Arts Column with Conor Malone

Arts Column with Conor Malone
This Week’s Highlights

This Week’s Highlights

The Sound Of Music opened last night (Wednesday 23rd) in The Balor to a great reaction. It’s on tonight (Thursday) and Friday night, then there’s a wee break over the weekend before it returns for another six nights – Monday 28th April to Saturday May 3rd.

Elsewhere, Much Ado Stage School perform Joseph & The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at The Alley in Strabane tonight and tomorrow (Thursday 24th and Friday 25th). The Acorn Players perform the Jimmy Keary comedy The Two Loves of Gabriel Foley at An Grianan, Letterkenny on Friday and Saturday and Peter Duffy performs The Great Hunger, a play based on the poem by Patrick Kavanagh, at The Playhouse in Derry on Friday. There’s also the April Revelry at The Greenroom in Letterkenny,

The Boys From The Blame Game make the transition from the TV screen to the stage at The Millennium Forum on Saturday night while Ten14, featuring Clannad’s Moya Brennan and harpist Cormac De Barra, play An Grianan on Sunday.

Jason Black, the first Donegal person to conquer Everest, tells the story of his epic journey in a show entitled ‘From Rock Bottom to The Top Of The World’ at An Grianan on Wednesday 30th and Peppa Pig’s Big Splash is at The Millennium Forum in Derry (Wednesday 30th and Thursday May 1st).

Ten14

It’s one thousand years since Brodar the Viking slew Brian Boru. Moya Brennan from Clannad and cormac De Barra, two of the finest exponents of harp playing in the world, have created a beautiful music show especially for children and families.

Commemorating 1,000 years since the Battle Of Clontarf, Ten14 uses gorgeous music and lyrics to evoke the adventures of the first High King of Ireland Brian Boru, himself a lover of the harp apparently. Combining brand new music with well-loved trad tunes as you’ve never heard them before, Ten14 promises to be an exciting and intriguing performance suitable for family audiences from 4 to 104.

Ten14 is at An Grianan, Letterkenny this Sunday, April 27th at 3.30pm. Admission is €12 for adults, €8 for children with a family of 4 ticket available for €30. Ring An Grianan on 0749120777 or go online at www.angrianan.com to book.

The Webb Sisters

If you can gauge the quality of an act by the company they keep, then The Webb Sisters (Tuesday May 6th at An Grianan Theatre, Letterkenny) should be a stand out gig.

If you caught any of the gigs that Leonard Cohen played in Ireland over the last couple of years, you’ll already have seen The Webb Sisters. Charley and Hattie Webb did a total of 246 shows on tour with Cohen around the world between May 2008 and December 2010 and they were back with the band for the Old Ideas World Tour from August 2012 to the end of last year.

Born into a family of musicians in Kent, Charley and Hattie Webb are multi-instrumentalists, performing on harp, guitar, mandolin, piano and drums. They’re both songwriters too and ,as well as touring with Leonard Cohen and working with luminaries such as Sting, Rufus Wainwright and Natalie Maines from the Dixie Chicks, they’ve also recorded three critically-acclaimed albums of their own.

The Letterkenny gig is one of only four dates on their Irish Spring tour. They’re at Whelan’s in Dublin the night before, a gig which is already sold out and they’re also putting in appearances at The Kilkenny Roots Festival and the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in Belfast.

The Webb Sisters are at An Grianan, Letterkenny on Tuesday, May 6th at 8pm. Tickets are €20, available from An Grianan on 0749120777 or online at www.angrianan.com

Great May Music

There’s a quartet of great bluegrass/Americana/roots gigs coming to The Balor, Ballybofey in May.

First up are Cahalen Morrison and Eli West. Cahalen & Eli’s new album ‘I’ll Swing My Hammer With Both My Hands’ has been generating considerable buzz – 5 stars in The Independent who labelled it ‘Simply an instant classic’. Whispering Bob Harris has also been playing them on his BBC Radio show and is a committed fan – “A really beautiful album and by all accounts they are fantastic on stage”. Come see what what the hype is about when they play the Balor on Wednesday May 7th.

The following Saturday, May 10th sees a gig I’m really looking forward to as the excellent Birds Of Chicago return to The Balor.

The duo, JT Nero and Allison Russell, went down a storm here last April and it remains one of the stand out gigs of 2013. They’ve been busy since, producing not only a new album, Lost In Space which has garnered some great reviews, but they’ve also had a baby. Talk about a busy year!

Towards the end of the month, there’s Amanda Shires (Wednesday 28th) and then the Paperboys (Thursday 29th). Amanda is a former Texas artist of the year and one of America’s most arresting new voices. Her 2013 album ‘Down Fell The Doves’ featured in many ‘Best Of’ lists.

She has an almost supernaturally expressive violin, ukulele and quivering vibrato allied with a Tom Waits like poetic insight and femme-fatale conviction making her an artist you simply can’t ignore.

As for The Paperboys – well I don’t think I can do them justice in print. Go on to youtube and search for their rendition of All Along The Watch Tower performed at University Village Seattle. You can fast forward through the first minute: it’s just banter with the audience. Then it starts with rhythm guitar, there’s a flute and fiddle jig interposed over it, then it goes into the song itself proper. In the middle, there’s a quality bluesy trombone solo followed by a killer sax solo and the whole thing just ends up in one frantic frenetic cacophony of brilliance. Seriously, check it out.

Four dates for your diary, so: Cahalen Morrison & Eli West on Wednesday May 7th, Birds Of Chicago on Saturday May 10th, Amanda Shires on Wednesday May 28th and The Paperboys on Thursday May 29th. Further information and booking on www.balorartscentre.com or 074 913 1840.

Comedy tonight

Finally, if you’re in need of a good laugh, make your way to An Grianán Theatre, Letterkenny tonight to see Mikel Murphy’s portrayal of The Man in the Woman’s Shoes.

Set in October 1978, the play is a light hearted and funny encounter with an ageing man who has a boundless enthusiasm for life.

Meet cobbler Pat Farnon, who wears women’s shoes to ‘break them back in’ after repairing them. We join him on his five mile walk from his wee white cottage to town and back again and get to witness the marvels and characters he meets along the way.

Gay Byrne called the show “one of the most delightful theatrical experiences I’ve had in a long time.” Booking www.angrianan.com or 074 921 0777.