Tag Archives: Donnacha Dennehy

Donnacha Dennehy and Alarm Will Sound leave us Hunger-ing for more

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Alarm Will Sound (Photo by Justin Bernhaut)

Famine isn’t a cheery topic. And when we’re talking about the Great Irish Famine of 1845-1852, it could seem like musty and old as well as unpleasant.

And, let’s face it, the Great Famine is not a happy subject.

Luckily, when the fantastic Irish composer and Crash Ensemble bandleader Donnacha Dennehy takes on the monumental subject, it assumes a magical, transcendent quality.

Dennehy and the awesome 20-member New Music ensemble Alarm Will Sound gave New York its first taste of The Hunger, a still in-progress theater piece that combines the ensemble with live singing by an Irish  sean nós singer and a mezzo-soprano, at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall on Saturday night, April 6.

We were mesmerized for all 45 minutes of urgent playing coupled with recordings of Irish sean nós singing and the keening of a mother for her dead child, along with and live singing by the extraordinary Rachel Calloway.

Calloway sang lyrics based on the first-hand accounts of the famine by the American nonconformist Asenath Nicholson, who spent two years in Ireland working with those dying of starvation. Her words in song are gripping, terrifying and urgent.

The piece is destined to be a full evening of performance by Alarm Will Sound, sean nós singer Iarla  Ó Lionáird and one of our very favorite mezzos, Dawn Upshaw. While Upshaw will likely put the finished work into an even higher category, we were mightily impressed with Calloway’s work on Saturday.

This taste leaves us starving to hear more.

While The Hunger was the marquee event of Saturday’s program, Alarm Will Sound got plenty of opportunity to show off its New Music chops in the first half, as well. The evening was intended to draw attention to the fact that the 12-year-old group, led by Alan Pierson (who also helms the Brooklyn Philharmonic), has amassed quite a bit of music written specifically for it.

One of its oldest commissions, David Lang‘s increase, composed in 2002, was the highlight of the first half. But the world premiere of the noisy, energetic Fly By Wire, by the suddenly ubiquitous Tyondai Braxton and New York premiere of Charles Wuorinen‘s Big Spinoff, were plenty of fun. Journeyman, composed by Alarm Will Sound’s pianist, John Orfe, also had its New York premiere Saturday.

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A bright, musical — and FREE — way to end a dull, gray Tuesday

Miller Theatre’s Pop-Up Concerts are back

Ugh. It’s pretty grim to realize it’s only Tuesday. And what a nasty Tuesday it has turned out to be.

But there’s something happening tonight that’ll put a drink in your hand, a smile on your face and send you back out into the world with a head full of music: Pop-Up Concerts at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre.

And it won’t cost you a dime.

Here’s the deal: One Tuesday a month, this very cool program takes over the theater for a quick, casual get-together that ends in a very cool concert. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Grab a free drink (thanks to Harlem Brewing Co.) when you get there, and hang out with fellow music lovers until the show starts at 6.

Tonight’s program is Minimalism’s Evolution. Sure, it sounds a little heady, maybe even academic. This is happening on an Ivy League campus, after all. But this series isn’t like any college course you might remember. Pop-Up Concerts let you get up close and personal with the artists in an informal performance that lasts just an hour.

Be sure to save the dates of the next two installments of Pop-Up Concerts: Nov. 13 of 120 Years of Solo Piano and Dec. 11 for John Zorn for Strings.

Tonight you’ll get three members of the awesome Ensemble Signal: Courtney Orlando on violin, Lauren Radnofsky on cello and Paul Coleman on sound.

Read on for the full program and all the details you need to get there. Continue reading

Pianist Isabelle O’Connell plays the Baryshnikov Arts Center

Isabelle O'Connell

Don’t be fooled by Isabelle O’Connell‘s quiet demeanor and casual look. This young Irish pianist is a powerhouse at the keyboard. I first saw and heard her play at the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival at MASS MoCA in 2006.  Her work there with Meredith Monk and the Bang on a Can All-Stars was remarkable. I’ve heard her play a number of times since then, including her appearance earlier this year with Irish new music group Crash Ensemble. Her playing is controlled but powerful and her concentration intense.

She’s a well-trained player, holding a Master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music and a Bachelor’s degree from the Royal Irish Academy of Music.

On Sunday, Sept. 19, O’Connell is celebrating the release of her new CD, Reservoir, with a concert at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City.  She’s sharing the bill with MIVOS string quartet (performing without Ned Rothenberg, who is unable to play as scheduled) and guitarist Simon Jermyn.

O’Connell’s solo album is a great collection of new music that showcases her keyboard talents. Crash Ensemble founder Donnacha Dennehy composed the title piece, inspired by a video of a man gradually being submerged in water.

Another standout on the disc is Jennifer Walshe’s “becher,” a fantastic montage of “micro-quotations” from familiar piano works of all sorts, from Mozart to the Beatles. You’ll have a great time trying to identify them all.

7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 19. The Baryshnikov Arts Center, 450 West 37th Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, Manhattan.  http://www.bacnyc.org. $10.