Classical: Calefax Reed Quintet - CIT Cork School of Music


Curious concert-goers in the Cork area who took a chance, and attended the concert given by this unknown Dutch ensemble, were overcome by the sheer quality of the music-making they experienced.

None of us suspected we were going to be totally seduced by such a variety of sounds. Nor could we have anticipated that our imaginations were going to be blown wide open by the kaleidoscopic tone colours we were going to hear, as well as by the astonishing sensitivity to the music on offer. This concert had the ‘wow’ factor in spades and left us scrabbling in our vocabularies, seeking superlatives to describe what we had heard.

The quintet has been in existence for more than 25 years and has a large discography that is well worth exploring. The five players play eleven different instruments, including oboe, cor anglais, saxophones, etc. They do their own arranging of music from an exceptionally wide range of styles, from baroque to rock, and from two-part keyboard to orchestral music. This concert featured music by Rameau, Bach, Debussy and Gershwin.

Rameau’s ‘Nouvelle Suite’ started rather charmingly, ended excitingly and, in between, hinted at the variety that was to come. Similarly, Debussy’s ‘Homage a Rameau’ explored a range of colours and dynamics and reminded one of his thrilling ‘La Mer’. Neither, however, prepared our ears for the explosion of colourful imagination that was to come.

The quintet’s saxophonist, Raaf Hekkema, managed in his arrangement of Gershwin’s ‘American in Paris’, to capture the colours and the excitement of the music so successfully that it was difficult to believe that this was, in fact, an orchestral work.

It was, however, in the incredibly moving, sensitive, marvellously musical performance of Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’ that we heard the perfection of their tuning, ensemble, balance, nuance, tone, and dynamic range at its exquisite best.

Theatre: Life Behind The Venue - Project Arts Centre, Dublin

By Pádraic Killeen

Inspired promenade theatre, Life behind the Venue is a play that unfurls as the audience tours the Project Arts Centre.

The venue is a Mecca for the Dublin performing-arts set, so this sneak-peak into the innards of the building is a rare treat.

Directed by Eoin Ó hAnnracháin, the play’s conceit is to cast the audience as applicants for an usher’s job at the building.

It works beautifully — facilitating the tour while allowing the actors to interact.

The play hinges on the relationship between four characters, each one guiding different sections of the audience around the building. Three of them are ushers, and the fourth, Marilyn (Pauline O’Driscoll), is their newly appointed supervisor. As they pass one another in the building’s assorted nooks and crannies, there emerges an entertaining narrative that combines farce and melodrama to good effect.

While the story is amusing, Ó hAnnracháin is more interested in the way one’s personal life and one’s workplace inevitably bleed into each other.

The fraught energy in the performances of all four actors tangibly demonstrates that.

The piece’s other strong point is the celebration of the space itself. Life behind the Venue is a lovely tribute to a building and its quirks. Yet, while it deals well with the building itself, it could get under the skin of the institution of the Project Arts Centre more.

A second home to so many Irish theatre companies, the Project would be ripe for some knowing references to its own community. Some small examination of that community, and the work it produces, might have proved fruitful. But it’s only a wee niggle, in an otherwise very charismatic show.

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