Wednesday February 19, 2020

Kinsella scoops an NCH award for following his own path

24th November, 2019

“Generally speaking, my style is very bold, but it has not the slightest tendency to subvert any of the constituent elements of art. The prevailing characteristics of my music are passionate expression, rhythmical animation and unexpressed turns."

The composer John Kinsella uses this quote to explain what he strives for in his artistic endeavour. He did not write or utter it himself: he borrowed it from none other than Hector Berlioz, a composer who did more or less everything his own way.

Kinsella is now 88 years old and still doing his own thing successfully, though he is the first to admit that his initial inspiration was as a fully paid-up avant-gardist in the early years when stepping up to the chromatic plate was almost de rigueur for ambitious composers.

But around 1977, he ran out of steam and began doubting the artistic validity of what he had previously written. So he took 18 months off for a rethink and came back with plan B – the desire to shed himself of all aspiration other than the ambition to create and develop his own distinctive and creative voice.

And that is what he has been doing ever since – writing all sorts of classical and chamber music, mostly for string instruments, but most of all for symphony orchestra, of which he has currently clocked up a whopping eleven.

The last of these will have its world premiere in Dublin's National Concert Hall next Friday (Nov 29) when Kinsella will celebrate a proud and exceptional occasion by being the recipient of the NCH Lifetime Achievement Award.

The new work, title This Symphonic Life, is described as “an intimate portrait of Ireland’s most prolific symphonist, exploring the evolution of Kinsella’s compositions and his commitment to the art form’’. It will be performed by the RTE Symphony Orchestra, a music group dear to his heart right throughout his career and for which he worked full time as head of music, before retiring early in 1988 to dedicate himself fully to composition.

NCH chief executive Simon Taylor said: “John’s creative output as a composer has added enormously to the canon of classical music here. His work on Irish history and patriotism has always been inspirational while his achievement as a symphonist is incalculable. We are proud to have his music premiered here at the NCH once again.’’

French conductor Jean Deroyer wields the baton in an overall agenda that also includes Sibelius’s third symphony and Prokofiev’s third piano concerto with soloist Vadym Kholodenko from Ukraine (winner of the Van Cliburn International in 2013 and a lot more besides) .

Tickets are €24-€39; call 01-4170000.

Meet me at the Pillar, says Veronica

A fundraiser for the Veronica Dunne Singing International is always welcome, not just as a vital cog in the economics of this wonderful triennial event, but as a surefire way of keeping in touch with impressive new young singers coming on the scene.

The latest event – a new addition to its calendar – takes place in the Rotunda Pillar Room beside the Gate Theatre (8pm at December 7) and is guaranteed to generate much Christmas cheer.

Organiser Dearbhla Collins says: “We have the most wonderfully loyal supporters who never fail us. We haven’t had a concert in the city centre before and we guarantee a night to remember with stirring operatic arias and carols."

Among those performing – all multi-contest winners – are Leah Redmond, Ava Dodd, Aebh Kelly, Luis Magallanes (tenor) and David Howes (baritone).

Dodd is one of the youngest sopranos ever to take part in the Veronica Dunne series. Just 21 years old, this pupil of vocal coach Mary Brennan recently won first prize at the prestigious Glenarm Festival of Voice in Co Antrim, despite being five years younger than all the other contestants. This was the ninth year of the festival, and all those taking part received five days of intensive coaching as part of the contest.

Tickets are €30 (including wine reception) from

Pride of Malta returns to the NCH

Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja, one of the most famous male singers in the operatic world, makes another visit to the National Concert Hall on Monday, December 9 to join Irish star soprano Claudia Boyle in a concert of famous arias and carols. Calleja yields to no one in his admiration of Mario Lanza, the legend who inspired his entry into the singing world.

Some years ago, the New Yorker magazine's opera critic put him right on top of the tenor pile: “Only one lyric tenor on the scene today has the honeyed tone and ingratiating style to make comparisons to Pavarotti and Gigli seem serious, and it is Calleja.’’ No reason to say much more.

Tickets €30-€75; call 01-417 0000.

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