Sundays@Noon: Chamber Ensemble at The Hugh Lane Gallery, 11th September 2016.
The Hugh Lane Gallery has become known, through consistently fine programming, as one of the best places in Dublin to hear classical music performed by a small group. Chamber music is music that should be heard in a concert room, rather than a concert hall. There is a balance of intimacy and community as we are asked to sit quietly in the beautifully proportioned space (designed by 18th century architect, William Chambers, who also designed the Exam Hall and Chapel in Trinity College). The atmosphere is relaxed and friends greet each other across the room before the customary phone instructions call us to attention.
When introducing her piece, I have five things to say, Linda Buckley speaks about the 13th century poems she drew texts from for her five song cycle. Written by Rumi, a Sufi mystic, the poems deal with embracing different parts of yourself. She notes that, when re-working the piece for this performance she had been confronted with a side of herself that she no longer fully recognised. A feeling that’s easily relatable while recalling stumbling upon old writings, photographs, or status updates.
In one of the settings, the poem ‘Pale Sunlight’, Buckley brings us on a transformative path. The poet contemplates the play of the sun on a wall and at first the music is bare and spacious, as the audience enjoy the expansive acoustic and the expertise of the four musicians as they command our attention. Michelle O’Rourke sings the last line of the short poem, “I need more grace than I thought”, and the instruments begin to busy themselves. Insistent rhythms, moving and dancing as the poem is sung again. Building in intensity until the voice is lost in the whirling textures and, as all comes abruptly to an end, we breathe in smiling relief.
O’Rourke has a wonderful voice for music at this scale and is a compelling song-actor, articulating the texts wonderfully clearly with a rich tone across her impressive range.
The musicianship – the seeming telepathy between singer, cellist (Kate Ellis), pianist (Michael Joyce), and flautist (Lina Andonovska) – is truly world-class (as evidenced by their impressive biographies). The ensemble doesn’t perform together regularly because, as Andonovska explains, there just hasn’t been very much music written for this combination.
In passing, Andonovska jokingly remarks that the surprisingly decent weather wasn’t what she’d bargained for when she chose the rather ‘melancholic’ programme months ago – though an Irish September, with all its changes and unpredictability, is perhaps the perfect backdrop to this group of pieces. Ravel aligns his most beautiful, exotic music to the poet’s vision of “ecstatic abandonment” in the final, dreamy minutes of the Chansons madécasses. And we are brought down to earth in the last line as he remembers he must “go and prepare the evening meal”. Linda Buckley sets the mystical musings of Rumi. Garrett Sholdice embroiders a fresh, amazingly resonant, cloak of sound around a 14th century French song by Guillaume de Machaut. All composers engaging with the complexity of being human.
Maurice Ravel – Chansons Madécasses
Guillaume de Machaut, arr. Garrett Sholdice – Dame, vostre dous viaire
Linda Buckley – I have five things to say
Guillaume de Machaut, arr. Garrett Sholdice – Douce dame