Cork has a new string quartet featuring some very young, but very experienced and talented Musicians. Discorde Quartet will play their debut performance in Cork City Library, Grand Parade as part of the Seachtain na Gaeilge programme.
On Saturday 12th March at 3.00 pm, Cork City Libraries will celebrate the centenary of the birth of Seán O Riordáin with an event entitled ‘Ceol agus Filíocht.’
Discorde Quartet will play a selection of Irish Melodies while Irish Language poetry writing group, Peann agus Pár, will read from their own poetry and from the works of Seán Ó Riordáin.
The first violinist, Maggie O’Shea, studied the Suzuki method and has been playing music since the age of 3. Maggie was a member of the Cork School of Music Orchestra, Cork Youth Orchestra and the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland.
The second violinist, Caoimhe Browne, began violin at the age of 7 when she was inspired by watching a performance of Riverdance on the Late Late Show. She currently studies under the guidance of Gregory Ellis. She is looking forward to what this newly formed quartet will achieve in the future.
Cian Adams, who plays the viola, has been playing music since the age of 6. He studied under maestro Constantin Zanidache. He performed in the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland. He has been a member of many quartets including the Prima Vera Quartet.
Meadhbh Campbell started cello at the age of six, and is currently studying with Chris Marwood. She has enjoyed playing in a variety of chamber music groups from the age of ten and is a former member of the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland.
Cork teen expounds the value of music from a bygone age
Kate Lehane is a fourteen year old from Cork who isn’t obsessed with One Direction or 5 Seconds of Summer but would rather spend her time listening to Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley! Kate feels that something is missing from modern music that can only be found in the great songs by the legends of the past. She also believes in the power of music as a unifying force and as a means of bridging the gap between the generations.
As she tells us herself:
‘I’ve always wanted to do something for the older generation as there isn’t much for them to do these days. I think it is really important to create a positive relationship between young people and the older generation. I once heard an old song I liked on the radio which made me listen to older music and since then I love music from bygone days from all the greats like Frank Sinatra and Elvis. I think older music has more meaning and feeling and you can’t help but sing along! Music these days is always the same. There are no surprises, whereas old music has swing, jazz, blues, doo-wop, soul. I could listen to these songs over and over again and they never become boring.’
Kate comes from a family who have long been involved in Cork musical circles. Her late great grand-uncle, Tadhg O’Driscoll, was a well known and well loved character who worked tirelessly in the promotion of ‘Gramophone Circles’ in the city.
Kate feels that her family and upbringing have been immensely important in nurturing her love and appreciation of music:
‘My granddad also influenced me with his knowledge of music. My great grand-uncle, Tadhg O Driscoll always loved to make the older generation smile, even though most of the time he was older than them! When he went into a room their faces would light up! He sang and made them want to sing. It’s weird how just a little bit of music can mean so much to people and make them smile. Tadhg was one of the first to play records in Cork for people’s enjoyment. It was called a ‘gramophone circle’ and was enjoyed in the Cork Library for many years. It still goes on today. I remember many Sunday mornings with my granddad and Tadhg. He would be sitting with his dogs and eating his cake, making funny jokes, singing and telling stories. Now I’d like to follow in his footsteps and make the older generation smile, not with jokes but with music!’
In the spirit of all things nostalgic, Kate will present her musical selection on vinyl, rather than CD. In an era where digital streaming ‘on the go’ seems to be the accepted norm for musical consumption, it’s refreshing to find someone so young who is encouraging us to sit back and take the time to enjoy music as it should be enjoyed.
William Frederick Gibbons, or Billy Gibbons, as he prefers to be called, waited until his sixty sixth year to release his first solo record – Perfectamundo. With about forty years worth of ZZ Top under his belt, and iconic status in the world of blues/rock guitar already copper-fastened, there was a fair amount of excitement mixed with trepidation as to what kind of sermon the Reverend would deliver. Would this album consist of nothing more than a collection of ZZ Top out-takes, or maybe it would just serve as a vehicle for some self-indulgent fret board noodling? …. Or maybe something else?
‘Got Love if You Want it’ kicks off the record with a bombastic, staccato intro and before you get a chance to wonder where this is all going, it settles into a sultry, Latin groove with Billy’s guitar cutting through like a hot knife through butter. No creamy, suave ‘Santanaesque’ style licks to be heard here though, just Gibbons’ trademark gritty, edgy, tone sprinkled with enough dust from a Texas desert to remind you of just who’s in charge. The song pretty much sets the tone for what’s to follow; a mix of blues, rock and Latin jazz set to a backdrop of Cuban rhythm with Billy Gibbons’ gravelly voice box and cutting guitar taking centre stage.
There’s a real natural flow to the music and it doesn’t sound contrived or forced in any way – BG really pulls it off, but then again why wouldn’t he? As a kid, Billy began his musical career as a percussionist and was sent by his father to study with the great Tito Puente in New York. There’s always been a shot of Havana in the ZZ Top cocktail – album titles such as Deguello or Tres Hombres for example. Their minimalistic style of blues rock always relied heavily on a solid beat, and odd percussive breaks are littered throughout. To Billy the beat has always been king and I think making this record really gave him a chance to bring that part of his musical persona to the fore.
Gibbons has always shown himself to be wide open to influences from outside of his comfort zone and this record is no exception. There are even echoes of the type of sonic experimentation which characterised classic ZZ Top albums such as Afterburner or Eliminator, especially evident on the title track ‘Perfectamundo.’
The guitar work on the album is superb. Gibbons isn’t trying to break new ground here. He’s just doing what he does best, and he’s the best at what he does. His understated, relaxed, almost lazy style of pentatonic based blues guitar has sustained him through an era where neo-classical, super-sonic shredding was standard fare and it sustains him still. He’s got that rare gift among guitarists in that he can cut you in half with three notes. Also, when you hear him play, you know it’s him.
This album is the product of a musician who in recent years has really been on top of his game. The 2012 Rick Rubin produced ZZ Top album, ‘La Futura’ is arguably one of the finest in the band’s catalogue and with his first solo album Billy Gibbons is showing no signs of slowing down.
On the 27th August 2015 Johnny Campbell was good enough to agree to a ‘Question & Answer’ session in the City Library, Grand Parade, Cork. We managed to capture about half an hour of the event on camera, where Johnny talks about meeting Rory, growing up as a musician in Cork, and travelling with Rory to Hamburg, Germany, as part of a stripped down version of the Impact Showband.
If anyone would like to read a short article about this era of Rory Gallagher’s career then please click here:
Van Morrison’s 2015 rerelease of the classic Astral Weeks — hit or miss? Liam Ronayne explores:
Astral Weeks was acknowledged as one of the best reissues of 2015 in many end-of-year lists. This reissue is, nevertheless, a peculiar thing. The sound is definitely better – warmer, richer – than the first time it was issued on CD, and one can appreciate Richard Davis’s bass-playing even more. Plus, there are four additional tracks.
But it could have been so much more, with little effort and just a bit of imagination from the record company.
Unlike the Moondance ‘expanded edition’ of 2013, which gave us a second CD of earlier takes and alternative versions and thus adding to our enjoyment of the record, there is nothing like that here. In fact the strongest reaction is that of an opportunity missed.
Order of songs
When Morrison played the entire set of Astral Weeks live in November 2008 (40 years after its original release) he made it clear that he had wanted the order of the songs to be different to how they were on the original. He had wanted the album to reflect the thematic and emotional development of the songs, culminating in ‘Madame Joy’.
Lewis Merenstein was the man chosen by Warner Brothers to produce the album. Merenstein brought his own vision to it, and saw that the songs needed jazz musicians rather than R’n’B sessionmen. There is no reason to believe that Merenstein wanted to sabotage Morrison’s vision; it was just that the time limits imposed by vinyl meant that he had to change Morrison’s order. Morrison’s preference would have meant the first side was 19 mins 40 sec but the second 26 mins 25 sec.
Full length versions and ‘bonus’ tracks
There has been some (not much, to be honest) controversy about whether there was extra music in the Warner Brothers vaults from the Astral Weeks sessions of Sept–Oct 1968. Morrison alluded to there being two songs but, in his usual elliptical way, Merenstein was always clear that there was nothing.
The two previously unheard takes included on the reissue – ‘Beside You’ and ‘Madame George’ – do not add much. The rough versions of these two, recorded when Morrison was under contract to Bert Berns, are more interesting, as we can hear how much the songs developed over 12 months. These versions were included in a ragbag compilation called This is where I came in, released in 1977 by Bang, which collected the eight tracks issued on Blowin’ your mind with the less awful tracks Morrison had to cut to satisfy his contract obligations with Berns.
The long version of ‘Ballerina’ is welcome, but the ‘full’ version of ‘Slim Slow Slider’ is a bit of a mystery. Apparently those who played on the session remembered that the song developed into a long jazz improvisation, but we only get a hint of that here.
‘Madame Joy’ or ‘Madame George’?
When this classic song was first recorded it was known as ‘Madame Joy’, and it was under this title that Morrison played it at the Hollywood Bowl in November 2008. Maybe you’d need to be an expert on the East Belfast accent to be absolutely sure, but to these ears it sounds like he’s singing ‘Joy’ more often than ‘George’.
So how might it have been better?
Simple: A two-disc reissue, with the ‘original’ Merenstein album as Disc 1, and with Disc 2 using Morrison’s preferred order, the original title ‘Madame Joy’, and the (slightly) longer takes of ‘Ballerina’ and ‘Slim Slow Slider’.
Then let the public decide which is better.
Credit: Photo used in header image of Van Morrison at Notodden Blues Festival 2013 by Jarvin. Source: Wikipedia Commons
Music lover and library member Deb Murphy reminisces on growing up as a David Bowie fan on Blarney Street in Cork city:
Thanks to my three brothers, who were huge David Bowie fans, I can honestly say I can’t remember a day in my childhood when Bowie wasn’t being discussed or being blasted out on our old record player. That’s the great thing about being the youngest in the family: all the cool music gets ingrained in you before you can even speak! I remember, clear as if it were yesterday, back in the mid-70s, asking Denis why he liked Bowie so much (because it seemed every birthday/Christmas all he wanted was a Bowie album) and he replied:
‘He’s amazing Deb and you’ll get to like him too.’
I was sceptical until he said:
‘He even mentions Mickey Mouse in a song.’
‘Yeeeaaah riiiiiiiight!‘ I exclaimed.
‘Listen’, he said, and he played ‘Life on Mars’, and I was delighted to hear the line, ‘Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow.’ But it wasn’t just that. I remember even back then thinking it was the most beautiful song imaginable.
My Mam was mortified because Bowie graffiti would be spotted around Blarney Street and Strawberry Hill occasionally, and I remember her saying, ‘Couldn’t they just like Abba like everyone else ’cause it would be much harder to narrow down who was behind Abba graffiti!’
We called our dog ‘Davy’ after him. Davy lived from ’76 till ’89 and had the good grace to howl along to many a Bowie track, and I was lucky to see him live in concert twice — the man, not the dog!
What a legend. The world of music has changed forever.