A minor pleasure of visiting Ireland is recognising alternative versions of things we do in the UK, like posting letters in green postboxes. I experienced the phenomenon during my visit to St Patrick’s College Drumcondra, on the Northside of Dublin. It’s a medium-sized mostly modern college of education built around some lovely old buildings, gradually being subsumed into Dublin City University.
For the last three years, the college’s Music Department have had the infinite good taste to host an ongoing residency by the Fidelio Trio, a London-based Irish-peopled ensemble whom I and my composer friends hold close to sainthood for their determination to perform new works just as often as they can. Wednesday’s well-attended concert included music by myself and John Buckley, alongside Faure’s intriguing/strange (delete as applicable) trio and Eduard Steuermann’s three-person version of Verklarte Nacht which I’d never heard before, and which astounded me as a completely new take on one of my favourite pieces.
The alternative Irish version of this event from my view was the pre-concert talk. In today’s concert world, these have become almost de rigeur (my colleagues might say ‘compulsory’) and for that reason, many composers shy away from them, quite understandably when a nerve-wracking world premiere may be minutes away. I tend to welcome the chance to make a small contribution to the evening; but can’t deny that, especially in London where everyone is perenially ‘so busy’, these events can have a perfunctory feel. Not so in Dublin, the world capital of talking, where people love conversation, even it seems, about contemporary music for piano trio. I greatly enjoyed ‘pre-concert-talking’ to my responsive interlocutor and composer colleague John Buckley; and the college have now done us proud by issuing our discussion as a podcast. One more amazingly alternative thing: the whole evening of recherché 20-21st century music from talk to reception was attended by not only the college and university presidents, but also the British Ambassador to Ireland. Give that man a gong!