Concert Reviews

Home from the Emerald Isle

July 6, 2007

So I got home yesterday after a great few days in Dublin, my third trip there in five months. Only the one gig to go and see on this trip, a quartet of Angharad Davies, David Lacey, Lee Patterson and Paul Vogel, but more than anything I went for the break and good company, spending three days in total in ireland at a relaxed pace. We ate well, drank well and had a fine time all round, with the highlight being the concert at the Goethe Institute on Tuesday night. I find it hard to write in detail about the music, partly as I’ve already discussed it with the musicians, but it was made up of two very different sets, each benefitting from two long days recording in the studio beforehand.

The first set was made up of a series of sections where the quartet split into duos and trios, with a lot of space and room in the music, individual sounds clearly defined with the smaller groupings naturally evolving and changing rather than following any predetermined structure. Paul Vogel played clarinet alone throughout this set, before moving to computer, field recordings and his now trademark glass vase held over upturned speakers for the second set. Lee Patterson worked with a stripped back set-up from the one I saw him use just a week or so ago, with some of the more familiar items on his table left behind at home. This deliberate attempt to change things resulted in a quieter, more reflective and very impressive performance from Lee, with his input pinned back to occasional sounds rather than the layered textures of other performances. It also meant he managed to pack up his table in under three hours, a quite remarkable feat for Lee. David Lacey and Angharad Davies were also both on good form and the quartet sounded like a group that had really begun to gel well together over the past few days.

Lacey and Vogel know each other very well, having played together often for a good few years now. The rich understanding of their musical relationship shone through in two places in particular Tuesday night. The first came during the first set when Paul pressed the bell of his clarinet against the surface of Lacey’s snare drum as he played, with Lacey adding weights to the surface of the drum to change the vibrations produced by Vogel’s playing from time to time. Later near the end of the second set, which had an overall fuller, denser sound Vogel unexpectedly introduced a recording of Lacey playing in exactly the same manner he was at that point in the performance, but taken from a recording made a couple of days earlier, causing the percussionist to effectively play in collaboration with himself. Vogel also brought into the performance the sounds from the street outside via a mic sat at the window, and also left a pair of headphones amongst the audience, through which he played barely discernable field recordings, adding an extra dimension to the performance.

One theme of the performance was how the four musicians interchanged their sounds, mimicking each other at times, and in other places sounds heard earlier in the performance reappearing, sometimes coming from a different musician on each occasion. The second set ended stunningly, with a softly played rhythmic tapping from Angharad’s violin reappearing from beneath Vogel’s recording of Lacey, Lacey himself, and a beautiful soft ebow tone from Patterson, with each of the musicians dropping out from around the violin, with Angharad slowly reducing the tempo and volume of her playing.

Hmmm, and there was me thinking I couldn’t write much about this concert! A great set in a nice venue, highly enjoyable.

I stayed with Paul whilst in Dublin, who looked after me beautifully as ever, this time feeding me with an endless supply of classical music recommendations that I tried to seek out in Dublin’s not so great music shops with partial success. Mahler, Bach, Shostakovich and Bartok were added to the pile of classical discs I have to listen to now, more about these in a later post. Another great disc I purchased is by the late Irish traditional fiddle player Tommy Potts. The Liffey Banks is a CD that had soundtracked some late night whiskey sessions at David’s house on my last visit to Dublin and had stayed in my thoughts this visit, so I am pleased to track it down. Again, more on this disc in a later post, but as I type this late at night its raw emotional beauty is drifting about the room around me, almost bringing a little bit of Dublin back with me…

We ate well, investigating Japanese, Chinese and Italian restaurants over the three nights, and on the Wednesday, after Lee and Angharad had gone home and the stress of their organising the concert had passed, David and Paul took me out by train to the nearby coastal town of Dun Laoghaire where we spent the day wandering the shore, walking out onto the two now disused piers on a windy, but otherwise beautiful day. Whilst we were there many children could be seen being supervised in various boating activities, and the following day as I flew home I heard that a freak period of high winds had resulted in 110 of these children being swept out to sea the next morning where they were fortunately all rescued in a massive emergency services operation. Seems we chose the right day to go for our walk.

A big thanks to Paul, Miso, David, Clionna (spelling?! sorry!) Lee, Angharad, Dennis et al for another great time in a beautiful welcoming city (and I don’t care what you say, I still find it welcoming 😉

Some of my photos of the trip can be found here

Fergus Kelly’s excellent pictures of the event can be found here from which the pic above of me watching the show is extracted.

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