A stimulating conclusion to Greg Caffrey’s time with Hard Rain SoloistEnsemble

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Nieuwe Noten: Hard Rain SoloistEnsemble (Aisling Agnew [flute], David McCann [cello], Daniel Browell [piano], Fie Schouten [clarinet], Joanne Quigley McParland and Roban Harron [violin]) / Sinead Hayes (conductor). Harty Room, Queens University, Belfast, 16.6.2023. (RB)

Hard Rain SoloistEnsemble

Gráinne MulveyLUCA
Greg CaffreyTout
John BuckleyThree Mobiles after Alexander Calder
Ann CleareWhere cobalt waves live
Piers HellawellGround Truthing
Rhona ClarkeNon-Stop

Greg Caffrey founded the Hard Rain SoloistEnsemble in 2013 and has been leading them from strength to strength over the last decade. This concert marked the end of his tenure as Artistic Director of the Ensemble. The programme featured a new work by him entitled, Tout which was written last year and first performed in Chile.

The programme opened with Gráinne’s Mulvey’s LUCA which offered a portrait of the single cell organism from which all life is thought to stem. The young violinist, Rohan Harron, joined the other members of the Ensemble for this piece in place of Joanne Quigley McParland. LUCA is very much an avantgarde work and the Ensemble did well in realising the unusual sound world required for this piece. The work moved from atomised sounds at the beginning and was allowed to build in a seemingly random and yet interconnected way. Sinead Hayes did an exemplary job bringing coherence to the work.

In Northern Ireland a tout is an informer within a particular community and the word was frequently used as a term of abuse during the ‘The Troubles’. Greg Caffrey’s new work, Tout is scored for piano and flute; it is a reflection on this idea of the informer during Northern Ireland’s recent ‘Troubles’. The work had a neo-Classical feel and there was much complex interplay and counterpoint between the two instruments. Aisling Agnew and Daniel Browell did an excellent job conjuring up ideas of danger, mistrust and deceit and the work ended on a shrill note perhaps depicting the identity of the ‘tout’ had been revealed. This was a stimulating and highly enjoyable new work.

John Buckley’s Three Mobiles After Alexander Calder was inspired by the kinetic sculptures of US sculptor, Alexander Calder. There was excellent interplay between all five players of the Ensemble in this piece. The artists captured well the playful quality of the first movement and the rhythmic vitality of the third with its shifting metrical patterns. The middle movement had a sombre eloquence which was dark and affecting. This is a highly impressive work that deserves to be heard much more widely.

Ann Cleare’s Where cobalt waves live was written for piano solo and treats the entire register of the piano as ‘an ocean of fluidity’. It was originally commissioned by Lyric FM for the Dublin International Piano Competition in 2018. Daniel Browell gave a highly virtuosic account of this demanding work with its rapid rhythmic patterns and unusual effects traversing the whole of the keyboard.

Piers Hellawell’s Ground Truthing was also written in 2018 and is a meditation on the same material at different magnifications. This piece was written for the whole of the Ensemble and they gave a very committed performance. I was impressed by some of the striking and highly original sonorities.

The concert concluded with Rhona Clarke’s Non-Stop, which is a fast-paced and visceral work. The irregular rhythms had an infectious foot-tapping quality and one could not help but be caught up in the sparkling exuberance of the music. It was a great way to finish an excellent concert and it provided a fitting tribute to mark the end of Greg Caffrey’s important work with the Ensemble.

Robert Beattie

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