Left – Camille O'Sullivan and Paul Kelly. Photos – David James McCarthy
The power of the written word: the power of the spoken word; the power of poetry set to music, sung out in praise or lament, with passion and reverence – loud and melodic, discordant or dirge-like. Add to this heady mix the lyrical Irish accent and a group of musicians who can play your heart strings until they bleed, and that, my friends, is a lot of power indeed.
Tuesday night at the Concert Hall in the Queensland Performing Arts Centre overflowed with like-minded souls, all waiting to see what Ancient Rain, a collaboration between Paul Kelly, Camille O’Sullivan and Feargal Murray, would reveal. Dark stage, empty chairs and musical instruments awaiting human intervention: anticipation palpable in the audience. The bank of lights, like a UFO slowly rising for take-off, ascends from the stage and with a heaving of chests, we witness the birth of Ancient Rain.
Paul Kelly (composer/performer/legend) and stranger to no-one, stands in the spotlight, rendering Digging, a poem by Seamus Heaney, to the crowd and Camille O’Sullivan (composer/performer), with voice the clarity of crystal, mesmerizes us with her commanding persona. Feargal Murray (composer/music director/performer/piano) completes the collaborative trio and with Paul Byrne on drums and percussion, Dan Kelly on electric guitar and Sokol Koka on cello, this force-to-be-reckoned-with band of musicians brings the audience to complete silence! You can hear a pin drop (and my partner’s leather jacket creak) and in the next breath, the Concert Hall becomes a hallowed ground where all the love, reverence, passion and courage of the Irish-long-suffering explodes with sound that could tear your heart out. “Between my finger and my thumb the squat pen rests; snug as a gun.”
This is an Irish history lesson through poetry and music. Suffering is not new, (nor has it abated, worldwide, in any way) just keeps changing geography and human/religious dynamic. “Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone...” and with Sokol Koka on cello playing out the soul of the Irish, the romance is brought to the audience, once again. “I have come with meagre voice...” (A Farewell to English by Michael Hartnett) performed by Camille, has the audience enraptured; nothing meagre about her voice!
Ancient Rain is a revelation of revolution and creates a vehicle for this brotherhood of musicians to bring poetry and the written word (The Dead, an excerpt from James Joyce’s Dubliners) to a contemporary audience. Paul Kelly and Camille O’Sullivan are perfectly paired and I now want to be Irish... how DO they remember all these words?
As John Kotzas, Chief Executive, QPAC, quotes: “Ancient Rain brings together music and poetry, setting Irish poems from the last century to new music by Paul Kelly, Camille O’Sullivan and Feargal Murray. Some poems by Yeats, Heaney and Kavanagh you may know, others by Eavan Boland, Paula Meehan, Jessica Traynor and Enda Wyley may be new discoveries.” For this reviewer, it was all music to my ears and I’m keeping the little give-away program, complete with poetry and excerpts, close to my heart, to read and reread, and continue to inspire...
Far and Away Productions in association with Brink Productions presents
Composers Paul Kelly, Feargal Murray & Camille O’Sullivan
Director Chris Drummond
Venue: Concert Hall, QPAC | Cultural Precinct, South Bank, Brisbane
Date: 13 June 2017
Bookings: qpac.com.au | 136 246
Presented by QPAC as part of the Queensland Cabaret Festival