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Published on July 20th, 2011 | by pluincee


Madrigalia – Preview

Alongside Glyndebourne, Loughcrew and the proms, madrigals are an undeniably summery type of music. For the past 500 years, travelling from Italy and across Europe, madrigals set poetry to music in a beautifully light, harmonious manner. This summer over 3 nights (July 22-24), the National Chamber Choir of Ireland under the direction of Paul Hillier bring a programme of madrigals to three venues around the country.

Performing in Galway’s Augustinian Church, Dublin’s Hugh Lane Gallery and Wicklow’s Calary Church – all locations familiar with summertime music – the choir’s programme features the early 17th century works of John Wilbye & Thomas Tomkins as well as 20th century explorations of the madrigal. Also included are the works from the lesser known 19th century revival of early music with Shakespeare settings and three madrigalian partsongs. The program will be completed with a glee by William Beale which promises to wow and a double-choir setting of John Milton’s ‘On Time’.

Hillier, who was headhunted to lead the National Chamber Choir of Ireland into a new era of Irish choral music in 2008, decided to draw together a singular programme to ensure the concerts had a very clear focus on the madrigal and its summery relaxing connotations rather than the more eclectic programmes which the choir usually presents.

While madrigals are generally considered to be from the 16th and early 17th centuries, the programme also draws in later madrigalian-style music from the 19th and 20th centuries. This ensures a level of diversity owing to the modern composers drawing from their contemporary style as well as looking back on the ‘classic’ madrigal for inspiration.

Fresh from a trip to the White House, the NCCI will be returning to tour the U.S. in October. Hillier desires to keep working in the vein the choir has been, taking their performances to a wide range of locations both in and outside Ireland, strengthening connections with other countries. He is driven to always look to the future and wants to focus on work by living Irish composers, music which explores connections with Ireland by non-Irish composers and diversifying into crowd-pleasing baroque music; Bach and Schuetz, whose theatrical flavour he enjoys.

Hillier puts the choir’s survival through a time of reduced funding and small budgets down to the successes which they have enjoyed together, both in concert and recordings (One Day Fine on the Lyric fm label and Acallam na Senórach on the Harmonia Mundi label, due out this Autumn; both of which have enjoyed great critical acclaim). Hillier drove home the point that while everything is working on a reduced budget at the moment, there is a limit below which it’s ‘impossible to maintain’ and he hopes that in time, the ensemble’s funding will once again increase and allow them to expand their repertoire and exposure.

Having been heralded as inspiring “collective virtuosity” in the NCCI, Hillier humbly accepts the praise on behalf of the entire ensemble; “it’s not one person, it never can be” and hopes that such high tribute will serve to increase the choir’s exposure and encourage more and more people to come to their concerts.

Friday 22 July, 8pm Augustinian Church, Galway

€15/€12 Booking: [091] 566577 www.galwayartsfestival.com

Saturday 23 July, 3pm Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin

€14/€12 Booking: [01] 7005665

Sunday 24 July, 3pm Calary Church, Wicklow (map)

€25/€20 Booking: [01] 2818146 / derekneilson@eircom.net (Price includes 5 star afternoon tea served after the concert; profits go towards the restoration of church windows)

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About the Author

Can be found on twitter (@pluincee) or on his own blog (http://short.ie/pluincee).

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