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June 2019
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2006-12-20 NCH Dublin

reviewed by John


Firstly, an apology to my son's son - for the second time in as many years, I missed his birthday because I was attending this concert. A 100% record so far! One day he will appreciate why, I am sure, because he WILL learn to appreciate harmonies.

The NCH is my favourite CT venue - there is something about the quality of the sound system which makes it very special. Although the blending of voices is perfect, you can also separate each individual component. Matt made a special point of thanking the sound engineer, and I would echo that (which is an odd thing to say in the context of a sound engineer, it strikes me...) This date seems to be becoming somewhat institutionalised, in the same way that Cork on New Year's Eve is developing, and one of the results is that many friends attend. Aside from the usual suspects, this time it was wonderful to see the effervescent Marie Morris, a lovely lady, full of fun and wicked humour despite all the trials that life threw her way. Marie is an inspiration to anyone feeling sorry for themself. The other delightful surprise was to see Donna Malone during the meet and greet after the concert. She looked utterly radiant and was wreathed in smiles.

The concert was, as one would expect, of superior quality on all counts. Firstly we had an orchestra-size ensemble - the strings referred to as 'The Celtic Strings' (for one night only), and nothing provides the warmth of sound like a set of violins and cellos. Martin Quinn's brother, Andrew, was percussionist, and as a result we were treated to the icing on the cake during 'Caledonia'.

I am only going to add the small details which others have not included. Much has been made of David's composition, 'Bells of Peace'. He made quite a lengthy introduction, which in itself gave cause for reflection to me at least. If I remember the story correctly, the children of Newry had been asked by David, after he had been commissioned to write a piece, to identify the thing they most wanted for Christmas. It is a measure of the environment in which they have existed for so long that their wish was for 'peace', something which just about all of us, I imagine, take completely for granted in our own lives. Against this backdrop, David has created a most wonderful, uplifting piece of music. Add into the mix the voices of the Celtic Tenors, Deirdre Shannon, and the wonderful girls' choir of St. Cecilia's, and you have magic in the making. It was perfeclty clear from the moment this young choir came out that we were present at something very special. Being there when David's wonderful composition was performed by these tremendousloy talented young ladies was exciting, moving, emotional and uplifting all at once. Another unforgettable moment. I spoke to their leader aftwards, and she told me that all the choir members were aged between 12 and 14 - believe me, they have voices with a capital Vuh, and to stand there are sing their hearts out like they did in such a prestigious venue is a magnificent achievement. (If you looked hard enough, you could see the tension evaporate when they received their applause for 'Joy'.) Truly a memorable performance. AND they are choreographed..tenors take note!

Other highlights from the evening were 'O Holy Night' (Kamikaze, I thought of you the moment it started) which always stirs the soul, Matthew and Deirdre singing 'The Prayer' - that one always gets me, and she seems to get more beautiful with each concert - James and Deirdre duetting very briefly during the Christmas medley on 'Away in a manger' - perfect natural harmony; and the caressing harmonies of 'Still by your side', the final line of which James delivers with unparalleled sensitivity (but then I prefer the gentler lower registers of his voice over the stratospheric notes anyway). All unfortgettable. And this time of year is one to reflect on the absence of Posh yet the delight in his replacement Daryl, who really is a extremely personable and talented guy. And the voice of an age, Matthew, still constantly smiling, still eyes a-twinkle, still very special.

Happy Christmas everyone.