The Irish Timesreviews the arts
Old Museum Arts Centre, Belfast
Ripple Affectwill probably play in swankier venues on its short tour of Ireland, but few will resonate with the spirit of the choreography like the Omac, a converted house in Belfast. Choreographer Steve Batts’ design, with several hanging paper lanterns, is perfect with the Dado rails and patterned wallpaper that press through the black painted walls in the high-ceilinged room transformed into theatre space.
The setting also matches the cheerful informality of the action, a meditation on intimacy and interaction that has a kind of bed-sit sincerity that is casual but heartfelt. Dressed in Helen Quigley’s earth-toned linen costumes the five dancers – Ayesha Mailey, Emily Welther, Leilani Weis, Maite Larraneta and Siobhán Simpson – investigate how hugs imprint themselves on the body. These emotional and physical watermarks might not be immediately evident, but they are an essential part of our identity.
Happy smiley hugging by mothers, close friends or barely recognisable acquaintances, is counterpointed with cold isolation – gnarled solos in silence that reach out in vain for any type of contact. The group’s lopping runs spin off into duets and trios where individuals fall backwards into others’ arms. At other times all five suddenly jump and roll to the floor for a sequence that bonds through its unison. These ripples of collective happiness sometimes meet an unmoving participant, emotionally struck rigid in individual retrospection.This tension between bitter and sweet lies at the core of Ripple Affect.
Sometimes both the bonhomie and introspection feels forced and over-projected, but the music by The Henry Girls has a leavening affect throughout. Ever watchful in the corner with a heap of instruments they balm the movement with open-throated singing or drive it forward with irregular metred percussion.
Tour continues to Hawks Well Theatre, Sligo, (tonight), An Grianán, Letterkenny, (Thurs) and Civic Theatre Tallaght (Sun).
Glemser, RTÉ NSO/Markson
Haydn – Symphony No 94 (Surprise).
Liszt – Piano Concerto No 1.
Brahms – Symphony No 4.
If you judge performances of Haydn’s Surprise Symphonyby the quality of the surprise, then you would probably rate Gerhard Markson’s here highly indeed. Haydn’s big bang, placed at the end of an otherwise innocuous, almost nursery-rhyme melody, was given as a sharp explosion, with even Markson’s physical movement kept to a minimum to maximise the moment that Haydn is reputed to have said “will make the ladies jump”.
Markson’s handling of the Surprise Symphonywas that bit sharper in definition than his other accounts of Haydn symphonies earlier this year. He took Haydn at his word in the Minuet, responding to the Allegro molto marking with a swirling one beat in the bar manner, though he did then make a big drop in speed for the trio. And he kept up the high-energy approach in the bracing finale.
German pianist Bernd Glemser, the soloist in Liszt’s First Piano Concerto, comes across as an unfazeable virtuoso. He took everything Liszt threw at him in his stride, and the sheer strength of his presence gave Markson the freedom to allow the orchestra to blaze and gush without fear of drowning out the soloist.
Markson took an approach to Brahms’s Fourth Symphonythat was both sinewy and chunky. And he showed also some signs of unaccustomed excitability, winding up the drive towards the ends of movements, and giving a sense of letting go that’s not a regular feature of his work.
And the sense of build-up within movements held also for the work as a whole, with the extraordinary passacaglia of the finale given a fiery glow.
The Academy, Dublin
The individual members of Mogwai are unremarkable figures, but when they march on and launch into the ominous opening track, guitarists Stuart Braithwaite, Barry Burns, John Cummings and bassist Dominic Aithchison collectively look like the four axemen of the apocalypse, with drummer Martin Bulloch holding the percussive reigns behind them. It’s a fitting image, because this performance confirmed that if the End of Days is to have a soundtrack, odds are these guys will write it – nobody crafts portentous soundscapes quite like Mogwai.
The Scottish five-piece are, or course, one of the most influential names in post-rock, but their longevity is down to the consistently high standard of their output for the past 12 years or so – their latest album, The Hawk Is Howling, is as excellent as we’ve come to expect. They also seem to be growing up at last. Mogwai were once famous for their ear-splittingly loud live shows, with the bass so loud you could feel your internal organs vibrate, but this performance was quieter, in terms of both decibels and audience reaction. Indeed, the orange earplugs that many in the crowd sported at the start of the show were discarded as the risk of perforated eardrums failed to materialise.
This was the first of a three-night residency at the Academy, but Mogwai started with a vaguely funereal tone for the first half-hour or so, and with the volume down to more humane levels, it appeared for a long time to be a somewhat subdued show. But the night’s performance gradually revealed itself to be mirroring their favoured song structure, with the patient build-up accumulating measured power, before the pace quickens, and a series of mini-crescendoes leads to a quiet interlude, before the final, exultant climax leaves you exhausted and exhilarated. Here, as the band left the stage after their “final” song, we had the quiet interlude, before they returned for their encore, a blistering, violent rendition of My Father My King, proving that when it comes to the art of the aural crescendo, Mogwai have few peers. Bring on the apocalypse.
Dún Laoghaire Choral Society, Handel Anniversary Players/Garvey
Handel – Samson
It hardly seems fair. Handel’s Samson, completed just after Messiah, was initially the more popular of the two oratorios. But it has long been eclipsed, and now takes decades to clock up as many performances as Messiah receives during the month of December in any year you care to think of.
Saturday’s performance by the Dún Laoghaire Choral Society, the choir’s final appearance under outgoing music director Cathal Garvey, served as useful reminder of what audiences are missing.
Handel’s treatment of the familiar story has grandeur and sweep; trumpets, drums and horns are used to great effect, and the chorus gets many fine moments.
Paul Austin Kelly’s light and precise tenor presented Samson as a proud and compassionate figure. The duet of conflict with soprano Cara O’Sullivan’s Dalila– the two singers engaged in hurling “traitor“/“traitress” insults at each other – was one of the evening’s highlights. Strangely, the grip of the clash with bass Keel Watson as the heavyweight Philistine giant Harapha was less successful.
The evening’s other bass, Philip O’Reilly, registered with a lot more point as Samson’s father, Manoa. But mezzo soprano Colette McGahon was rather bland in the key role of Samson’s friend Micah, with too many words allowed to flow by without sufficient import.
The choir’s singing was variable, and generally less persuasive in moments of imploration (Hear, Jacob’s God!) than in the clearer and livelier task of thunder roaring and heaven shaking.
Even with Cathal Garvey’s sensible pacing and trimming of the score, the evening was a long one. The orchestral horns got off to an unsure start in the overture, but settled down later. The orchestral violins of the Handel Anniversary Players, under the leadership of Kenneth Rice, provided incisive contributions of a quality not to be taken for granted from the orchestras that are put together to accompany choral concerts.