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Kennedy 50th Anniversary Concert: The RTÉ Concert Orchestra at the National Concert Hall, Thursday November 7th.

Fifty years after J. F. Kennedy made his famous voyage to Irish soils, Ireland’s RTÉ Concert Orchestra are commemorating the occasion with a selection of music relevant to the life and times of the former American President.  Including a selection of short films about the president and his visit, the concert is presented by Brian Dobson and conducted by Robert Houlihan, and promises a respectful, yet celebratory evening.

Berstein’s Fanfare for JFK opens the show. A short, sharp blast of brass music sets the tone for the evening, reverent yet authoritative. Followed quickly by  Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, soloist Alexander Bernstein takes to the piano for what is a reasonably reliable performance. Some premature entries in the Brass break the spell and cause the security of the piece to waiver, but overall a solid performance is given, with the easy jazz feel mostly maintained.

Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet is well handled throughout, with gentle care given to the soft pianissimo, with the stronger sections nurtured and developed into their full strength under the baton of Houlihan. The different parts are well balanced to bring out the more important harmonies of the work, as well as the wonderful harp lines which are at work throughout the piece. The Boys of Wexford provides sharp contrast to what came before, its innocence and enthusiasm a testament to the feelings of the crowd on the day of Kennedy’s visit back in 1963.

The monumental Adagio for Strings by Barber follows. A work that essentially became the soundtrack of the assassination, it was essential for inclusion in tonight’s programme. This evening, it is treated with great care and reverence, the sense of grief and emotion shining through. Again, the orchestra is well balanced – the soft sections in the strings are gentle and flowing, the larger sections more dramatically emotional and heavy. The sense of feeling is never lost, and it is clear that every musician has connected with the connotations this piece brings.

Between the carefully chosen programme, and the well designed documentary-style presentation, the importance of the Kennedy visit to Ireland in highlighted, as if the effect of his assassination on those who considered him a representation of the lives of all those who emigrated from Ireland in the past. An evening of reverence, respect and remembrance is provided by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra tonight, and enjoyed by all.


Bernstein – Fanfare for JFK

Gershwin – Rhapsody in Blue

Tchaikovsky – Romeo & Juliet

Arthur Warren Darley – The Boys of Wexford

Barber – Adagio for Strings

Williams – Music from the Score of JFK


Kennedy 50th Anniversary Concert Photo Gallery

Photos: Abe Tarrush