. My diary reminds me that I was teaching clarinet to a wee girl called Sarah; I took her and her mum along to see the orchestra performing Mozart’s clarinet concerto. I was helping prepare the confirmation class at our church. I was playing in a band with my friends Jonny Boyle, Gareth Leslie, and Gareth’s brother-in-law Ben.
I didn’t work out how to play this song until years later, but Neil Hannon’s acoustic version was definitely released as a b-side…free with a weekend paper, I recall. Also on that CD were some behind the scenes videos of Neil in the studio with producer Nigel Godrich. He was renowned for his work with Radiohead and there were certainly tell-tale similarities in some of the sounds and techniques on the album.
I didn’t see the video to Bad Ambassador until mid-2014, and that was in rather a roundabout way (that I blogged about at the time).