Just as the Galway Jazz Festival was beginning last week, a surprising discussion took place on RTÉ Radio 1. The subject was Seán Ó Riada and his legacy on the forty-eighth anniversary of the composer’s death. Forty-eight years is a long time and one would expect that we would have a clear understanding of his work at this stage, but the discussion fell back on familiar notions: how he ‘changed traditional Irish music’ (he did not but he did popularise it) and how he never managed to resolve the ‘artistic tensions’ in his music between the ‘native’ and ‘European art music’ (he absolutely did with his Nomos works). So there were not many new insights in the discussion, and we have to ask for how much longer Ireland will be in the dark about its own music if we can’t even have a decent discussion about one of its well-known figures. If we can’t get that right, how can we understand what has happened since?
In Tom Goodwin’s 2018 book Digital Darwinism, he asks the most difficult question of media executives: If you were to start your company today, what would it look like and what would it do? Such is the changed environment for broadcasters and publishers that there are no easy answers, but the starting place, Goodwin argues, is to consider what ‘role’ your company has. Where does it fit into your audience’s busy digital lives? How do they use your services? Are you essential to their routine? Having a ‘role’ in your audience’s lives is a valuable first step, a basis upon which to grow.
for the Journal of Music
28 August 2019
The Journal of Music is an online music magazine based in Ireland and read worldwide. Founded by musician Toner Quinn in 2000, it began as a bimonthly print publication and subsequently won the Utne Independent Press Award for Arts Coverage in Washington DC. In 2010, the Journal moved fully online and now has over two hundred thousand readers worldwide. The magazine covers a wide range of genres, particularly classical, contemporary, traditional, folk, indie, opera, jazz, improvised and alternative popular music. The Journal has been supported by the Arts Council since its inception. Continue reading
Cherry Smyth’s ‘Famished’ – a collection of poems focused on the famine – was performed at Kilkenny Arts Festival last week, with singer Lauren Kinsella and composer Ed Bennett. Toner Quinn reviews.
Famished, a recent collection of poetry by Cherry Smyth, is a deep road into the Irish famine. Her poems may begin with the 1840s but they travel right up to contemporary politics. Alongside her own writing, she quotes from political commentators down the decades. The poem ‘The Cassock, Each and Every Townland’ is accompanied by a quote from the Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle writing around the time of the famine: ‘Ireland is like a half-starved rat that crosses the path of an elephant. What must the elephant do? Squelch it – by heavens – squelch it.’
Kilkenny Arts Festival presented the Irish premiere of Ed Bennett’s ‘Song of the Books’ last week, performed by Kate Ellis and Crash Ensemble. Toner Quinn reviews.
Composer Ed Bennett’s new work Song of the Books, which was given its Irish premiere at the Kilkenny Arts festival in Rothe House (16 August), has its origins in a request from the cellist Kate Ellis for a solo piece. That didn’t happen, but she is at the centre of this twenty-minute work for cello, ensemble and electronics, performed with Crash Ensemble.
The achievements of Ireland’s composers abroad are not getting enough attention at home.
You would not know it from the vibrant music scene that we have today, but Ireland’s relationship with certain types of music has often been complicated, tormented even.
Irish National Opera gave the world premiere of ‘Least Like the Other: Searching for Rosemary Kennedy’ in Galway this week, a work by composer Brian Irvine and director Netia Jones that tells the story of JFK’s sister. Toner Quinn reviews.
Brian Irvine’s new opera Least Like the Other, which was given its world premiere at the Galway International Arts Festival on 15 July, tells the story of Rosemary Kennedy (1918–2005), the sister of US president John F. Kennedy.
Luminosa string orchestra recently held its inaugural concerts in Galway, the first focussing on work by female composers and the second on the theme of landscape and music. Toner Quinn reviews.
Launched last November, Galway’s new orchestra Luminosa held its first two concerts in April and June of this year. The group is the initiative of Lucy Hayward and it draws on the musical strengths of the west: the four members of ConTempo Quartet are all section principals, and Paul Ezergailis, who is co-principal of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, is Concertmaster. The ranks of each section are filled by musicians who perform with national and international orchestras but are based in or near Galway.
There was an irony in the fact that Other Voices was in Belfast this week. If you tune into debates in Britain at the moment, voices from Northern Ireland really are the ‘other voices’. Their experiences are hardly considered in the discussions about the border, Brexit or the Tory leadership. But the North has a lot to say.
It takes a long time to get to Sherkin Island, through the bends of West Cork, down through Dunmanway and Skibbereen, the ferry from Baltimore, then a trip on the back of a golf-buggy up to the North Shore stage and camp site. One can only guess what is involved in organising the Open Ear festival on this small island, but the unlikeliness of it all is part of the attraction – we are there to escape.