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Jane O’Leary portrait disc

In the Stillness of Time

Piano Quintet ConTempo Quartet;Jane O'Leary, piano
a piacere Paul Roe, bass clarinet
Why the Hill Sings Garth Knox, viola d’amore; Jane O’Leary, piano
In the Stillness of Time & Mystic Play of Shadows RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet
something there Concorde

Capstone Records CPS-8789
[70 mins]

This is my first contemporary music discovery of 2012, a marvellous loving CD production of poetic, evocative music by Jane O'Leary, an endearing Amercan/Irish composer now based in Galway and working mostly in Dublin; enjoy the candour of her interview What's it like to be Jane O'Leary?.

She thought of becoming a visual artist first, 'but decided composers didn't take up as much space or collect as much stuff. I must have wanted to be ready to go anywhere with just a pencil, some manuscript paper and my imagination!'

O'Leary has an uniquely sensitive ear and imagination for timbre and resonance. Her writing for strings is always intriguing and memorable, and this disc is additionally enhanced by the inclusion of bass clarinet, viola d'amore and accordion, each of them featured idiomatically.

The booklet is prepared and illustrated with great care, and has relevant images of the Galway countryside and pictures of most of the performers; this is a physical disc greatly to be preferred than just downloading the music.

Recommended warmly.

Peter Grahame Woolf

See also review in journal of music.com [Michael Quinn of the Irish Times]

Concorde: Up Close with Music

(35 years performing new music)

Elaine Agnew at Contemporary Music Centre, 10 March 2012

The fourth performance in a series which celebrates 35 years of the ensemble’s work, took place on 10 March. Each event in the series features a newly commissioned work from an Irish composer, and for the March concert the focus was on Elaine Agnew.

The works by Agnew featured the world premier of a piece for bass clarinet solo which was performed in the concerts at 2pm and 4pm by Concorde’s Paul Roe. The piece, entitled hhmmmm, gave Agnew the opportunity to explore the capabilities of the clarinet with Paul. When describing the compositional process, Elaine spoke of the freedom of the experience because not everything was on paper, a certain portion of the performance would always rely on conversations between composer and performer and because a certain amount of the piece was open to Paul’s interpretation, the piece was different every time.

Concorde also performed two other works by Elaine Agnew. Music Box, for a project entitled Sound Shapes in the Galway Arts Festival in 2002 accompanied the work of the artist Graham Gingles. He made a music box full of trinkets from his own life and Elaine’s piece featured recordings of school children talking. For the Concorde performance, Agnew reworked the piece and the recordings included her family and friends talking about memories from the past.

The second was In The Adriatic, a piece for soprano, clarinet/bass clarinet, cello and accordion. The work, which is a setting of Chris Agee’s poetry, was first performed by Concorde in the Slovenian Capital, Ljublijana in 2008. It provides the listener with a journey of exploration through the instruments and their timbres that is atmospheric at times eerie and in other places lonely and thought-provoking.

The performances across the afternoon also included works by Irish composers Grainne Mulvey, Brian Keegan, Concorde’s own Jane O’Leary and pieces by James Wilson, Elliott Carter and Jacob ter Veldhuis.

The concerts, which are part of Concorde’s celebration of 35 years of performing new music were illustrative of what Concorde does best: they presented the audience with a wonderful overview of contemporary composition from composers in Ireland and further a field. As with the majority of the Concorde events, one of the aspects that really added to the overall experience of the concert was to have many of the composers there to present their works, and provide a little background on the origins of the work and their artistic approach to writing it. The event provided all present with the opportunity to pass a Saturday afternoon in the company of the ever enthusiastic members of Concorde, who along with the composers present and the staff of the Contemporary Music Centre, provided an enjoyable and enlightening few hours of new music.

Jennifer O'Connor