Classical Review: Ensemble Marsyas

Dublin Castle


There are some events where the synergy between the elements creates a powerful and unforgettable experience. St Patrick’s Hall was the perfect location for an uncovering of the

official soundtrack of 18th century Dublin. It was no surprise to see a ‘House full’ sign outside the grandest room of the State Apartments for a concert titled Rediscovering Irish State Musick, by Ensemble Marsyas.

The title took its name from the band serving the Lord Lieutenant at the Castle, a key component in the vice regal court’s efforts to display wealth and power at state occasions. I would happily have listened to a scratchy string quartet playing the musical equivalent of porridge to sit a while under Vincenzo Valdre’s painted
ceiling depicting St Patrick and the coronations of kings in a room where Queen Elizabeth dined with President McAleese.

Ensemble Marsyas, under Peter Whelan directing from the harpsichord, delivered a tasty Baroque musical feast interspersed with sorbets of readings from contemporary sources.

There was music by familiar
Baroque masters but most interesting were the works by Cousser and
Dubourg that closed each half. Both settled in Dublin and held the title of Master of the King’s Musick. Their music has to light in unlikely places in recent years and academics Samantha Owens and David Rhodes were in the hall to hear the results of their efforts come to life

Tom Creed added theatrical touches to Cousser’s Serenata Theatrale with singers Rachel Redmond, Emilie Renard and Gwilym Bowen wearing symbolic props processing through the hall in their characters of Peace, Discord and Victor. Amid the noise of trumpets and kettle drums came the unusual timbre of a ferocious wind machine.

There was hilarity in Bowen’s lusty delivery of Swift’s parody of Italian musical manners. Dubourg’s collage of music from Birthday Odes over three decades was full of stylish contrasts opening with a recitative, Hibernia Smiles by mellifluous bass Edward Grint. Throughout Peter Whelan led his team with exuberance and
elegance. It was an evening of style and substance, a sense of history and

Cathy Desmond


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