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June 2019
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2006-04-23 James, NCH Dublin

reviewed by Beate


I did attend a Dublin County Choir concert last night in the National Concert Hall, titled "Popular Opera Choruses/The Armed Man "A Mass For Peace". With soloists being  Niamh Murray, Maria de Moel, Jeffrey Ledwigde, and a certain James Nelson.


There was a full orchestra and a full choir, but best of all, there was no direct technical support for the singers. There surely were mikes on holders in front of the stage, but sitting in row 2, I could hear the singing "au naturel"!


The first half was dedicated to the opera melodies, and started off with the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Nabucco. The second piece then was a duet from The Pearl Fishers, Au fond du temple saint. James and Jeffrey appeared on stage wearing tailcoats, white waistcoats and bow ties. And the duet, well, what can I say, other than, sorry James to have actually missed you playing opera roles! It was really superb and to quote my seat neighbour (in order to bring some more superlatives in): "It does not get any better than that!"


The next piece was the Easter Hymn from Cavalleria Rusticana by Niamh and the choir, followed by the Lakme Flower Duet by Niamh and Maria and the Pilgrim's Chorus from Tannhaeuser. James, together with all the other soloists, came back onto the stage again for a quartett from Rigoletto, Bella Figlia dell'Amore. I might be a tad little bit biased, and Niamh was a close runner-up, but for me James was the best of all four soloists up on stage there. Roll on September with that classical "World's Greatest Tenors" show!


Everyone remained on stage for the last piece of the first half, the Grand March from Aida, though I am not too sure if that was not a last minute change as all soloists were carrying music sheets with them for that?


I changed my seat for the second half, and moved two rows back in order to have a better overview. The event was not sold out, and there were quite a number of seats available, especially near the front.


The Mass then, with the exact title "The Armed Man - a Mass for Peace" by Karl Jenkins, was completely different material. The master of the Royal Armouries in Leeds had commissioned it to mark the turn of the millennium, and Jenkins himself was influenced by the Kosovo conflict and war that took place during the time he composed the Mass.


I had been up to the German soldiers' cemetery in Glencree earlier in the day, purely coincidentally as I saw the sign for it when returning to Dublin from a walk in the Wicklow Mountains. I knew it was there but had never stopped before, and small as it is, it is a very moving and touching place. So the pictures came flooding back to me when the Mass painted a picture of the cruelty of war in both music and texts.


The soloists were sitting in front of the orchestra and facing the audience during the whole Mass, though each of them only had a few lines to sing in it. They were all following the concert in the Mass's music book though, and I saw James more than once singing silently along to himself with the choir.


The Mass received a standing ovation by the audience and everyone was very enthusiastic about the whole night. It was an excellent opportunity to just pause for a moment, or reflect on things, and generally to get lost in the poignant music.