Irish Times writers review Concordeat the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin and Anything Goesat the National Concert Hall.
Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin
This free concert by the contemporary music ensemble Concorde was ticking along very nicely when the premiere of a new piece by Irish composer Judith Ring suddenly elevated the whole occasion to something rather special.
Whispering the Turmoil Down illustrates Ring's new focus within the electronic music milieu where she has already enjoyed great success.
Whereas her award-winning Accumulation (2000) achieved a thrilling, galactic kind of vastness by electronically manipulating sounds recorded from domestic appliances, the new piece operates within the constraint of a single instrument, both live and pre-recorded on tape but without processing.
The instrument is the bass clarinet. It was the segment on tape in particular that opened a window into Ring's remarkable artistic intuition. For while the bass clarinet is more generally associated with robust and very deep notes, in Ring's hands the layering of quiet long notes and multiphonics produced a surprisingly exquisite and gentle sound-world full of delicate gongs and crystalline, bell-like sonorities. Against this beautiful backdrop the live instrument seemed an almost human voice narrating a wordless story. Paul Roe, for whom the piece was written, gave a magical performance, both live and on tape.
The other pieces featured musicians I hadn't heard playing with Concorde before. Cellist Martin Johnson gave a nicely shaped account of the central solo that was the high point of Nino Diaz's quick-slow ensemble piece Noiabr. Violinist Brona Fitzgerald featured in short, lively pieces by Pedro Pardo - Humoresque - and Ariel Hernandez, whose Acollaradas placed her in energetic and dance-driven dialogue with accordion-player Dermot Dunne.
The Two Soliloquies for clarinet, violin, cello, accordion and piano were from a set of seven written by Barcelona-born Joaquim Homs at the time of his wife's death in 1972. With mostly restrained expression they explored emotions ranging between grief, distress, and rage.
The concert closed with an engaging and well-crafted bit of contemporary programme music by Grainne Mulvey. Her Agglomeration is a musical response to the idea of particles gradually joining and combining, leading ultimately to the formation of vast bodies such as stars. The judicious use of advanced techniques such as multiphonics and the grinding of strings nicely evoked the early stages of the process, which expanded to include string glissandi and deep rumblings on the bass clarinet and accordion. These created a strong sense of gigantic growth and mass. Not bad for a piece of chamber music.
There was a time, before Rodgers and Hammerstein, when the stage musical typically had a plot that stopped at intervals to permit the lead performers to sing the numbers. The notion of integration was hardly entertained, and if audiences left the theatre singing or humming the songs, that spelled commercial success.
Back in 1934, Cole Porter's first hit musical, Anything Goes, was a luminous example of this.
It is set on the SS American, bound for London from New York, and carries an unusual complement of passengers and crew. There are lovers, gangsters, pseudo-clergymen, wealthy English and tycoon American, Chinamen, sexy women and lusty sailors. They are equipped with ludicrous dialogue to flesh out farcical situations.
But time and status have earned a fool's pardon for these cliched inventions, covering them with a nostalgic patina that now charms audiences with their very absurdity. The cast do not patronise their own creations, but energise them to earn an empathetic response. We are all joined in a mutual conspiracy of laughter.
And there are the immortal songs, better today than ever. This is, with good reason, still the most revived of all those far-off 1930s musicals. As the young lovers, Michael Evans and Sharon Murphy sing and dance to the tunes of Easy to Love and It's Delovely with melodious grace. They join with Garry Mountaine in the comic number Friendship, while he sends up other solo numbers. The company sing and dance with tap precision throughout.
Sharon Sexton as the sexy nightclub singer is altogether brilliant, with one superlative number that rocks the house. In Blow, Gabriel, Blow she lifts the roof with her magnificent voice and dynamic presence.
The Rathmines & Rathgar Musical Society has done it again.