The Strung Series with Zoe Conway at The Teacher’s Club, May 19th 2015.

On Tuesday, the works of five young composers received their premiere in unusual circumstances. What the Irish Composers’ Collective created with the latest instalment of their ‘Strung’ series was unusual for a concert of contemporary compositions, because it was relaxed, informal, and not for a moment did any member of the audience feel that maybe they just didn’t ‘get’ it. In the spotlight for this concert was Zoe Conway, who radiated an infectious ease and openness as she delivered a masterclass in contemporary fiddle playing.

The Teachers Club on Parnell Square is not a venue that usually comes to mind when thinking of contemporary music. Given the traditional slant on the music of this concert however, the background din of the bar next door adds an authenticity to the solo fiddle playing. The intimate concert begins as Zoe Conway, and guitarist and husband John McIntyre, launch into a set of reels. The first half of the concert continues in this manner, as the audience are treated to tunes from a variety of Irish composers including Bill Whelan, Mairtín O’Connor and Zoe Conway herself; Conway plays with a delightfully clear tone, and the guitar accompaniment is inventive, but tastefully so.

The second half of the concert is the main event, as the solo violin pieces of five members of the Irish Composers’ Collective are premiered. Naturally there is great variety in the styles of the pieces, their only instruction being the compose with a traditional influence in mind. Each piece stands on its own merit, and each is deserving of credit: Amanda Feery and Ryan Molloy‘s works are well executed on a solid conception; Gemma Doherty plays alongside Conway for her own piece The Seven Sisters – Bound for Boston, adding rhythmic and percussive harp accompaniment; Éna Brennan displays a deep understanding of the capabilities of the violin’s capabilities, with the most idiomatic piece of the evening, while Tom Lane‘s Slip is perhaps the highlight (Conway also admitted it is her personal favourite). Lane builds upon the similarities in phrase length between Traditional music and Minimalist music to create a piece somewhere between a slip jig and Steve Reich, which shows sophistication in development of music ideas.

Conway, McIntyre and composer Doherty close out the concert with a short rousing set. Although the crowd size is by no means big, the intimacy of the room and the endearing, effortless manner of the Zoe Conway draws everyone in and makes this a concert to remember. Without an interval, it feels all too short, meaning that fans of the ICC’s concert series will be awaiting the next instalment with impatience (July 28th- mark it in!).

Programme

Liz Carroll – Heath And Bernie’s, The Half Day Road, Reel for Jim DeWan

Peadar O Riada – Ríl Zoe

Zoe Conway – Wild Strawberry Hill, The Horse’s Tail

Máirtín O Connor – Trip to Gort

Bill Whelan – April in Roundstone

Amanda Feery – Kissing the Ground

Ryan Molloy – Irish Suite

Gemma Doherty – The Seven Sisters, Bound for Boston

Éna Brennan – and so the branches began to dance…

Tom Lane – Slip

Robert MathiesonZoe Conway – Desert Storm, Rounding Malin Head

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