Fishamble Sinfonia at D-Light Studios, September 28th 2015.

The 40 or so strong audience in D-Light Studions (a mix of students and musicologists) enjoy the relaxed atmosphere the organisers have created this evening, including the free beer and general ambience in the converted warehouse.

The Fishamble Sinfonia state they are comprised of Irelands top student and emerging professional performers, and it was evident from the first piece, the overture to Thomas Arne’s masque Comus, that there is a level of professionalism throughout the orchestra. Arne, who is most commonly remembered as the author of Rule Britannia has a strong Dublin connection. He visited Dublin a number of times and his sister Susanna Cibber famously sang in the first ‘Messiah’ in 1742 in Fishamble Street, which is undoubtedly the source of the orchestra’s name. Comus was given in Aungier Street with a specifically enlarged orchestra lead by the master of the state of music, Thomas Dubourg. Whereas this particular work has been rarely performed in Dublin since, it is the perfect piece to launch the night as it was due to Comus’ success that Arne informed Handel of the commercial possibility of coming to Dublin. The overture was crisp and the broad sound from the orchestra evokes Dubourg’s enlarged orchestra of 1741.

William Boyce’s Fourth Symphony in F follows, providing a nice to contrast Arne. Whereas some movements could be more up-tempo, considering it was originally written as an overture to a musical entertainment called The Shepherd’s Lottery, it still contains a suitable vigour.

The next piece takes the concert on a spectacular detour from 1740s Dublin, as Barry O’Halpin’s newly commissioned Toric is presented. Extended string techniques create a soundboard of dissonance, glissando, and shrieking high notes, as if this was the part of Dublin that had been infested by the bubonic plague. O’Halpin explains in the programme notes that the fifths that open Castrucci’s Concerto Grosso are transformed into “wispy, unstable lines that echo across the ensemble”. Although the piece veers in and out of dissonance, it always maintains a structure, with the two violin parts in constant dialogue.

Light relief follows O’Halpin’s intense piece with a Dubourg Minuet, stylishly performed by orchestra leader Darragh Morgan on violin and Adam Collins on harpsichord. The first half is completed by Handel’s Concerto Grosso in D, where the orchestra shows much style, with embellishments tight and good contrast between the movements.

The second half of the programme opens with another Handel work; the overture from Saul. This is followed by works by Corelli and Geminiani, who were both known as prominent violinists. While Geminiani’s Concerto Grosso in D minor demands much from the players, it is not as structurally secure as the Concerto Grosso in D by his teacher Corelli. Finally the ‘star of the show’, Pietro Castrucci is introduced to the programme. Castrucci also studied with Corelli, and like Geminiani moved to Dublin, though his contribution to musical life here was less significant. His Concerto Grosso in D has more of an allusion to Vivaldi than Handel with typical Italianate style. The most musically enriching moment of the night comes in the final movement, when a small cohort of the orchestra goes into the adjoining hall, which had by this stage been vacated by the trapeze class, and effectively performs a call and echo motive.

The programme of most the second half of the concert is quite similar, which probably doesn’t bother the Italian violin enthusiast, but placing O’Halpin’s work before Castrucci’s would have disrupted the monotony. However, much credit must go to Fishamble Sinfonia and Darragh Morgan for presenting seldom performed works to such a high standard in a contemporary environment.


Arne: Overture No 7 in D (Comus)

Boyce: Symphony No 4 in F

O’Halpin: Toric

Dubourg: Minuet (arr Morgan / Collins)

Handel: Concerto Grosso Op 6 No 5 in D

Handel: Overture from Saul

Geminiani: Concerto Grosso Op 3 No 4 in D minor

Corelli: Concerto Grosso Op 6 No 4 in D

Castrucci: Concerto Grosso Op 12 No 3 in D


The Fishamble Sinfonia: Darragh Morgan (director), Aoife Ní Bhriain, Andrew Sheeran, Claire Austin (first violin), Jane Hackett, Mercedes Trinchero, Aisling Douris, Marieclaire Brodie (second violin), Joshua Warren, Martha Campbell, Philip Keegan (viola), Anna Marcossi, Maria O’Connor (cello), Sam Homfray (contrabass), Adam Collins (harpsichord), Conor Cavanagh, Rebecca Draisey-Collishaw (oboe), Eneko O’Carroll, Peter Mullen, Peter Mullen (horn).