Wednesday 7 February 2018

new music::new Ireland launched

Launch of new music::new Ireland at the Irish Embassy, London
Launch of new music::new Ireland at the Irish Embassy, London
The Contemporary Music Centre, Ireland (CMC) launched its latest CD, the third album in the promotional recording series new music::new Ireland, at an event at the Irish Embassy in London last night (6 February). The launch was a chance to hear music from four composers on the disc, Elis Czerniak, Kerry Hagan, Garth Knox and Matthew Whiteside, performed live. There is a further showcase tonight (7 February 2017) at Cafe OTO when there will be music by Ed Bennett, Elis Czerniak, David Fennessy (premiere), Kerry Hagan, Garth Knox, Ruaidhri Mannion, Ailís Ní Riain, Kevin O’Connell and Matthew Whiteside.

After an introduction from the Irish Ambassador, Adrian O'Neill, Evonne Ferguson, director of CMC, explained that the CD was intended to be representative of what is going on in Ireland at the moment, including works which are not published and recordings which are not commercially available. CMC, which is an All-Ireland initiative, supports both composers and performers. We were treated to four works by composers featured on the disc. First came two movements from Garth Knox's Cinq Petites Entropies performed by Garth Knox (viola d'amore) and Paul Roe (bass clarinet). Knox is a violist and composer who plays in the Arditti Quartet and works with the Ensemble Intercontemporain. The first movement we heard was for viola d'amore alone and the music seemed to hint at Irish folk influences, whilst the second movement we heard (the fifth in the suite) was a contemplative dialogue for viola d'amore and bass clarinet.

Garth Knox then played the second work on the programme, an extract from Glasgow-based composer Matthew Whitesides' Solo for Viola D'Amore and Electronics. This was a thoughtful, contemplative piece with dark undertones, with the electronics being controlled by Knox via a footpedal. It certainly challenged anything that Vivaldi might have written for the instrument, and chatting to Matthew Whitesides afterwards he explained that his interest in the viola d'amore was partly because of the remarkable sound it has, with its seven sympathetic strings which resonate, and in fact Whitesides electronics seemed to pick up on this.

Before the next work, distinguished composer Kevin O'Connoll talked about the state of contemporary music in Ireland today and the changes that he has seen over time. We then heard Kerry Hagan's Requiem, performed by Paul Roe (clarinet) and Kerry Hagan (electronics). The work is a musical meditation on loss, and created a thoughtful meditative and contemplative piece. Whilst listening to it, I kept wondering what was live and what was electronics, and chatting to Kerry afterwards she explained that this was partly deliberate as the piece is very much about memory, so we hear live clarinet, clarinet re-processed by the electronics and synthesised sounds which closely approximate those of the clarinet. The final work, was Elis Czerniak's Kolo, and improvised piece for soprano and electronics performed by Elizabeth Hilliard in a dxxling performance of an intense and concentrated work.

Interestingly, Contemporary Music Centre, Ireland's premises are in Fishamble Street, Dublin which was the location of the New Music Hall where Handel's Messiah premiered on 13 April 1742.

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