SHINDIG reviewed in the papers!

Thursday 18th October, 2007

The following review was in Tuesday's Irish Times:

Between the concert on Friday night and the "marathon" of five concerts from noon to 10.30pm on Saturday, the Crash Ensemble's 10th anniversary programme included 39 pieces by 28 composers, of whom only two are now dead, and they within the last 10 years.

Attending the entire marathon was tiring but uplifting. The venue, the converted church of Saints Michael and John in Temple Bar, has the best acoustics of any I have heard the Crash use in Dublin, and the way that the 30 works were grouped almost always felt right. Not one of the performances was below par.

Many of the works had been commissioned by the Crash or were written with them in mind; and others were by influential composers or by those otherwise associated with the ensemble. Works that made a strong impact on this pair of ears included Brian Bolger's transcription of Kevin Volans's White Man Sleeps, which achieves that rare feat of making you think there was no transcription at all.

There was the craft and expressive subtlety of Raymond Deane's Ventalia, impeccably played by William Dowdall (flute) and David Adams (piano). James Tenny's Glissade was as startling as when I first heard it last year.

But for sheer compositional pizazz, it was hard to beat Terry Riley's Loops for Ancient Giant Nude Hairy Warriors Racing Down the Slopes of Battle. Written for the Crash Ensemble and premiered at the Drogheda Arts Festival earlier this year, this three- movement work sees the legendary Californian letting his hair down. Packed with direct aural references, and executed with cheeky enjoyment and technical flair, it suggests primitivism, exoticism, battle sounds, and what seemed like ambulance sirens at the end. What else do you need after a battle?

Saturday's concerts included several pieces by Donnacha Dennehy. Among his recently composed works, one of the most impressive was Stainless Staining, a virtuoso essay for piano and soundtrack that explores, with riveting effect, a harmonic spectrum of 100 overtones built on low G sharp. It was played by the pianist for whom it was written, Lisa Moore, who is also the pianist with the Bang on a Can All-Stars, the New York-based group that has deeply influenced the Crash, and likewise runs marathon sequences of concerts.

In this piece, and in Frederik Rzewski's Piano Piece No 4, Moore provided two of the star performances of the day - brimming with virtuosity and with the enjoyment of creativity. Another solo highlight was Andrew Zolinski's muscular yet shapely playing of two iconoclastic pieces by Nancarrow, Prelude and Blues and Tango?

However, for enjoyable astonishment, nothing quite beat the singer-cellist Laura Moody. She plays lyrically; then as if it was a box for sound effects. She sings her own almost-pop songs, gurgles, hoots, wails, taps her throat with the bow. Yet it's all seamless, as if she, the cello and the music are a single organism.

The final concert included two recent pieces that Dennehy has written for the celebrated Sean Nós singer Iarla Ó Lionáird. His setting of Aisling Gheal creates a beautifully scored and harmonically coloured backdrop to the song; and Grá agus Bás is nothing less than a transmutation of traditional style, with Ó Lionáird's beautiful singing woven into sounds imbued with harmonic overtones.

No wonder this piece made such an impact when it was played in the USA earlier this year. It is deeply expressive, and shows that this ensemble can caress just as effectively as it can crash.  - Martin Adams