Category Archives: Review

German trip and film release!

I got back from Germany this week, after a wonderful couple of concerts and a short cello workshop. The first concert was in the Fischereimuseum in Bergheim an der Sieg.

I started the evenings performance with a short version of my film ‘Living the Tradition’. This new version has be re edited by filmmaker Maarten Roos and we are very happy to announce that it is now available on Amazon Prime to rent or watch immediately if you are a subscriber. Also available to stream on my Play Cello Music Store. If you are very good, and want me to feel warm and fuzzy about you, you can even give a positive review of it and lots of stars!

After the film, I played some new pieces I wrote, and new fishing related ones I learned especially for the concert… I can now say cockles and mussels in German (Herzmuscheln und Meesmuscheln)… maybe you canĀ  guess what I sang with the audiences help!

It was wonderful to have a tour through the history of the brotherhood of fishermen by Dirk Ortmann who is involved in running the museum. He also made everything run smoothly on the night, and took a cool photo afterwards at the lake on a steep incline!

The review sounds good as far as I can tell from my German. I did introduce every song in German, making myself learn and improve!

I also gave an improvisation and Irish music workshop to three cellists from the Bonn area. We had lots of fun and learning! Isabel Grautstuck organised the museum concert and workshop and did such a wonderful job. The concert was a huge success and sold out before the day of the concert. A huge thank you to her!!

Cellists Ilse, Bettina, Isabel, Louisa

Onward to Hanover via the wonderful Cologne cathedral and Philharmonic hall…

And Saturday morning after rehearsing with Jan Allain at our wonderful friends’ place near Hanover on Friday night, we zoomed over to Braunschweig in the Commando Jeep. Jan and I played together for many years, touring throughout all the German speaking countries, France, Australia and probably elsewhere, sometimes 12 tours a year, our first tour being 6 months. We made incredible friends along the way and had a crazy time. We last played at the same event, the Sommerloch CSD day festival in Braunschweig in the early days…1998! Wild to meet people from on the road that I hadn’t seen for years. Wild to see who performed on stage!

mad horn players!

I finished my short trip with a day of holiday at Petra and Andrea’s place. Swam, sat in the sun, laughed, basically a rare day of summer for me living in Ireland where summer only visits for an hour here or there.

Petra, Jan & Ilse

Thank you to all the people who made the trip possible, especially Isabel, Dirk, Maarten Roos, Jan Allain, Petra, Andrea and Andreas.

Please visit to see the new version my Irish music film ‘Living the Tradition’!

Pagliacci rehearsals

Pagliacci Review

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.

Waterford Solo cello concert review

From the Munster express…


Ilse de Ziah

Christ Church Cathedral gave their Coffee Concert audience a special treat with cellist Ilse de Ziah, a Connecticut born but Australian educated performer who now lives in Cork and plays with the Cork Symphony Orchestra. Her programme Irish Airs to Australian Fair was crowd-pleasing and her unusual arrangements of familiar Irish tunes created an expressive journey of styles and influences.

Her opening Carrickfergus was cold and lonely and caught the “black as ink” mood as the drone sound caught the heart – “I would swim over the deepest ocean” and de Ziah has crisscrossed oceans to share and expand her talents. Buachaill ón Eirne was beautiful and she sang her own love song Driftwood with contemporary folk touches.

Her arrangements were ambitious and interesting and O’Carolan’s Fanny Power was a gem glistening with grace and sparkle. Her own contemporary composition the River seemed too complicated for a noon concert and she followed this with an Indian tabla-influenced piece that caught the humidity, thunder and downpour.

Amhrán na Leabhar was very mournful, but she finished off an excellent concert with a jazzy song Chicken and Fox.

Liam Murphy

the Christ church review Encore_02Sep11

Cellists – Take note!

This new collection of Irish melodies, arranged for cello by Ilse de Ziah, is a joy. Here we have ten airs, some well-known, others waiting to be discovered, but all singing gloriously in their new raiment. There is something here for everyone. Amhrán na Leabhar (The Song of the Books) maintains the simplicity and beauty of the original Kerry song, whereas one or two others use an exciting variational technique which will appeal to more advanced cellists. On the accompanying CD, the rich harmonics of Buachaill ó'n Éirne in Ilse's playing seem to make every word of this wordless performance speak a special music to us. Tomás Ó Canainn

City of Cork Symphony Orchestra

We played a wonderful concert in the Cork City Hall on Thursday. Always a joy to play with Kieth Pasco who played Mendelssohn violin concerto and conducted The Dvorak New World Symphony. Brass players from England joined us to beef up the numbers, and it was wonderful to lead a cello section who completely committed to playing the music in a musical and vibrant manner. Here is a review.

“Few audience members, who remember the concerts given by Cork Symphony Orchestra under its founding conductor Aloys Fleischmann, could imagine the musical treat that was to come at the initial concert given by the re-named City of Cork Symphony Orchestra. It is now officially sponsored by the office of the Lord Mayor, and Cork City Council.

Prior to the concert, the Lord Mayor Cllr Dara Murphy unveiled a plaque in the foyer of the Cork City Hall marking this official city recognition, an important development in the cultural life of the city.

Even the whirlwind performance of Mozart’s overture to the Marriage of Figaro, under the CCSO’s conductor Keith Pascoe, gave little hint of what was to follow, good as it was. Pascoe handed the baton to oboist/conducting student at CIT School of Music, Michael Craig while he took up his violin to perform Mendelssohn’s beloved Violin Concerto. Craig’s accompanying, and the orchestra’s sensitive support, allowed Pascoe’s intensely musical, deeply personal, and wonderfully moving account of the concerto to match, at times even surpass, the playing of the best international soloists it has been my pleasure to hear.

He then returned to the podium to direct a performance of Dvorak’s New World Symphony that must have been as good as any given by an amateur orchestra”. Irish Examiner 24 April 2010