New Music and Volcanoes

Well, we have our first event under our belt at The Model and it was something of a baptism of fire, not least of all due to the Volcano in Iceland that erupted on Wednesday night and threatened to halt the festival all together.

The event was The Sligo New Music Festival, which is our annual festival of contemporary music, curated to great effect by composer Ian Wilson. While we were closed we held a music day offsite in 2008, but didn’t have a festival in 2009 so it was wonderful to be back. We had been planning the festival for 18months and Ian had chosen a wonderful programme of early Gavin Bryars work, some of which were Irish premieres, brand new work from Irish duo Morla and a new piece from northern Irish Composer Frank Lyons; created for the festival for The Smith Quartet and Simon Jermyn.

As it happens we were extremely luck to have the festival happen at all. Simon Jermyn and The Smiths were in London on Wednesday for rehearsals, with Simon having flown in directly from New York that morning. Sean Og was due to be there with them but had just had a little baby girl that day so he was back on Irish soil.

All of the others were due to fly to Knock on Thursday to start rehearsals in Sligo, but the volcano erupted on Wednesday night putting paid to those plans. A bit of frantic phoning first thing Thursday got the musicians rerouted to a train in the nick of time, and then on to a Ferry to Dublin. They had a whole day of travelling to undertake and we are indebted to them for their efforts in keeping the show on the road.

Having arrived into Dublin on Thursday night they were joined by Sean on Friday mornings train to Sligo and arrived safely for rehearsals on Friday, which were included in RTE’s 6 o’clock news as it was National Music Day.

Gavin Bryars was due to come to Sligo on Friday to hear his pieces and to participate in a public talk, but unfortunately by Friday we all knew how bad the travel situation was, and it was near impossible to get a spot on a ferry for him. Gavin gamely suggested a video link and, thanks to technology, Bernard Clarke was able to conduct a great live video interview with Gavin on Saturday afternoon.

So the performances went ahead, and were wonderful. The building had a few teething problems, electronic doors conspired to lock me out for the first half of the opening concert in my efforts to keep them closed and quiet for the performance in the Atrium(!), and the heating on Saturday refused to be turned off giving a delay to the afternoon performance, but I hope it didn’t hamper people’s listening pleasure too much for Jesus Blood.

The new performance space sounds as good as we hoped, and the Sunday performance of Sacred Chantsin the Atrium Space was just beautiful. Incidentally Sean plays the same programme for Bray Jazz festivalnext weekend I think.

The Smith Quartet had to take an overnight taxi at 3am on Saturday night/Sunday morning to Dublin Port to catch a Ferry and then a train back to London, and Simon Jermyn may not make it to New York as planned tomorrow, but they were all magnificent to deal with and so patient with all that was happening. Despite all of the chaos and an intense performance schedule they all played beautifully. The longer the volcano effect continues the more lucky we realise we were to have been able to keep the Festival on the road.

It was wonderful to welcome so many old friends back into The Model over the weekend and thanks to everyone who came to the performances. We can’t wait to see the rest of you on May 1st for the opening of Dorm, or anytime from there on in! It’s great to be back