Live Report: RTE Open Air Concert at Dublin Castle for Culture Night

Live Report: RTE Open Air Concert at Dublin Castle for Culture Night

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Music Review/Live: 27 Sep 2017, 17:38

One thing Ireland is known for worldwide is its culture. It’s no fluke that countries all over the world hold St. Patricks day parades on our national feast day. For a small nation, we leave a big impression on the world. Alas, as with everything, when you are surrounded with something all the time, it can become so common place that you may start to lose appreciation for it slightly. That’s why Culture Night is so important – it reminds us of the wealth of culture we are surrounded by – both our own, and that of those of all the different nationalities our lovely country plays home to. And, as Colm O’Regan noted, it comes at the perfect time. September is when students and scholars are returning to their institutions, and motivation to learn is at its highest ebb.

So, as Ireland’s inhabitants flock to the cities to enjoy one, or many, of the wonderful talks, exhibitions, concerts and countless other events that are being held, it was at one of our cities most beautiful buildings we found ourselves. Dublin Castle was to play host to RTE’s concert orchestra MC’d by RTE Arena’s own Sean Rocks, along with a plethora of very special guests, for a few hours of music, spoken word and recitals, to delight an audience composed of all ages.

Musically, we were treated to a wonderful array of styles and genres. Tenor Matthew Gilsenan opened the night beautifully when his booming voice. This, along with the orchestra behind him, added a classical feel to a typically Irish tune in Percy French’s “Phil the Fluter’s Ball”. A comparison to Josh Groban is one too obvious not to be made here and he returned numerous times over the night to an enthralled audience. More contemporary offerings came from the likes of Aine Cahill, whose bluesy voice was accentuated perfectly by prominent strings and low bass notes from the brass section on “Plastic”. Daithi is famous for his mix of electronic music and his looped fiddle, so to hear his and Sinead White’s two songs “Love’s on Top” and “Falling for You” backed with the orchestra and a full string section in addition to the usual lone fiddle was only ever going to be an amazing experience. The Strypes looked every inch the rock stars they are in suits and sunglasses - enviously overachieving, loveable youngsters who we should be extremely proud of. So accomplished for such a young age, these guys have brought back rock and roll in a big way.

Elsewhere, Mongoose are a quartet whose harmonies would bring any room, or indeed courtyard, to a hush, and their latest single “Old Friend” was enhanced perfectly with the added instrumentation – neither took centre stage here but complemented each other impeccably. Jerry Fish commanded attention with his guttural rendition of a Baz Luhrmanesque tune about both London and Dublin – think of a cockney Tom Waits playing a theatrical villain. Eimear Quinn’s performance of “The Voice” was, as always, spine tingling with her soaring and mellifluous vocals. Thomas Walshe of Pugwash had us all doing our best Charleston when he blasted out “King of the Swingers” in honour of the 50th anniversary of The Jungle Book.

In a more traditional vein, Paddy Bush gave a wonderful interpretation of “The Blackbird and the Worm” accompanied by a harp and uilleann pipes which were played wonderfully against each other. Riverdance producer Moya Doherty got us breaking out the moves from our youth with an Irish jig in the “Blackbird set dance” which the orchestra joined in on and filled it out with their symphonic sound. Traditional jigs and reels were also provided by trio Liam O’Connor, Brian McGrath and John Blake – I have a feeling many pumps will be getting dusted off after last night!

The audience were hushed as a choir of students from UCD took to the stage. Led by Mark Waters and with rhythmic beats from a bodhran, the chorus of layered voices was exceptional.

Of course, as a multicultural country, it is not just our own heritage and traditions being paid homage to, and one of the highlights for your writer was a very touching moment which brought together two cultures in a beautiful way. Almuthna Loulah is one of the Syrian refugees residing in Ballaghaderreen. He had been crafting violins in his home country and spoke movingly about making his first one in Ireland. The same violin was then presented to Bronagh Cahill, who was leading the orchestra, to play a song. She told how she spent a long time choosing a song for such a special moment, before settling on “the Lark and the Clear Air”, a song about hope. A misty eyed moment to say the least.

Mexico also got its moment in the spotlight in the form of the San Patricio Mariachi Band, complete with sparkly sombreros – unfortunately, they didn’t throw them to the crowd against all hopes.

Of course, although music plays such a special part in our culture, there were contributions from spoken word artists and poets which stood out wonderfully. Dylan Coburn Gray spoke to a frustrated generation in a piece on the rent crisis. Touching on the repeal the 8th movement, homelessness and domestic violence, he likened the government’s actions to a lifeguard who, rather than leave his post to rescue those drowning, instead serves to publish a list of those who die. This was fittingly followed by a rendering of “Pity the Downtrodden Landlord” by Louis Lovett in another villainesque performance. Owen Roe’s deep rhythmic soothing voice provided us with a poem based on Lawrence Oates and his bout with gangrene and valiant death on his Antartic discovery journey. Stephen James Smith provided a poem about the local area, mentioning The Liberties and Streets Meath and Francis, while Colm O’Regan brought some humour with some biting but lighthearted observations on modern Dublin life in a piece which called out our propensity for smugness in a tongue in cheek manner. Finglas native, Rachel Hegarty read two of her lovely pieces – one dedicated to Colly Owens, himself the victim of a shooting, threw a spotlight on the lack of justice for the families of victims of gangland related deaths and violence.

We were treated to a stunning piece from Irish-Nigerian Felispeaks. “Origin” is a love poem to her homeland and the rhythm of life there, and it was joy to experience and hear of her love of both her birthplace and her current home. Members of Dublin Youth Theatre provided an excerpt from “This is a Room”, a play written and directed by earlier performer Dylan Coburn Gray – based on this small peak, it will be a sensational show running from Wed Sep 27th in the Project Arts Centre.

As the night drew to a close, a rendition ‘You Raise Me Up’ was gifted to us by Mongoose’s Molly O’Mahoney, Sinead White, Matthew Gilsenan and Eimear Quinn. The addition of uilleann pipes to the full orchestra lent an Irish touch to a wonderful performance. The orchestra played us out and away we went, swelling with pride and our hearts raised by the songs and words of the performers. A thoroughly enjoyable night, impeccably curated by Rachel Breslin – is it next year yet?

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