Sunday, September 23, 2018


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I didn't have a lot on my list for Culture Night this year - mainly the French embassy where there was something to happen which I couldn't make head nor tail of, and the National Library where they had advertised a Conversation Salon, whatever that was, and a recital by the Bach Singers who I had heard there last year.

So I started with the embassy and found it was to be some sort of laser display on the front of the building. It was near the advertised start time when I arrived but still a bit too light for the display, so I had decided to wander off and see if I could find something else in the vicinity when my eye caught the sight above.

Now I had tried to bring this to their attention many times as I passed by in recent times but that entrance was not open and the buzzer, which was supposed to connect me to reception, went nowhere. So I took the opportunity to bring it to their attention now. To my surprise they seem to have known about it but had some problem about rectifying it. I didn't succeed in pinning down the problem. Perhaps nobody was up to climbing out on the balcony and hauling it in. If they read this they may get around to organising something by next Bastille Day.

As I passed along the square I noticed the Arts Council building inviting me in. Well, the arrangement you see above was the centrepiece of the boardroom. In fact it was the only thing in the boardroom. Not being the arty type I passed on.

My next unintended visit was to the Irish Traditional Music Archive. It turned out that they were offering a concert by two young uileannn pipers. I dallied a while there but as it was nearing time for the conversation salon I set out for the National Library.

As I neared Merrion Street I heard the sound of persistent drumming. I first thought it was coming from the park itself. Then I thought it was coming from the military memorial. And, finally, I realised it was coming from outside the National Gallery.

As I approached I realised it was a percussion band. That sort of brought back memories. I was in one of those in first class in St. Louis national school in Rathmines many centuries ago. We cheated then and had a piano playing Beethoven's Minuet in G. This lot were pure percussion.

The piano's absence didn't take one whit from their enjoyment. They seemed to be all drums of one sort or another with one set of rattle bells.

I wondered where they were from and took a sneak shot of this man's back for reference. That did look like Jesus in Rio and I wondered. When I looked them up at home later they were indeed from Brazil.

Off I set again on my trajectory for the National Library and my conversation salon. This was quite interesting for the short time I spent there.

We were four at a table, the others being Martin, a German from Brazil, Dama from Madrid and Mike from Sligo. We were given a paper with ten suggested topics and we got through three of them while I was there. However the dulcet tones of the Bach Singers were filtering up from below so I took my leave and headed off down the stairs.

The foyer has a good acoustic and I arrived to a nicely blended version of Dúlamán na Binne Buí a song I first heard from Albert Fry long ago.

Then there was a nice Bach canticle sort of number after which I was going to leave for the Alliance Française where I had heard there would be a cabaret act. But the Singers launched into a gutsy version of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus for which I stuck around.

When I finally got to the Alliance it was packed to the door. The nice girl at the desk gave me a little French flag to wave when Macron would come visiting. I wiggled my way through the crowd right up to the platform and took the photo you see above.

The cabaret act was a twosome.

Jean Yves Liévaux on vocals and guitar. He is a class act and well suited to songs/ballads from Brassens to his own compositions. His guitar work is a pleasure to listen to.

His partner, Viviane Cayol, is a very talented and versatile lady.

She sang and played guitar.

She played drums with brushes and a tambourine strapped to her knee.

I don't think I have heard a kazoo since the age of skiffle. A much underrated instrument if you know what you're at.

And adding to the atmosphere playing slide guitar.

I had originally intended wandering back to the embassy but there was no way I was leaving this pair. They were superb with their own compositions and covers.

Some of Jean Yves's delivery was sheer animal. I don't know where he got the energy over the three hours they were on.

Full marks also to the sound man who was geared up to make the pair heard over a high volume ambient noise level caused by food, drink and animated conversation among the audience. This was not a sean nós session. Couldn't be further from it.

You can follow the group here.

I got my final touch of Culture Night on the way home. I had a while to wait for a DART and while I was waiting I heard the Piano Tuner's piano being played on the opposite platform so I went over to have a look. A chap was playing away to his heart's content.

While I was watching another chap went over and sat at the piano. I don't think the guys knew one another but it wasn't long before we were hearing a slightly hesitant duet.

What a way to wrap up Culture Night.

You can check out my last year's experience here.

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