Beware of flying roof slates next time you pass by The Cobblestone, because Leonard Barry's pipes raised the roof on Thursday night.
The Cobblestone, Dublin
Barry lent a whole new meaning to the notion of upwardly mobile, as he fuelled the bellows, making light work of the most intricate of tunes - especially the sublime musical equivalent of advanced calculus, Madame Bonaparte.
Young pipers aren't exactly 10-a-penny; Barry carries a torch lit by his elders rather than his peers. He speaks as loudly of the present as he whispers delicately of the past. With a rake of tunes at his fingertips, his pipes save a particularly warm place for jigs, with everything from Gerry Holland's Union Street Session to The Mountain Lark, soaring beneath his pirouetting fingertips.
The company he keeps speaks well of the man. Joined by flute player, Harry Bradley (an apostle of the church of lateral thinkers, who raise the instrument high above the ensemble, momentarily, only to weave it back into the mix with seamless precision), guitarist Shane McGowan, fiddle players Michelle O'Brien and Tara Connaughton, and with John Joe Kelly on bodhrán, Barry's ensemble distilled more spirit in one session than many a chanter-squeezer would manage in 10.
Initially, their pacing of reels conjured unflattering comparisons with lemmings hurtling themselves toward cliff edges, but once Barry applied the brake fluid, they niftily resumed play with panache. A fine debut, promising of much more to come.
Andrews Lane Studio, Dublin
Straining after analogy with the story of Puccini's opera, here in China, the author fashions a plot in which a minor French diplomat, Rene Gallimard, finds himself in jail for passing military intelligence to a foreign power. He remembers the past of 20 years earlier, when he was an inadequate, married man on a posting to Peking, where he met and loved an apparently timid woman. It's Pinkerton and Butterfly all over again; or is it?
Not really. His oriental beauty is actually a transvestite, a man paid to spy for the government. This was the chaotic time of the Vietnam war, and Rene's reports are a litany of misjudgements. He is sent home to France, sans lover. Some time later, Mao's people send his Butterfly after him to continue the good work, which he/she duly does for many years. It all ends in court, gaol and suicide.
There is little here but the improbable story, sliding in and out of melodrama, often generating unwanted laughter. The characters are superficial creations subordinate to the meanderings of the plot. They carry no conviction, and Butterfly is clearly, vocally and physically, a man.
It is a long play of about 2-and-a-half hours, and in that time moves from improbability to tediousness. The actors bring some talents to their roles, but cannot infuse them with credibility. Nevertheless, James McNeill as Rene is often impressive as a solo run, and the support roles are competently taken by Nathan Warnock (Butterfly), John O'Reilly, P J Dunleavy, Nicola Kealy, Elaine Jordan and Michelle Manley.
Robert Lane's direction and set design are up to his usual high standard; but it all seems such a waste.
Runs until June 29th; to book phone 01-6795720
King's Inns, Dublin
Quartet No 1 (The Kreutzer Sonata)Janácek
Quartet in F Op 135Beethoven
Quartet in D minor (Death and the Maiden)Schubert
and diminuendos cannot be infinite, but the Talich Quartet is one of those rare groups which makes you think they can. This quartet's ability to create such illusions, by combining all the resources of their art, was the most impressive aspect of last Thursday night's concert in the Music in Great Irish Houses Festival.
The resonance of the dining hall at King's Inns is not unpleasant; but one does have to listen hard - and when you do you can hear detail clearly, if you have players who know how to address each piece to its surroundings.
The work which could have suffered most in this building was Beethoven's Quartet in F Op. 135. But its restrained expression and elaborate detail were perfectly judged. The players had thought not just about each movement, but about the relationships between them - or so it seemed. The slow movement was a centrepiece, extraordinarily beautiful in its control of tone and detail, like one continuous thought. And palpable release came as we moved into the finale's introduction and then the main Allegro.
Schubert's Quartet in D minor D810 (Death and the Maiden) was much more muscular - full of subtle shadings between lightness and darkness, yet driven by the sort of long-line shaping which makes this long piece sound at its best. Nevertheless, the most impressive performance of the concert came in the opening work, Janácek's Quartet No. 1, The Kreutzer Sonata.
Based on Tolstoy's gloomy short story, this is one of those rare compositions in which every musical gesture has a literary sub-text, yet which works in purely musical terms. I cannot recall another live performance which so persuasively explored its unique blend of emblematic meaning and direct musical expression.
The Talich Quartet close the Music in Great Irish Houses Festival tonight at Castletown House, Celbridge. For details and tickets telephone (01) 278 2506