Thursday, 13 September 2012

MUSIC REVIEW: William West Lunchtime Memorial Concert

Six local musicians unite for a concert that would do the late, "legenderry" music teacher proud

Eamonn Doherty, Shane Darrell, Sean Doherty and Rionach McGlinchey

When entering Derry-Londonderry's Christ Church, one already notices the building's spacious, airy feel. The acoustics and communal nature of the church, restored as recently as twelve years ago, help it rise above its modest size and make it a worthy music venue. It's the perfect place for classical musicians to give their voices and instruments a proper working out, an airing worthy of a festival, through which more and more people, be they classical music lovers or not, can discover such gifted talents. Small, but massive, indeed.

Today's concert is a tribute to the late William West, a local music teacher who dedicated his life to helping young people discover their musical potential. It begins with a thunderous (can I say Phantom Of The Opera-esque?) sound emerging from organist and conductor Kristine Donnan's fingertips at the start of Bach's Prelude and Fugue In G Major. This slowly develops into a varied, elegant organ rhythm that, combined with the concentrated nature of Donnan's playing, channels itself into the hearts and minds of an audience that are keen to hear more. Much more. And the best is yet to come.

With "She Moved Through The Fair", Rionach McGlinchey goes for a smooth delivery that offers a calming, comforting variation on a timeless classic. The ambience of this smiling, effortless performance makes you feel at ease.

Brothers Eamonn and Sean Doherty then literally start fiddling their way through a jaunty journey in Irish traditional music, with four traditional violin pieces offering a welcome variance of quirk and rhythm that speaks for itself. The tempo in their final song, "Mutts", is so high that you wonder if Sean will keep up with his brother, but he does, resulting in the loudest applause of the concert so far.

Following this, it's back to Bach with Ben McGonigle on the organ. Multi-layered Bach, that is, the kind that gives you the feeling of visiting an Eastern European castle. It's brief, but resonant nonetheless.

The finale brings tenor Shane Darrell together with all the other performers to deliver a choral flourish featuring works by Vaughan Williams, Thomas Tallis and William Byrd. And the overall effect is rather sublime, with McGlinchey's resonant, dominant lead vocals slowly giving way to a very effective all round harmony. Sometimes it's melancholy, sometimes it's rhythmic, sometimes it's even like dub step (the performers' words, not mine!) but it's almost always intoxicating, with an impressive alto delivery from McGonigle to boot.

One really appreciates the lyrics, the instruments and the vocal power on show, but it's the depth in the music that truly sells this concert as a melodious showcase. William West would be proud.