by / January 24th, 2012 /

Top Story: The Score: contemporary and classical news

Concerts of contemporary music are notoriously poorly advertised. The reasons why remain a mystery, though it seems that contemporary composers and musicians continually underestimate Irish music fans. Yet this country has wide-open ears, and an audience that’s open to discovering anything that’s new or exciting, regardless of the tag that comes with it. Modern music in Ireland is a small world, but one that will never expand unless we start to make efforts to reach all those people who are fans of modern music but just don’t know it yet. Contemporary music is not difficult, it’s not pretentious, it’s not exclusive, it’s not elitist; it’s an exciting world of sound and endless possibility that has remained too long within its own barriers. Things have begun to change, however, and contemporary music has opened out, with the lines between pop, rock, jazz, electronic and classical undergoing a constant redrawing, but there is much more to be done.
This week’s The Score has it’s usual Dublin crowd, and briefly visits Cork, Kilkenny and Belfast, but performances of new music are very difficult to find out about. If you have a concert or release or news, please get in touch at anna@state.ie, and help bring modern Irish music to everyone.
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Last Saturday saw the launch of an exciting new initiative by Trinity College, always a driving force behind new music education and composition. The Music Composition Centre aims to provide a platform for new music composition and innovation, and with the involvement of such internationally renowned composers as Donnacha Dennehy, Evangelia Rigaki, Gerald Barry, Kevin Volans, Bill Whelan and Linda Buckley involved, it should provide unique opportunities to see new works by Ireland’s best and newest composers and musicians. The Centre was launched with a concert and talk featuring The Crash Ensemble and The Dublin Laptop Orchestra. For more information and to see the list of upcoming events, visit www.tcd.ie/music-composition.

As mentioned in the previous The Score, another TCD alumni, Garrett Sholdice curates the final concert in the National Symphony Orchestra’s Horizons series. Having earlier this year completed some projects with his Ergodos label based on the work of J.S. Bach (including the beautiful Sonate, featured in the Contemporary Music Centre’s recent Contemporary Music from Ireland album), for this concert Sholdice has maintained this interest in ancestry and continuity. Linking each work in the programme is the chorale, an exploration of the continuity of melody against shifting contexts. As well as arrangements of two Bach chorales by Sholdice himself, the concert will also feature two world premieres: one by Sholdice, and another by Benedict Schlepper-Connolly. The concert will be preceded by a talk with the composer in association with the Contemporary Music Centre at 12.30pm, with the concert starting at 1pm.

On the 26th, City Hall in Waterford will be the host of an eclectic programme of piano music in a recital by Michael McHale. McHale has chosen a programme that varies in mood as widely as it does in style: Schubert’s Impromptus, Liszt’s Funéraille and Brahms Four Ballades sit beside Irish composer Bill Whelan’s The Currach, Irish-influenced Bax’s A Hill Tune and Percy Grainger’s arrangement of an Irish reel. The night should be an interesting balance of romantic and modern Irish music. McHale is also involved in another performance in February, this time with the Cork-based Cappa Ensemble in Kilkenny. Again, this show is based on an oddly mixed programme, from Bach Inventions, to Mozart, to more Arnold Bax, to Ian Wilson and Frank Bridges: and once again, the combination of the canonic and contemporary should prove exciting. This concert takes place on the 4th of February in Castalia Hall in Kilkenny.

Also on the 26th, in Dublin’s Centre for Creative Practices, musician Justin Grounds and artist Fear Beag will be collaborating to produce a night of “melodic-visual” performance. Both members of Cork’s Headland Collective, the two will meld live processing of violin layers with live video projections to create a dense multisensory atmosphere.

The West Cork Chamber Music Composition Competition 2012 is now accepting submissions of works from Irish composers under 30 years of age. This competition has established itself as the foremost of its kind within the country, consistently showing and celebrating the talent of upcoming composers and musicians, with Conal Ryan, Sebastian Adams and Eduard Zatriqi winning last years competition. The competition is open to works for string quartet or piano trio, with a prize of €500 and a performance at the West Cork Chamber Music Festival. For more information see www.cmc.ie/opportunities.

On the 28th, at the Triskel Arts Centre in Cork, the Quiet Music Ensemble will be hosting Child of Tree, a celebration of the music and innovation of John Cage. The night will focus on the composer’s “unjustly neglected” later work, avoiding entirely the Cage clichés like 4’33”. Child of Tree will be a unique opportunity to explore the lesser known music of one of the twentieth century’s most influential composers, and will also be broadcast on Lyric fm’s Nova the following Sunday.

Album review:
This month saw the release of the debut album by Belfast-based composer Daniel Barkley. Watershed is an album of piano music that traces without shame the multitude of influences on a contemporary composer, and bears up admirably under the weight of music past. Each track on Watershed wears its influence with pride, from the precision of classical phrasing, to an unmistakable Irish lyricism, to a romantic sensitivity to harmony and mood, but doesn’t compromise the composer’s own voice and clear direction. Though the album is lacking a necessary delicacy of sound, as if recorded digitally, or in a dead room, and though not the most wildly original or exciting music to emerge from the Irish scene in recent months, Watershed is a solid collection of accessible and evocative piano music, worth checking out.