Anne Geaghan reviews last weekend’s celebration of Irish Arts & Culture in London
By Anne Geaghan
Camden’s London Irish Centre looked just right with some great visuals on display for last Saturday night’s concert, part of the Céad weekend of Irish Arts and Culture.
The show opened with the gritty poem Dublin you are spoken by playwright and champion of the spoken word Stephen James Smith.
The concert also showcased RTÉ’s Contempo Quartets’ show entitled New Airs.
These talented musicians, originally formed in Bucharest in 1995, also performed at The Wigmore Hall, London in April at the Irish Culture in Britain – A Centenary Celebration concert. On Saturday they were directed by Glen Austin, a personable Carlow man in London for the first time.
Glen is a wizard on the electronic keyboard and for this event orchestrated a captivating programme of new string quartet arrangements of Irish rock and pop classics. The audience sang and clapped enthusiastically to his orchestrations of hits by Snow Patrol, U2, Glen Hansard and even Thin Lizzy.
Ronán O Snódaigh of Kila kept up the momentum for this inaugural new Irish arts festival with his songs and bodhrán playing. Scottish born Abbey Oliveira who now lives in Derry, spoke a number of poems including The Dandelion. After the interval, the RTÉ Contempo Quartet played a most dignified delivery of She moved through the Fair.
John Spillane did not disappoint his many fans with his unique ability to engage with the audience, with his guitar playing and beautiful Irish language songs which many may have learned at school – Trasna na dTonnta and Báidín Fhelimí.
The seven signatories of the Proclamation were recalled in Ballyphehane. Liam Ó Maonlaí of Hothouse Flowers started with An raibh tú ar an gcarraigh? and regaled his audience with anecdotes. All performers joined Liam on stage for a topical Óró, Sé do Bheatha Abhaíle.
Gary Dunne did not have to remind the audience more than once that the London Irish Centre is a listening venue and they duly respected the wonderful performances of the artists for what is hoped will be an annual event.