Augustus John’s painting of cellist Suggia has a new life

March 10, 2013 | Posted in photos | By

I was doing a music video shoot a couple of weeks ago for a duo piece by the wonderful composer and flute player Katrina Emtage who wrote "Wind on Waves" for cello and bass flute. It was made by award winning producer Shaun O'Connor. (some great photos from the shoot are on his site)

The amazing outfits were made by designer Lisa Zagone. As I sat there being filmed it struck me in such a dress I was an embodiment of the Augustus John painting of Portugese cellist Guilhermina Suggia so I asked Shaun to take a photo of me to recreate the image.

Ilse-Painting Ilse-Cello-Painting-1

photo by Shaun O'Connor


I'm looking forward to seeing the end product of the shoot. Part of it I was lying in a pool of icy water, of course it was the coldest day of the year despite winter being officially over… and there was no hot water in the taps. I can tell you it was agony for arts sake…


Nigel Kennedy

October 4, 2012 | Posted in Concerts, photos | By

I was just sent photos from the concert the Cork Symphony Orchestra played with Nigel Kennedy. I was lucky enough to play a duet of a couple of trad tunes with him in the University of Limerick CH and the Cork City Hall. Nigel is a beautiful player and alot of fun to play with!


Pagliacci Review

Pagliacci rehearsals

June 25, 2012 | Posted in Concerts, photos, Review | By

The toils of a standing cellist on a dynamic set…

Pagliacci rehearsals

play on forward slope

play sloping right

play sloping left

play sloping backwards

No wonder my back is aching!

So it's good to hear it's worth it in this review in the Irish Examiner today….


Everyman Palace, Cork

Monday, June 25, 2012

The well-publicised reinterpretation of Leoncavallo’s opera by John O’Brien and Michael Barker-Craven is a resounding success.

From the moment one crosses the threshold of the theatre, one is in a totally different, magical world that combines circus, drama, puppetry, funfair, and music — a perfect mixture to open a Midsummer Festival. While there are some (very few) elements that I could wish were otherwise, this magnificently imagined and superbly realised production is one that I would love to see again and again. 

While, naturally, the transformation of the theatre, and use of the theatrical spaces, plus the costumes, set, lighting, and the appearance of a cast of unexpected characters, all massively contribute to the success of the production, in the final analysis the music and the musicians are what make an opera. 

In this case John O’Brien has, once again, gathered around him a group of singers and players who share his vision and create a most wonderfully effective sound world that totally absorbs the listener. 

The sudden entrance from the vestibule of the chorus, the cast, the strolling orchestra and the circus performers to occupy the ground floor aisles sets the mood. 

Then, from Brendan Collins’ (Tonio) splendid singing of the Prologue right through to Ronald Samm’s (Canio) broken-hearted Ridi Pagliaccio, which brings down the curtain, the excitement/tension never lets up. I was distracted during Cara O’Sullivan’s lovely Stridone lassu by an incredibly brilliant aerial acrobat (Michaela Heyer) performing over her head, but nothing could distract from the wonderfully exciting, unconducted, Bell Chorus, the drama of Vesti la giubba, the tenderness of Silvio, a questa ora, or the marvellous, Marja Gaynor-led, orchestral playing of both the chamber group and the full orchestra.




And another from the Cork Independent


Although I'd never class myself an opera fan, there's no doubt I'm a fan of Pagliacci, after seeing this epic production by the Cork Operatic Society live and in glorious technicolour at the Everyman Palace Theatre on Friday evening.

Lisa Zagone's fantastic, imaginative set and costume design makes Pagliacci a feast for the eyes, and the production makes excellent use of the Everyman's turreted booths, pushing the stage out into the audience to include its surrounds as part of the set. 

Musicians participate directly in the action, performing behind, beside and even among the singers, once or twice becoming key parts of the action, while the clever use of colour integrates them into the Everyman's ornate decor.

The ingenious design means audience is truly pulled into the world of Pagliacci, a world of circus performers embroiled in a tragic love triangle. 

While the story – apart from its circus setting – is nothing you wouldn't find in an episode of Eastenders, featuring a jealous lover, a jilted suitor and a tragic finale, the performances by leads Cara O'Sullivan, Ronald Samm, David Burzotta, Brendan Collins and Simon Morgan are startlingly good.

A chorus made up of members of the Cork Operatic Society lends a huge depth to the production, and the sheer numbers on stage and in the theatre – almost surrounding the audience in parts – make it at times overwhelmingly powerful. 

This is an incredibly ambitious production, and the team from the Everyman, Cork Operatic Society, Cork Midsummer Festival, Barabbas and Cork Circus, directed by John O'Brien and Michael Barker-Caven, have really pulled it off. Bravo.



June 21, 2012 | Posted in Concerts, photos, Video | By

I'm enjoying the fantastic production of Pagliacci at the Everyman Palace. Our first night was last night. 9 musician/actors playing a reduced score, all by memory and moving about the stage with the singers. We are gods and godesses of the theatre, surrounded by the clowns/circus troupe and a whole gang of chorus.

Here is a promo clip

The costumes are stunning, by the amazing Lisa Zagone.


‘Child of Tree’ John Cage

January 29, 2012 | Posted in Concerts, Events, photos | By

Four hours of John Cage in the Triskel Arts centre in Cork last night with the Quiet Music Ensemble. Some incredible moments of freedom, beauty, peace, synchronicity, mirth (that was after in the pub) and incredible concentration from all 'sound artists' involved! I played Inlets with Sean McErlaine of QME and Mel Mercier who had performed this piece with John Cage! We had 4 conch shells each, of varying sizes. Water is swirled around inside and amplified, to create excellent glooping sounds. The music also includes pine cones on fire and a conch used as a horn. 32 minutes of glooping. Plus a short 15 minute version at the start of the performance while kids were around. Phew…

“If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.” 

― John Cage


Also on the programme we played Four6, But what about the noise of crumpling paper and Ryanji, where I played the percussion part using the body of the cello and striking of the spike in unison, amplified to create an exciting yet funereal slow beat.

RTE Lyric F'M's Presenter Bernard Clarke and producer Eoin Brady were there to record the event, and Bernard did a stunning and pure reading of Cage's Themes and Variations, whilst various other Cage pieces were played around the venue, including Inlets, One10 violin solo from the balcony (lesya Iglody) Chaconne (Keith Pasco), harps, electronica of the Quiet Club and more… 

To be broadcast on Lyric fm Nova tonight