Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin brings Bríd to New York (with video)


Held in the splendid performance chamber of the Society for Ethical Culture on Central Park West, Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin--hugging well-wishers yesterday--was in town to honor Brighid with a concert last night.

The night was a celebration of the mythological as the feast day of Bríd marking the Imbolc holiday just passed.

Ó Súilleabháin introduced the concert from a stage with the words "The Place Where People Meet to Seek the Highest is Holy Ground" emblazoned on the Ethical Society's wall above him. It was a major gathering of New York Irish cultural institutions for the American premier of Ó Súilleabháin's reworked composition called Kýrie in a program with work by other composers.

Among the performers last night were Cantoral an international all-female chant ensemble that was founded at the Irish World Academy. They sang works dedicated to Bríd from the canon of Irish music gotten from medieval manuscripts and the sean-nós tradition, as well as chants from the Latin. The ethereal invocation was followed then by strings.

Academos--see video below--performed a Mendelssohn symphony in B minor written when he was a teenager, and lost until its re-discovery in Berlin in 1950. Following that, Cantoral joined Academos with a clarinetist from Ireland living in New York and performed a reworked Kýrie from Ó Súilleabháin's Missa Gadelica.

Ó Súilleabháin's composition explores the modal similarities between sean-nós and Latin chant, with Ó Raifeartaigh poetry woven in. It was a wonderful live experience.

After that, Béla Bartók's music was performed. Bartók is known for his passion for Hungarian traditions and music, commonly incorporating such influences into his works. Last night's Divertimento in three parts was written as Europe and the world descended into war, which Bartók abhorred. The work was written in the panic just before he escaped to the United States in 1940.

The concert was fascinating for its juxtapositions of so many influences within a classical performance, and uplifting as the Society's motto promised.

The president of the University of Limerick, Professor Don Barry and philanthropist Loretta Brennan Glucksman were on hand to tell the packed house about the new program and facilities coming from the city on the Shannon, including a magificent building for music and a massive Living Bridge that traverses the Shannon River, connecting pedestrians on both banks of the university campuses to each other.

The University of Limerick's The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance has been growing and going strong since its inception at Ireland's newest university. While invoking Clonmacnoise and Monasterboise, much older proto-universities on the Shannon, the University of Limerick is fast becoming one of Ireland's most beautiful campuses. It's been the work of Ó Súilleabháin to give respect to the native musical traditions of Europe's Celtic fringe, while exploring the richness of other musical traditions around the world.

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