Waterford is on song with music event

Anne Farrell with students of Presentation Primary School getting ready for Waterford New Music Week.

WATERFORD is good at choral collaborations.

For instance, a performance by massed choirs of work by local composers and poets memorably launched the Tall Ships Festival here in 2011. One of the most anticipated events of Waterford New Music Week 2015 is a new choral piece by historian Anne Farrell based on an account of an encounter of local wine merchants with Cork pirates. The event, co-ordinated by Julie Quinlan, of WIT Music School, involves 400 children from local schools and community choirs who will perform new song settings by five local composers.

Farrell, author of Waterford Folk Tales, says the songs are based on real historic events. The performance of ‘By Hook or By Crook’ will be streamed live on www.wit.ie. “It is possible the audience for this event could come from all over the world via the internet, which is a very exciting first for the festival,” says Farrell.

The big name on the line-up is pianist Joanna MacGregor. She performs an eclectic programme. including Bach, Piazzola and Thelonius Monk. The new music component is delivered in a piece by Conor Linehan. MacGregor will also conduct a public masterclass in the recital venue, the Georgian Large Room, at City Hall on the afternoon of the recital.

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To keep any arts festival going throughout the economic turbulence of the last decade is an achievement. To do so with a festival dedicated to contemporary music with its dubious box-office appeal is remarkable, and to do it outside of Dublin is extraordinary. Yet while other Irish contemporary music festivals have faded, Waterford New Music Week has almost come of age as it prepares to celebrate a 17th year of activity around new composition and performance. Over the six-day festival, there will be workshops, talks, lunchtime recitals, evening concerts happening at formal and informal venues in the city.

What is Waterford’s secret? The festival has enjoyed modest funding by the Arts Council and Waterford City Council, allowing free entry to daytime events. Crucially, an ethos of collaboration has contributed much to keeping the ship afloat. The main players are Waterford Institute of Technology and Garter Lane Arts Centre. There is a spirit of inclusion in the line-up that sees performances by internationally established artists, along with emerging artists, third-level students, experimental composers and school children.

One of the emerging artists on the bill is singer Sue Rynhart from Dublin. Rynhart is a regular on the contemporary music scene in Dublin, which sees performers and composers performing in clubs and pubs rather than more formal recital halls. In 2014, she released a much admired debut album, Crossings, with bassist Dan Bodwell, which explored an intersection between jazz and contemporary music.

“I think the music I have created has been influenced by the music I have performed which has tended to be medieval or modern,” says Rynhart. “My experience of improvising with my own vocal trio and singing with Dylan Rynhart’s experimental group Fuzzy Logic has allowed me to become more confident and creative with my voice and musical ideas.” Sue Rynhart will conduct an improvisation workshop, as well as a daytime recital in Waterford City Library.

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