Degani Ensemble in tune with soprano Lynda Lee

The chamber music group will perform with the singer tomorrow as part of Triskel Christchurch’s Christmas programme, says Colette Sheridan

THE acclaimed Degani Ensemble will perform with soprano Lynda Lee tomorrow as part of Triskel Christchurch’s eclectic Christmas music programme.

The ensemble was formed in the mid-1980s by friends who wanted to perform a range of chamber music. Based around the combination of a string trio and oboe, the group has adapted to include wind soloists, piano, string quartet and voice. The group, which disbanded but reformed in 2005, includes Alan Smale, leader of the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, on oboe. The other members are Matthew Manning, who also plays the oboe; Martin Johnson on cello and David Adams on the organ.

Lee, who studied singing with Dr Veronica Dunne at the College of Music in Dublin, is the recipient of national vocal awards and bursaries and has represented Northern Ireland in the Cardiff Singer of the World competition. She was a prize-winner at the International Belvedere Competition in Vienna.

“I’ve done a lot of work with Lynda in the past,” says Smale. “This will be her first appearance singing with the group. She has done a lot of Bach. She performed the entire series of Bach contratas in Dublin with the Orchestra of St Cecilia, so she knows the repertoire extremely well. She is an acknowledged expert.”

At the Triskel Christchurch concert, Bach sinfonias and arias will be performed. Johnson will perform unaccompanied Bach. “The programme was chosen because there are so many beautiful arias from the cantatas, which include voice and oboe or violin,” says Smale. “Oboe and violin are possibly the instruments that most closely replicate the human voice in terms of expression and beauty of sound. There are seven arias in total. We’re doing a cross section of them as well as one of the sinfonias from Cantata no 21.”

Smale, from Devon, studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He freelanced for two years after graduating. While he was touring with the Royal Ballet Orchestra as co-leader, he was asked to audition for the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra. He was appointed as co-leader of the orchestra in 1977. He got the leader’s job in 1983 when he was 28 years old. He prefers his current role, as symphonic work interests him most. He will step down from the orchestra at the end of 2012 when his contract expires.

Smale’s demanding work schedule includes his role as leader of the Irish Film Orchestra, which has credits on Irish and international films. He has worked with the likes of composer Bill Whelan, with this orchestra.

Music Network is funded by the Arts Council. “For me, doing the Music Network-organised tours is a labour of love. The monetary rewards are very small,” he says. Smale and his fellow musicians particularly enjoyed playing at the Doneraile Arts Festival during the summer and will play there again next year.

Triskel Christchurch’s Christmas programme will also see O Emperor perform on December 16. The band will premiere much of its new material, as well as highlights from its debut album, Hither Thither, which was released last year and was nominated for the Choice Music Prize (Irish Album of the Year). The band is currently working on material for its second album and a European release of Hither Thither is scheduled for early next year.

A concert of Christmas music in aid of the Cork Simon Community takes place at the venue on December 17. It will feature Fiona O’Reilly, Louise O’Sullivan, Ryan Morgan, Carol Kennedy, Emma Kate Tobia with the City of Cork Male Voice Choir, the chorus of Opera Cork, Frank Buckley (conductor), Annabel Adams (accompanist) and Kevin Goggin (narrator).

The winter solstice will be marked at Triskel Christchurch on December 21, with a special candlelit concert of music selected by Morisca. This Irish ensemble comprises Pauline Graham (voice), Laoise O’Brien (recorders), Francesco Turrisi (percussion and keyboards) and Sarah Groser (vielle). The music will be drawn from early classical, folk and world music sources, in a repertoire that includes rarely heard music, performed with an engagement with the acoustic space of the venue.

Popular Cork band, Fred, will play Triskel Christchurch on December 22. In February this year, the band decamped to London where Ben Hiller (Elbow, Blur) mixed their fourth album. Released in May of this year, Leaving My Empire has been heralded as one of the strongest Irish releases this year. The NME wrote: “There’s no resisting this stuff unless you’re a tone-deaf stone-hearted know nothing... blissed out, loved up and goddamn down-and-out funky, Fred, we love you.”


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