2012 looks set to be a busy year for contemporary music in Ireland, and January to be a busy month for Dublin, and the National Concert Hall in particular. The month sees four events in the National Symphony Orchestra’s Horizons Contemporary Music Series, each featuring a different Irish composer. Each is a free afternoon concert, preceded by a talk with the composer, hosted by the Contemporary Music Centre.
The first featured composer is Karen Power, whose concert on Tuesday 10th combines the forces of the symphony orchestra with composers performing with the aid of technology, featuring works by Michael Alcorn, Scelsi and Power herself. On the 17th, Ronan Guilfoyle will conduct a workshop on combining the electric guitar with orchestral forces, and premiere a new work for same, with Rick Peckham performing. The 24th’s concert features Isabelle O’Connell on piano, with Gavin Maloney conducting two of Kevin Volans works, his Piano Concerto No. 1 and his Daar Kom die Alabama symphony. The final concert, on the 31st, is the highlight of the series, featuring two world premieres, one by featured composer Garrett Sholdice and another by Benedict Schlepper-Connolly, alongside Feldman, Tenney, and arrangements by Sholdice of Bach works.
Also in the NCH this month, is a concert by Thérese Fahy, presented by New Sound Worlds. An accomplished pianist, known particularly for her performances of Debussy and Messiaen, here will combine the music of those French masters with that of Irish composers Jonathan Nangle, Ian Wilson, Siobhán Cleary and Kevin O’Connell. The concert takes place at the Kevin Barry Room at 8.30pm, and entry is €15.
This month’s Irish Composers’ Collective concert also takes place in the Kevin Barry Room and 8.30pm the following day. Featuring soprano Sue Rynhart and multi-instrumentalist Abigail Smith, the concert features six new works for voice and viola, from settings of Yeats and Dickinson to an aural hallucination. The programme features works by Dylan Rynhart, Donal Mac Erlaine, Dennis Wyers, David Bremner, Hugh Boyle and Patrick O’Conner. (declaration of interest: this writer is involved in the ICC)
Finally, the Concert Hall’s John Field Room will play host to something very different: Ama-zone, a multi-sensory installation for children with autism, created by sound artist Slavek Kwi. The therapeutic benefits of sound and music have long been recognised, going well beyond the Mozart Effect and into profound quality-of-life changes. Music therapy has become a standard tool in the treatment and therapy of people with serious illnesses, as well as conditions like autism and aspergers. Ama-zone turns the John Field room into a rainforest, using recordings from the Brazilian Xixuau Xiparina reserve as well as classical music to enhance a multi-sensory experience. Ama-zone will be run in three sessions on the 21st, at 10.30, 11.45 and 1.30, and entry is only €5.
This week, the 13th, also sees the deadline of the Seán O’Riada Composition competition, calling for original works for SATB a capella choir from Irish composers. Past winners have included well-known composers such as Rhona Clarke, Michael McGlynn, Kevin O’Connell, Séamus de Barra and Patrick Connolly. As with all the best competitions, as well as a monetary prize and the Seán O’Riada trophy, the winning submission will be performed by the National Chamber Choir of Ireland.
The deadline for application for the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival in Massachusetts is also the 13th. The Bang on a Can collective is an initiative begun in 1987 by composers David Lang, Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe and has since become a driving force behind contemporary composition and performance worldwide. Their summer music festival, taking place 9th-29th July, is packed with performances, seminars and workshops for composers and performers alike.