Ensemble ICC

Ensemble ICC, Daniel Bodwell (double bass), Emmet Byrne (oboe, cor anglais), National Concert Hall, Dublin, 9 December 2009

Now in its sixth year of existence, the Irish Composers’ Collective (ICC) has staked its ground on the concert scene in Ireland. The organisation is comprised of thirty or so young composers of diverse styles, but of a unitary ambition: to progress themselves as composers and the community of music in their country. In its initial days, the ICC addressed a dearth for new music performance in Ireland, a dearth that has since disappeared. The ICC now gives young composers in Ireland a forum to aim for.

This concert was the last of a series taking place at the National Concert Hall’s Kevin Barry Room. Diversity was the programme’s salient feature; each successive work swung a stylistic pendulum away from the last, their sum adding to a wide arc.

Starting things off was Dylan Rynhart’s Cross Talk. Daniel Bodwell on double bass and Emmet Byrne on oboe struck up the interplay suggested by the title, which the composer compares to ‘a good chat’. Some improvisation in the middle section was bookended on either side by lyrical passages aired in an extended tonality, the instrumental voices telling their inscrutable story.

Stylistically contrasting with this, Julie Dillon’s Hail for Sorrow is in a pop idiom. ‘Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,’ chanted Dillon on repeat, backed by a simple chord progression and programmed electronic rhythm. It rendered the Hail Mary prayer as the singsong rhyme it is – a shift of context bestowing veneration upon it anew.

Ian McDonnell’s electroacoustic Spear Fragment coursed through layers of thick synthesis and emergent industrial beats, a rising wave of sine tones breaking through a primordial soup and built up to a carousel of rhythms and tones, seemingly endless, changing always to something else.

Johanne Heraty’s Three Short Pieces for solo cor anglais brought us back to more traditional composition. The pieces contained a set of micro-variations, some sprightly motivic staccato and some bizarre singing through the instrument. So diverse were the variations that they were unified only by their common mouthpiece.

Perhaps the evening’s most beautiful work was Natasa Paterson’s Synergy. An electroacoustic work, it merged a female vocal harmony with sounds of Dublin’s city centre. These diverse sources meet like strangers in a landscape, gradually becoming familiarised – the resonant result settles the unsettled forces of our everyday barrage, applying a balm to the ear.

The double bass and oboe duo returned to end the concert as it had begun, for Francis Heery’s Interiors. Save for a single exception, pitched notes were conspicuously absent, the discourse made up instead of breaths, pops and clicks from the reedless oboe and scrapings on the bass; all of which was both rhetorical antithesis to the lyricism with which the concert opened.

Published on 1 February 2010

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