In the austere atmosphere of St Canice’s, the rambunctious Eliza Carthy and her extremely Wayward Band, landed in the cathedral last night like a bolt from the blue.
The music making was tremendous, if the acoustic inevitably resulted in too many muffled or echoing lyrics. No matter. Her original take on old folk favourites, coupled with a talent for hip one-liners and then heartfelt observations, couldn’t help but endear her to a sadly less than full house.
A predominantly senior demographic was clearly not sure what to make of the thrilling set that not only rattled the rafters but practically raised the roof! I presumed their blood and mud spattered promo image from the festival brochure was deemed too irreligious for the venue. Instead we got ecclesiastical whites with facial highlights from Bowie’s ‘ blue period. I had a blast.
Half an hour later, at the Set Theatre, Liam Byrne and Nadia Sirota provided some much needed balm for the soul. The elegant combination of viola de gamba and viola enhanced by pre-recorded vocals and multi- tracking electronics was trance music in its most acceptable form. The names of the pieces alone, Suspension and Solutions, Keep in Touch and Tessellatum already set the mood before the first notes were played.
Donnacha Dennehy is a contemporary Irish composer to whom I was first introduced at a concert at the Royal Hospital in Dublin in 2010. It was doubly memorable, as the premiere of his work - That the Night Come - was sung by the peerless Dawn Upshaw. Tessellatum was a thirty-minute piece, throbbing with nervous energy. At intervals, it would subside into languid free fall, much in the manner of several of John Adam’s compositions. Throughout, it sustained a perfect tension between the two styles and I would consider this a major addition to his astonishing output.
In 2015 he composed the opera The Last Hotel, and this year his new one, The Second Violinist premiered at the Galway International Arts Festival. He has yet to write a full-length opera alas, seemingly tethered to the playwright Enda Walsh. One longs for him to slip his shackles and write the first full-length 21st century Irish masterpiece he is so obviously capable of doing.
I love the Set theatre as most of you know, so I was aghast the other day to hear one of the musicians in the festival say his wife said ‘it looked like it came from the Muppet Show.’