Iain Burnside had the inspired idea of creating a dramatic tapestry around Schubert’s life, and combined his fourteen last songs with his own written monologues. Fortune favours the brave we are told, and in Roderick Williams, (one of the worlds leading baritones), from the very start of this performance, we had a match made in musical heaven for the songs. Counterpoint to these was provided by the affectionate, pithy and humourous words Iain put in the mouths of six characters from Schubert’s lifetime and across the 20th and 21st centuries. Here, he was ably abetted with a vibrant group of actors, five of which were students from the Lir Drama School at Trinity College. All in all, SWANSONG was a beguiling combination of music and drama, the only downside being that there was only one performance.
Grey skies, driving rain and chilly wind blew me to Talbot’s tower (via a quick Jameson’s at the Hibernian for sustenance). Though tempest tossed outside, it was all harmony and soft candlelight within, heightened by Liam Byrne’s warm and encouraging smile of welcome. INSIDE VOICES is a small gem of an idea, and hopefully, it will be oft repeated. I was treated to a short piece by Carl Friedrich Abel, (who was purportedly a pupil of J.S Bach). After my five minutes of transcendence, I asked Liam if he chose music according to the auras of his single audience members. Sometimes yes and sometimes no was the response, although, people with a tendency towards blue clothing often get similar pieces. As far as he was concerned, Bach had been his initial impulse when I entered. Then, when he saw who was sitting opposite, he sensed that the Abel piece might be more apposite. He was so right. As I sped back into the city centre, within minutes the skies were clearing and there was even a hint of sun. Liam’s brilliance on the viola da gamba can obviously tame the elements as well as his audience.
At least Colin Dunne gets two shots at his CONCERT at the Watergate in this years Festival. Hopefully, the second will see the gremlins of last night’s performance with bags packed, and heading back to wherever gremlins come from. Improvisatory and at times fascinatingly analytical, the opening sequence was an amusing investigation into the evolution of Irish dance steps. That Colin talked to the audience throughout made it even more fun. When we started to hear Tommie Potts treatment of traditional music, we first feared for Colin’s safety in attempting to dance to it, and then possibly his sanity. He cracked it, and major sequences of dance were riveting to watch. His Concert was a perfect blend of sound, voice and often surprising visuals. Outstanding moments included a surreal conversation with Tommie whilst he put on his dancing shoes and a final stroke of genius featured his raising bland sheets of plywood to form a low screen on which archive film of Tommie playing was projected. It was an artlessly artful show.
VASEN at the Set Theatre last night, were a giddy and entertaining trio who are major players in the Swedish folk scene. What made their set particularly fascinating was one of the instruments. Olav Johansson was playing the Nyckelharpa, a stringed instrument (going back to the 12th or 13th centuries) which has keys that when depressed, act as frets to change the pitch of the strings. It looks devilishly difficult to play, but this seasoned pro together with the other two men on fiddle and 12 string guitar, threw off a lively mix of traditional melodies and their own modern compositions.