Ergodos Musicians at The Space Upstairs, Project Arts Centre, 20th November 2014
Given as part of ICC10, celebrating ten years of the Irish Composers’ Collective, this concert sees Ergodos Musicians reprise possibly their most successful project to date, ‘I Call To You’. This features the work of composers Garrett Sholdice, Benedict Schlepper-Connolly, Jonathan Nangle and Simon O’Connor, all past members of ICC. The seven pieces in the programme each engage with, re-arrange, or re-imagine, the chorale prelude ‘Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ’ [I call to you, Lord Jesus Christ] by J.S. Bach, as well as the poetry (by Johann Agricola) of the original Lutheran hymn. The sequence preserves that of the 2013 Ergodos CD release of the same name, with no apparent additions, cuts or re-ordering. Presenting it live in performance, the Musicians (Anita Vedres, violin; William Butt, cello; Jonathan Sage, clarinet; Michael McHale, piano; and Michelle O’Rourke, voice) are careful to maintain an atmosphere of quiet contemplation.
The concert evokes the intimate, even dreamlike, feel of the recording with the use of amplification, and the dimming of lights to near darkness. However, given the richness of the text and the verdant imagery of the CD’s cover art, one wonders what effect these non-musical elements could have made to this event, which was clearly conceived as a solely aural experience. Placed in the spotlight, the ensemble offers wonderfully controlled playing, revealing the evanescent lightness of the material with well-calibrated performances. Michael McHale’s piano is the one instrument common to all pieces, and he plays with a limpid simplicity and detachment that easily avoids comparison with the romantic performance styles more often associated with Bach piano transcriptions. Similarly, Michelle O’Rourke’s singing is reliably fluent and consistent throughout, elegantly lifting the simple melodic phrases of, for example, Garrett Sholdice’s ‘Verleih mir Gnad zu dieser Frist’ [Lend me grace within this life]. Collectively, an immersive, concentrated atmosphere is created, best reflected at the very last in the gentle, prolonged silence held after the final note of the concert decays. The applause, when it finally comes, is prolonged and deserved.
J.S. Bach, transcribed Garrett Sholdice: Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ
Benedict Schlepper-Connolly: Ich bitt, erhör mein Klagen
Jonathan Nangle: Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ
Garrett Sholdice: Verleih mir Gnad zu dieser Frist
Simon O’Connor: Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ
Benedict Schlepper-Connolly: Verleih, daß ich aus Herzensgrund
Garrett Sholdice: Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ
Anita Vedres (violin); William Butt (cello); Jonathan Sage (clarinet); Michael McHale (piano); Michelle O’Rourke (voice); Garrett Sholdice (musical director)