Lovely Music. Would that be Tchaikovsky?
Not exactly, as the Louth Contemporary Music Society will be demonstrating in Lovely Music, their annual mid-June festival. There’ll be operas whose characters seem to be talking in their sleep, divulging their dreams and fears. Other voices will chant the sun in a ritual of love and joy. A violinist and a percussionist will take off for an intimate dialogue. Other musicians will, with Irish voices, sound out traces of traditional music from Southern Egypt. Lovely, perhaps, but also unexpected and vital.
“Lovely Music” originated as the ironic, combative title that Mimi Johnson, a New York agent, chose in 1978 for a record label she founded to feature composers she represented. One of them was her husband, Robert Ashley, who was starting work on television operas that investigate the benumbed anxieties of people out of soaps realizing they are adrift from reality. Rarely presented in Europe, two of these haunting entertainments will be performed in Dundalk by the specialist Varispeed Collective. Ashley’s mesmerizing final work Crash opens the festival at the An Táin Arts Centre at 8 p.m. on Friday June the 14th, followed by The Bar at the appropriate venue of the Spirit Store the next day at 5 p.m. The Varispeed Collective will be joined by their Irish colleagues at the Spirit Store: Sean Carpio, Caoimhe Hopkinson and Steve Welsh.
Events on that afternoon of Saturday the 15th begin at 1 p.m. in the Chapel at St Vincent’s, where the violinist Larissa O’Grady and the percussionist Caitríona Frost set out on Linda Catlin Smith’s Dirt Road. “I imagined”, says the composer, “the two instruments as two travelers, moving along a simple landscape, with all of its slight or grand changes.”
Move to St Nicolas Church of Ireland by 3 for Escalay (The Waterwheel) by Hamza El Din, a player on the oud (Arabian lute) who moved to California in the early sixties and had a powerful effect on U.S. musicians from the Grateful Dead to Steve Reich. This piece turns at first with the steady purposefulness of the irrigation machine after which it is named, before gathering energy and excitement. Appropriately, three outstanding exponents of Irish traditional music—Dónal Lunny, Zoë Conway and Inni-k—will provide the power. Inni-k will also be joined by clarinet virtuoso Carol McGonnell for two works.
Finally, after a stop at the bar for The Bar, the scene shifts back to St Nicolas Church, where the crack New Vocal Soloists of Stuttgart perform Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Stimmung.