|Cape Breton Island (www.mccullagh.org)|
The set up for the orchestra was different. There was a piano between the violins and the conductor and a fewer number of strings in general. This made for salutes from JMR towards concertmaster Mark Skazinetsky in recognition of the orchestra rather than the traditional handshake. I had trouble getting into this concert. The opening "Fantasy on Scottish Melodies" didn't have enough lively melodies to get me instantly engaged. It was well played but didn't radiate energy to me via the music. JMR was a bundle of energy throughout the evening and it got better at the end of the first half.
Two of the Barra MacNeils added their vocals to the more upbeat "An Irish Party in 3rd Class" from Titanic. The classic "Londonderry Air" or with a twist of French as JMR's son apparently calls it "London Derriere" (also commonly known as "O Danny Boy") was played beautifully, but is another slow, soothing piece. Maybe to try and inject some life into the audience (or maybe just me), the "Irish Medley Sing Along" featuring "MacNamara's Band", "My Wild Irish Rose", "Sweet Rosie O'Grady", "Harrigan", and "When Irish Eyes are Smiling", came next. The singing wasn't very audible from my seat. Maybe the other attendees were like me and didn't know most of the tunes, or had forgotten them since St. Patrick's Day. One does wonder if this concert could have been programmed a bit closer to that day to cash in a bit more on the theme. The highlight for me in the medley was "The Irish Washerwoman" instrumental. JMR descended the podium, danced a wild jig that made me worry for his balance, and this theme and energy got me involved.
A re-orchestrated version of "Simple Gifts: A Celtic Dance" making it's world premiere, followed and featured the Gilchrist Canavan Irish Dancers. Made famous by Michael Flatley and Lord of the Dance this was a good closing to the shorter than normal first half.