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Recollections of Ireland series at National Concert Hall curated by Dr Úna Hunt

Posted: 15 March, 2017

The Recollections of Ireland concert series at the National Concert Hall showcases the research and publications of Dr Úna Hunt, a Lecturer at DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama, along with the research of Jennifer O’Connor, Axel Klein and Clare McCague.

Recollections of Ireland Series

The series, curated by Úna, explores the music of little-known Irish composers, as well as music inspired by Ireland written by European composers prior to 1917. Most of the pieces have never been performed before, tucked away in the annals of the National Library of Ireland and The National Archive of Irish Composers.

“I was the Music Consultant to the National Library for ten years and I couldn’t believe the amount of music just lying there,” says Úna. “No one was looking at it or playing it. I got really excited by this.”

The series is strongly connected to DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama. DIT Lecturers performing include Úna herself on piano, Clíona Doris (harp), Sinéad Campbell-Wallace (soprano), Gillian Williams (violin) and Arun Rao (cello), as well as Clare McCague (harp), a PhD student at the Conservatory. The series runs every Wednesday from 8 March – 5 April in the intimate Kevin Barry Room at the National Concert Hall. Between pieces, Úna will share the fascinating stories she has gleaned from her research about the composers and music.

In the nineteenth century, there was a great vogue for fantasias, classical compositions that were based on popular themes and melodies. The trend towards Irish fantasias was prompted by Thomas Moore's hugely popularpublication Moore’s Irish Melodies, a collection of Irish airs that gained fame all over Europe and America, like veritable pop songs of the day.

The concert on 15 March -- The Harper’s Legacy: Celtic Fantasies -- is a St Patrick’s Day special, featuring Úna on piano and Dr Clíona Doris and Clare McCague on pedal harps. The programme includes a fantasia on the hit song, The Last Rose of Summer by the Romantic composer, Felix Mendelssohn and a fantasia on The Coolin by Czech composer, Jan Václav Voříšek. Úna explains that Voříšek was in Vienna at the time Beethoven was arranging his Irish airs, so it is likely that he got the tune directly from Beethoven. Joseph O’Kelly’s Air Irlandais is based on the well-known tune, The Wearing of the Green. O’Kelly was one of a family of O’Kellys born in France to an Irish father, all of whom were composers during the nineteenth century. The concert also features the music of William Vincent Wallis, an Irish opera composer who travelled the world in the 1830s playing his fantasias on Irish and Scottish airs.

Famous harpers frequently visited Ireland from abroad in the nineteenth century, coming to give performances in the great houses, and to give lessons. They often performed variations on Irish airs, showpieces that their Irish audiences could connect with. Clare McCague, whose research is funded by the Irish Research Council, draws her programme of music from her research on nineteenth-century pedal harp repertoire from the Louisa Cane Collection in the library at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. Also on the programme, harp music from The National Archive of Irish Composers performed by Dr Clíona Doris. The DIT Digital Media Centre and DIT Conservatory were major stakeholders in the setup of this archive, which comprises the first digital collection of historic Irish music on open access, taken from the collections of the National Library of Ireland.

Recollections of Ireland - Una Hunt

On 22 March, the concert features Úna Hunt (piano) and Sinéad Campbell Wallace (soprano). The programme includes a group of songs from Moore’s Irish Melodies, along with an arrangement of the jig, ‘Go to the Devil and Shake Yourself’ by the well-known Irish composer, John Field. Rounding out the programme, music by Francis Panormo, Samuel Lover, Thomas Augustine Geary and songs byMichael Kelly, one of the first Irish tenors to build an international career in the opera houses of Europe. Michael was a friend of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and sang in the first performance of The Marriage of Figaro in Vienna.
 
Úna is joined by her sister Fionnuala Hunt (violin) on 29 March to perform piano and violin music by leading Irish composers and instrumentalists of the mid-to-late nineteenth century. The programme includes a sonata by Michele Esposito, an Italian composer and piano professor who lived all his life in Ireland and was influential in the development of piano playing in Ireland. George A. Osborne was a Limerick composer who moved to Paris and enjoyed a successful career there, famously playing alongside Frédéric Chopin. Fanny Robinson was a trailblazer of her time, a woman composer on the piano in a male dominated profession. Her music is virtually unknown today. Victor Herbert, who was Samuel Lover’s grandson, was the composer of some of the biggest musicals and operettas of the time on Broadway in New York.

In the 19th and early 20th century, France – and especially Paris – was a place of desire for many composers across Europe, including Irish composers. Many sought tuition and performances, and quite a few spent extended periods of their career there. The concert on 5 April explores little-known Franco-Irish musical connections through the extraordinary O’Kelly family, along with music by George Alexander Osborne, Michael William Balfe, Swan Hennessy and Augusta Holmès, one of France’s first significant female composers. The programme is based on the research of German musicologist, Axel Klein, and Úna will be joined by Gillian Williams on violin and Arun Rao on cello.

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Recollections of Ireland Series

Wednesdays 8 March – 5 April, 7.30pm

Kevin Barry Room, National Concert Hall

Tickets: €15, www.nch.ie, 01 417 0000