by / April 13th, 2012 /

Top Story: The Score: contemporary and classical news

“Haydn would have loved Hendrix” is the tagline for this month’s Diversus Guitar Ensemble concert. Some of the most exciting new music around right now is that which embraces pop and rock music as well as the western art music tradition. New perspectives, new arrangements and new takes on music old and new keep contemporary music fresh and interesting, and this month’s concerts clearly show a free exchange of styles and genres that is doing just that.

The Diversus Guitar Ensemble, now in action for over ten years, have made it their mission to push the boundaries of the formal concert with their innovative arrangements of both classical works and contemporary songs, like Bjork and Radiohead. A commitment to new Irish composition has also endeared them to their classical contemporaries, having premiered new works by composers like Raymond Deane and of course, Brendan Walsh, the ensemble’s director. This gig – the group’s only performance of 2012 at the National Concert hall on April 15th – will feature thirty performers and many different guitars, from standard classical guitars to steel string to bass to soprano, creating a soundworld unique to the group. As well as Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Manic Depression’, the programme also features The Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life’, Haydn’s Symphony No. 2 (originally for woodwind, brass, strings and continuo), Shostakovich’s Dances of the Dolls (originally for the piano), David Stalling’s Three Movements for Guitar Ensemble, Brendan Walsh’s Concerto for Violin and Guitar. Joining Diversus will be soloists soprano Georgia Cusack and violinist Deborah Landoldt.

Sticking with guitar, this month also sees the ninth Guitar Festival of Ireland taking place in venues around Dublin. The festival opens with John Feeley at the National Concert Hall on the 25th, performing his own arrangements of J.S. Bach’s beautiful Cello Suites for guitar, followed by a free concert at Farmleigh House by Alec O’Leary with soprano Deirdre Moynihan playing traditional Spanish songs as well as solo guitar works by Bach and Leo Brouwer n the 27th. The Tetra Guitar Quartet will play the Chester Beatty Library at Dublin Castle on the 28th, and back to the NCH again for Elena Zucchini. The Festival will also host two free seminars, the first with Graham Wade at the Chester Beatty Library on the afternoon of the 27th and the second with Steven Goss at the Contemporary Music Centre on the afternoon of the 28th.

This month’s Irish Composers’ Collective concert features the brilliant David Adams on an unusual instrument, rarely used in contemporary music: the harpsichord. Seven member composers have fought Bach’s ghost to create new works for the instrument, ranging from atmospheric to manic. The concert features new music by Peter Leavy, Dylan Rynhart, Anna Murray, Richard Gill, Natasa Paterson, Sebastian Adams and Marc Balbirnie and takes place at the National Concert Hall on April 20th.

Kate Ellis, best known as the curator of the Kaleidoscope salon concert series and as cellist for the Crash Ensemble, is having a busy month. Last week, Kate was announced as the new Co-Artistic Director of Crash, alongside current director Donnacha Dennehy. Having just curated a multimedia concert at the Cork Opera House, where she is a resident musician, Ellis is also curating a similar concert, featuring Linda Buckley, Laura Sheeran, Franceco Turrisi, Adrian Hart, Chequerboard, poet Billy Ramsell and visual artist Jane Cassidy. The concert is called RESOUND and takes place at the Button Factory on the 19th of April. Kate has also been performing with singer Laura Sheeran, and performed on Sheeran’s third solo album, What the World Knows, released last week.

Next week is New Music Week at the Waterford Institute of Technology. Based around the general theme of improvisation, the week is filled with events and workshops by students as well as established composers and musicians. Most notable among the events are a listening and vocal improvisation workshop by Linda Buckley, a workshop and concert by the double-bass and Baroque violin duo Barry Guy and Maya Homburger exploring the convergence of free improvisation and Baroque music, and a midweek lunchtime concert of works for flute and electronics given by Joe O’Farrell. The National Chamber Choir will also visit as part of their national tour (see below) and in association with the Contemporary Music Centre, present a talk exploring new Irish choral music.

The National Chamber Choir of Ireland are this week embarking on their 2012 And Irish Colloquy national tour, bringing the new choral music of Ireland – and new choral music influenced by Ireland – to audiences around the country. The programme for the tour features Tarik O’Regan’s The Spring, from which the tour’s title is derived, Arvo Part’s The Deer’s Cry, a setting of St. Patrick’s Breastplate and Nicholas Maw’s Five Irish Songs. It is over half new works by Irish composers however, with a world premiere of Piers Hellawell’s isabellas’s Banquet, Frank Corcoran’s Caoineadh, David Fennessy’s light-hearted ChOirland and Enda Bates’ Paupers Lament/A Stealing Sadness, which also featured n the NCCI’s Elegies concert series earlier this year. The tour will visit Kilmacanoque, Co. Wicklow on the 18th, City Hall Waterford on the 19th (with the CMC-curated talk taking place earlier that day), Galway on the 20th, Callan, Co. Kilkenny on the 21st and finally Dublin’s Hugh Lane Gallery on the 22nd.

The UK Onyx Brass Ensemble are also embarking on an Irish tour, hosted by Music Network. A quintet, whose members are members of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the English Chamber Orchestra among others, will be playing an extensive mixed bag programme of over ten works that runs the gamut from Bach to Shostakovich to Ives, and includes the premiere of a new work by Irish composer Andrew Hamilton, commissioned by the ensemble for this tour. This tour starts in Dublin’s The Coach House on the 17th, and continues in Letterkenny on the 18th, Dundalk on the 20th, New Ross, Wexford on the 21st, Birr, Co. Offaly on the 22nd, Clifden in Galway on the 23rd, Navan on the 24th, and culminates in Mullingar on the 25th.

Music Network have also launched their annual Young Musicwide Award, aimed at providing budding classical ensembles with a leg-up in their performing career. The award provides unparalleled opportunities to the winning ensemble, from paid performances, touring support, training opportunities to promotion services and subsidising for production of a professional CD release. Past recipients include the Callino Quartet, one of Ireland’s most popular contemporary music chamber ensembles, the Cappa Ensemble, the jazz ensembles Organics and Thoughfox, and Irish traditional group Fidil. This year’s Young Musicwide Award is open to Irish chamber groups of between two and five members, and the deadline for applications is the 16th of July.

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