The opening night of UCC’s FUAIM music festival covered a variety of styles. The concert opened with the Fermoy, Co Cork based Loudest Whisper, best known for the 1974 stage musical and album, The Children of Lir. Their material is invariably soft-centred: even when leader Brian O’Reilly played a blistering guitar solo, it was on a song championing the virtues of family and home. ‘You and I’ is the best of their tracks, a simple but effective lovesong that O’Reilly performed from the heart.
Yurodny are a supergroup of sorts who interpret traditional music from around the world. Led by saxophonist Nick Roth, and featuring such luminaries as cellist Kate Ellis and violinist Cora Venus Lunny, Yurodny played a lively and gleefully eccentric set whose highlight was Lunny’s epic ‘Tangy Decoherence’, an extraordinary composition that pushed the musicians to new heights in their performance.
Quirky is a word one might use to describe Julie Feeney, but it hardly does justice to her talents. The multi-instrumentalist has crafted some of the finest Irish albums of recent years, including Clocks in 2012. Feeney is an engaging performer, always keen to interact with her audience, which she did on the night by descending the steps off the stage so she could lead a singalong by the front row. Feeney’s material is eminently catchy, but she clearly has one bona fide classic in the shape of ‘Impossibly Beautiful’.
Sonny Condell is one of the country’s most respected songwriters and gigs regularly with two outfits, Tír na nÓg and Scullion. His partnership with Leo O’Kelly in Tír na nÓg is undoubtedly the better fit: both have a handful of top-notch songs, and they complement each other well on stage. Scullion are not quite as compelling: Condell tends to get crowded out by the over-talkative Philip King and Robbie Overson’s all too predictable guitar fills. So it was at Cork Opera House: their set bottomed out on a lacklustre cover of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Play With Fire’, but was redeemed somewhat by two of Condell’s better compositions, ‘Eyelids Into Snow’ and ‘Cooler at the Edge’.
Star Rating: 3/5
Dorothy Cross has ploughed her own furrow in the art world. No one makes work that manages to be so easy on the eye and deeply challenging all at once, and her new show at the RHA confirms her status as the most important conceptual artist in Ireland just now.
It helps that Cross has such high standards, both in her ideas for her works and in their execution. Connemara features some new works and more that have already been shown elsewhere.
Some of the pieces which impressed in previous exhibitions seem more marvellous again in the cavernous space at the RHA, where Cross has dimmed the lights to a mystical quasi-darkness. Whale, which Cross made for the Gravity exhibition at the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork, consists of the skeleton of a whale suspended from the ceiling over a rusty bucket on a marble pedestal. At the Crawford, one could enjoy the incongruity of the piece being displayed among the Canova casts in the sculpture room: here, it casts a long shadow on the wall, which makes it more mysterious again.
Cross is enthralled by the sea. One of the new works is Basking Shark Currach, which typifies Cross’s approach: the artist has inverted an old wooden boat and covered its ribs with the skin of a shark, with its fin in the air. It’s one of the most beautiful, otherworldly pieces Cross has made since her cowhide sculptures of the 1990s.
Tabernacle features another currach. In this instance the boat has been raised to form the roof of a structure through which one views a video of the tide flowing in and out of a cave. This meditative piece is quite rightly at the heart of the show, and demands that one spend time with it.
Cross has made some exquisite works in bronze. Some of the new pieces include Whale Flower, in which a plant appears to grow out of a cetacean’s vertebra.
Cross’s achievement is to make one look at the natural world with new eyes, to appreciate how strange and full of wonder it actually is.
Star Rating: 5/5