Peter Whelan: On My Culture Radar
Artistic director of Irish Baroque Orchestra on his favourite author, album and more
Artistic director of Irish Baroque Orchestra Peter Whelan: ‘I’m living in London, but it’s all about Dublin for me.’
Current favourite book
I’m a big fan of the American author David Sedaris and I’m currently reading Calypso. I adore it. Like much of his work, the book involves simple short stories about his own life, and he has an interesting take on life. He’s honest and brutal, and has a recognisable voice.
I travel a lot with work so I’m happy when I find something simple and solid, with good service. In Dublin, there’s The Lincoln’s Inn pub that does the best lunches of things like soups and sandwiches. It’s close to the National Gallery and the Royal Irish Academy of Music, so it’s nice and central. It’s no frills, but it works for me. The pub is never too busy, and their food arrives really quickly. It feels familiar and like they’re taking care of you.
I love David O’Doherty. I lived in Edinburgh for 10 years so I caught his shows at the festival, and I’ve enjoyed seeing how he’s developed over time. He’s a similar age to me, and has similar problems. He has a prop of a really crappy Bosco-era Casio keyboard, which I remember getting for Christmas as a kid. It’s a great foil for some unique Irish philosophy – his take on life is really fascinating.
Colm Mac Athlaoich is a fabulous artist who I’ve known for a long time. Colm used to be the coolest guy in my youth orchestra, where he played the trumpet, and now he’s made the seamless transition into being a fabulous visual artist. You can see the soul in all his work. This art is contemporary, with excellent use of colours – he designed the covers for my last few ensemble CDs. I have a few original paintings and prints of his, and I’m glad I got in before all the collectors did, because he’s a big deal now.
I listen to a lot of Louis Cole on Spotify. His music is engaging and upbeat, but also cartoonish, like a Gameboy soundtrack. Sometimes it sounds almost like a parody, but there are a lot of classical music references as well, which he feeds into the music subtly. His last album is called Time, and it’s a good collection. He’s super-experimental composer; I think you can use that word for pop music.
I’m living in London, but it’s all about Dublin for me. It’s such a great place. There are obvious problems like, too many hotels, but I just get the feeling that the younger generation are close to getting things right. The feeling in the air is that anything could happen, and it’s full of potential.
Andrew Scott is a similar age to me, and he has this magnetic energy. He was amazing in Fleabag but he’s versatile – he was incredible in Hamlet too.
It might be old, but I’ve been re-watching Arrested Development for the third time. I purposefully spend just enough time away from it that I can go back to it again. There are so many levels to it that it never stops being really funny, it’s a masterpiece. The humour comes from every direction and it’s never-ending. I’m mainly referring to the original three series; the reboot lost something. Sometimes there’s merit in following Fawlty Towers, which only ran for 12 episodes.
I saw The Favourite a few months ago, the film with Olivia Colman about Queen Anne. I’ve spent most of my life working with 18th century music so it was nice to see their take on an 18th century topic. I love how they take a lot of care to recreate Queen Anne, but they also make it punky and relevant to today. The edginess of it really spoke to me.
The Irish Baroque Orchestra perform Handel’s Messiah at the National Opera House, Wexford (December 5th), Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin (6th) and Galway Cathedral, Saturday (7th). See irishbaroqueorchestra.com