H.P.O. and “Cherish The Ladies” Reply

Review by Kim Wessel

The audience was waiting with anticipation and everyone was filled with excitement waiting for the show to start. Guest conductor Martin MacDonald came out and started us off with “The Irish Washerwoman” by Anderson. I have to say that Martin was quite the jokester in his comments tonight. He was telling us how he isn’t Irish and he hopes that just because he is a Scotsman that they don’t drag him off the stage. And, just so that everyone is aware, one concert (not tonight) he actually conducted while wearing a kilt, and he let us all know that they are really warm, not drafty. Unlike a true Scotsman, he wore bicycle shorts underneath.

Conductor McDonald & critic Kim Wessel

The Orchestra was amazing as usual. The guest concertmaster Marie Berard of the COC—was very professional and everyone played with the passion that we have come to expect from the Philharmonic. The ONLY Irish composer of the first section was Walton O’Donnell and his Selections from the “Two Irish Tone Sketches”. We were fortunate to hear “The Mountain Sprite” and this piece has such beautiful tones and transitions, all of the pieces had us tapping our toes to the music.
During “Molly on the Shore” by Percy Grainger the melodic accompaniment was beautiful and this is a piece that Mr. Grainger has said had adaptable instrumentation—from violin and piano to a full Orchestra. We were teased when Joanie Madden came out during the first half to play Ger Fahy’s Meagh Seola (The Level Plain)… an amazing performance by an amazing performer. Joanie played beautifully and kept everyone excited to see the second half.
Our last piece before intermission was John Williams’ symphonic suite “From Far and Away”. It is such a beautiful and almost haunting melody, with an undertone that was breathtaking. The concertmaster had quite the substantial solo during this piece.
The post-interval was nothing short of spectacular. For any who saw the Ladies when they were here 4 years ago, they were once again not disappointed. We had Deirdre Connolly start off with the’ Fir and Far Medley’ and her voice does not leave one wanting. The pieces that were played were well chosen and beautifully done. We were transported back to Ireland time and time again during the performance. But, my absolute favourite piece that they played had to be the encore performance of “Danny Boy”. This is a song that was played at the “American Wake”. When people from Ireland immigrated to the United States of America or Canada, this song was played when they were leaving to start their new lives. They knew that there were saying goodbye to their Mom’s & Da’s and to the way of life that they knew to start over in a strange land. They were leaving everything and everyone they knew and in all probability—never see their family again. It is such a sad yet poignant piece to end the concert.
Our dancers for the evening were Garrett Coleman from U.S.A. who is a 2-time world champion step-dancer, as well as Jason Oremus from Australia is a 5-time world champion who also played the lead in River Dance.
We were given the opportunity to hear & watch Dan Stacey who not only played his violin for us, but also step danced on his own and with the other dancers. I was able to chat with Dan after the performance and he let me know that he and his twin sister both started with the Ottawa Valley Step Dancers about 30 years ago, and that around the age of 8 or 9 he decided that since he was dancing to Irish music, he wanted to learn to play it on the violin and so – here he is today with these amazing talents.
Ms Madden told me that she started learning her instrument at 13, on the D Whistle. All her other whistles and flute followed suit. Cherish the Ladies came together in 1985 and I know that I am not the only one who is glad that they did.

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