by / February 22nd, 2012 /

Top Story: The Score: classical and contemporary news

This issue of The Score is all about chamber music. As orchestral music becomes increasingly unpopular, and large force concerts increasingly unfeasible, love for the intimacy of smaller ensemble performances just keeps growing. As well as the usual string quartets and chamber choirs – who are coming up with some very beautiful programmes – there are a few more unusual instrumental combinations too.

This Thursday the 23rd, Dublin composer Andrew Hamilton will be giving a talk to the Music Composition Centre at Trinity College. As one of our most successful musical exports, Hamilton has had works performed extensively internationally as well as studying in Manchester and in The Hague with Louis Andreissen, and has won many international composition awards. His talk will focus on his recent composition, called ‘right and wrong’, and will discuss his compositional process. As one of the most adventurous composers currently active, with pieces like Music for People Who Like Art performed at last year’s Free State VI concert by the Crash Ensemble still stirring up debates, this talk should provide an exceptional insight into the Hamilton’s writing technique.

Windmill Lane Recording Studios are this month promising a unique experience for composers interested in becoming involved with game music, one of the most challenging but also most innovative fields of composition. Games allow the composer and musician to work closely with visuals in a unique way, with narrative and emotive elements difficult to approach in pure composition, with complete interactivity. Run in association with Games Music Ireland, the three-day course, called Composing for Games Module, will not only cover theory and skills, but provide practical experience through completing a composition brief with full support, discussion and analysis. The course costs €380, places can be booked by contacting

Earlier this month, the RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet, known as the premier string quartet in the country, and friends of contemporary chamber music began their 2012 Spring tour. The tour marries the classical master of the quartet, Haydn, with the more adventurous Beethoven, with Shostakovich’s energy and Arvo Pärt’s spirituality. It starting in Cork, and continues this week in Tralee on Thursday, Birr on Friday and finally Kilkenny on Saturday.

Another staple of the Irish classical scene, The National Chamber Choir of Ireland are also touring this week with a beautiful programme of Elegies, dedicated to Vaclav Havel, a Czech playwright and statesman who died in December. The ostensible star of the programme is Herbert Howell’s Take Him, Earth, For Cherishing, however in a programme that also includes the vocal works of Britten in his Five Flower Songs, there cannot be just one star. The program also features new works by Enda Bates, A Pauper’s Lament/A Stealing Sadness, as well as works by Brian Boydell and Frank Corcoran. The Chamber Choir will be in the Carlingford Heritage Centre in Louth on the 25th and Dublin’s St Ann’s Church, Dawson St on the 26th.

The Contemporary Music Centre‘s new music::new Ireland salon series has again this month brought together instruments rarely matched, on the 29th of February, the Kevin Barry Room of the National Concert Hall will host Dave Flynn on guitar and Aoife Ní Bhríain on violin. The duo will be performing a number of premieres by Irish composers, including Flynn’s – who is known for his sometimes whimsical sense of humour and love of Irish traditional music – own Quirk No. 6 (a)- Toccato for Obama. Eric Sweeney, with Comhra, Jerome de Bromhead with Augury and Alyson Barber with Drone complete the programme that promises an Irish lilt to contemporary composition.

The Crash Ensemble have released a recording of a work by Kevin Volans, descriptively titled Trumpet, Vibe, Cello, Piano to high acclaim. The work was written for the Ensemble for his 60th birthday, and premiered in 2009. Volans has endured as one of Ireland’s best loved chamber music writer, making this an unmissable release for lovers of ensemble works.

Live film scoring is quickly becoming the most popular medium for audiovisual performances. This month sees the NSO take on the music of Danny Elfman for their Batman screening, while in the Mermaid Arts Centre in Bray, a screening of the 1923 silent film Salomé will be accompanied by a live score by Charlie Barker for four percussionists on the 3rd of March. The film’s rich and lavish visual style will be offset and supported by music heavily influenced by its setting, Judea, promising a new experience of the art nouveau film.

Finally, on the same day, another string quartet, the award-winning Romanian ConTempo Quartet, will be bringing another world premiere of an Irish composer’s work to Sligo. Alongside the classical string quartets of Haydn (Quartet No. 62 – the Emperor Quartet) and Schubert (String Quartet No. 15 – Death and the Maiden) will be Deirdre McKay’s simply titled New string quartet, a commission by the Con Brio Music Series of which this concert is part.