I am indebted to Music for Wexford for a plenitude of reasons, best encapsulated by introducing me to a new way of listening to music, achievable solely by the quality of the performer and the pedigree of the programme.
Music for Wexford taught me to expect the unexpected at its concerts, such as the occasion one summer Wednesday afternoon when I first heard Spiegel im Spiegel : I was ensconced in a rear pew in St. Iberius Church beside my Music for Wexford fellow devotee Senan O’Reilly, and I remember thinking: not a single note too many.
This response to music is best articulated by Arvo Part: the spirit of the listener is the prism which separates the colours inherent in the white light of music. It isn’t a mystery to me why some compositions appeal and other don’t, but I have Music for Wexford to thank for focusing my energies on the journey, and not the destination.
What Part intimated about the role of the listener as a catalyst for whatever magic is brewed at a performance has been underscored at almost every performance by the Music for Wexford-promoted Ensemble Avalon.
This dynamic trio (Ioana Pectu-Colan, Gerald Peregrine and Michael McHale) extended the innovative remit of Music for Wexford by performing new and not necessarily well known piano repertoire during their annual concert.
Through Music for Wexford and Ensemble Avalon I encountered the work of Benedict Schlepper-Connolly, whose A space of life between was premiered at St. Iberius by Ensemble Avalon.
And when Pectu-Colan guided the RTE Orchestra through the three movement Violin Concerto by Philip Glass at Wexford Opera House, the ‘white light’ of Arvo Part evolved into a cathartic experience.
I cannot, with any insurable clarity, recall my earliest Music for Wexford concerts, but it was at a time when I didn’t take notes, more’s the pity.
That changed in or around the Spring Festival 13 years ago, when I was blown away by the St. Matthew Passion at Rowe St. Church, with the Orchestra of St. Cecilia and three choirs, a trinity of atomic sonority deployed to heighten the profundity of the story Bach wished to unfold in solos and choral fantasias. Scribbling in the aftermath helped me make sense of what I had just heard.
Personally, the reward of being a listener is the discovery of new sensations. It happened this year with a munificent performance by pianist Philip Martin, and with the opening chords of Gottschalk’s Havana Melody, I felt as Keats must have done prepping On First Looking at Chapman’s Homer.
Gottschalk, about whom I knew zilch, suddenly, courtesy of Martin’s playing, segued the gap between New Orleans Creole music and New Orleans jazz. He foreshadowed ragtime before it became popular forty years after his death, and this I learned at a Music for Wexford concert.
In conclusion, what the following composers – Messiaen, Poulenc, Blavet, Gaubert, Duparc, Milhaud, Breval, Farrell, Franck, to name but a mere few – have in common for me is that I first knelt at their altar at a Music for Wexford concert. The most creative thinking in the arts often occurs in unlikely spots far from the madding crowd, and so it continues to be with Music for Wexford.