Well, well, well…2016 may have been a disaster for some, (think Trump, Brexit, Mayo losing again, Kilkenny losing this once..how shameful!!), but for Dolce it was another year of success after success: a VERY busy year of fine performances, laced with lots of fun.
It was, of course, the year of the 1916 Centenary, and Dolce played its part in commemorating this historic event. Our very first event of 2016 was a Mass in St Anthony’s Church, Clontarf in January, to commemorate the Rising. It was a very moving event, with a thought-provoking address by leading historian Declan Kiberd. Dolce’s contribution to the event included a compelling rendition of Karl Jenkins’s ‘Hymn Before Battle’ with its powerful thrice-repeated closing line ‘Lord, Grant us Strength to Die’. Stirring stuff.
In February we turned our attention outwards to Africa, performing in a joint concert with Newbridge Gospel Choir, in aid of the Arusha Scholarship Fund, which supports education in Tanzania, and Cairdeas, a charity which supports the homeless. The concert, in Corpus Christi Church, Griffith Avenue, was greatly enjoyed by the large attendance.
March saw Dolce play its part in the official State Centenary Commemmoration of the Rising with a concert, (organised by RTÉ and Ireland 2016), on Easter Monday, in University Church, St Stephen’s Green. The programme consisted of choral works, solo performances and readings, of which the most outstanding was extracts from the official records of the Military History Bureau relating the experiences of Harry Colley in the Rising, read by his grandson Bob Laird, a tenor in Dolce.
The other major event in March, of course, was our annual Quiz NIght, which has a dual function: funds and fun. We can happily confirm that both were generated, in spades. And we would like to acknowledge, with gratitude, the support of our faithful followers.
In May we had our annual Summer Concert, in what has become our favourite venue, the very fine church in All Hallows College, with its splendid acoustics. The programme featured a wide range of songs from many lands, to the evident approval of a full house, which accorded us a standing ovation.
The Summer Concert is usually the last event before our summer break, but this year we wound up the first half of the year with a visit from Kammerkor Sudurlands, a very fine choir from Iceland. The two choirs dined together in the Harbourmaster Restaurant before getting down to the real business of the evening: a sing-off in which each choir entertained the other – a mighty night of great music.
We resumed choral activity in September with a performance in Dublin’s City Hall, as part of the Cultural Night festivities. A large and very appreciative audience was treated to the Dolce sound, enhanced by the wonderful acoustics of the large domed Entrance Hall.
Our next event, in a very busy year, was an eagerly anticipated trip to Bonn and Cologne in October.Our enterprising and extraordinarily efficient Committee had a superb set of arrangements in place, which included wonderful accommodation in the centre of Old Bonn, lovely restaurants and a trip down the Rhine to enchanting Königswinter. Among the many highlights of our visit were: performing in Cologne’s magnificent Cathedral and in Beethoven’s birthplace in Bonn (this was a most memorable experience – we sang that beautiful hymn to a sacred place ‘Locus iste’, under the stern gaze of a portrait of Ludwig, and the museum attendant , a member of a local choir, joined in with us) ; a joint concert with local choir Multikultichor from Bonn in a packed local church where we truly wowed the audience and, of course, the meal after the concert, followed by the traditional ‘sing-off’, which went on to the early hours of the morning (our lovely hosts were quite entranced by the energy and fun we brought to this feature of the night…). Not content with singing in our scheduled performances and social events, of course, we also sang in our hotel, in the restaurants, on the trip down the Rhine, and even in the airport lounge while waiting for our plane to turn up…we just love singing, I suppose. Various people also visited various museums and galleries in both Cologne and Bonn (which boasts a famed Museum Mile in the New Town), and enjoyed exploring the very charming streets, squares (and shops) in Old Bonn. For quite a few, however, one of the highlights was a visit to the Lindt Chocolate Museum in Cologne. Mmmmmmm.
On our return from Bonn we got down immediately to preparing for our Christmas Concert, now less than two months away. Our main focus was the challenging, but glorious, Mozart Mass in B Minor, from which we were to sing the Kyrie, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei.These pieces required soloists and it was gratifying to find a plentiful supply of these from within the choir: so many rich, true voices, well able to carry the majesty of Mozart’s music. How Dolce has grown and developed over the years!
Come the concert in December, and our performance was received rapturously by a full-to-overflowing audience in All Hallows. Besides the Mozart we also sang excerpts from Karl Jenkins’s ‘The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace’ and a generous helping of Carols and other seasonal songs, concluding with ‘O Holy Night’, which once again featured soloists from within the choir. MC for the night was Karen Meenan who did the job with great warmth, humour and pzzazz.
Our final official function for 2016 was the Christmas Dinner – held, as in 2015, in McHugh’s Restaurant in Raheny where we dined and wined excellently, before getting down to the real business of the night…yes…the sing-song…what else? The star turn of the evening was undoubtedly Paul Murphy with his self-penned very witty ditty, in true traditional ballad style, exploring the pros and cons of receiving Deirdre’s annual Conductor’s Award.
Interspersed among these major events of 2016 there were several other events. In May, Dolce performed a concert in St Vincent’s Hospital, which was relayed throughout the building on the hospital’s internal radio station and in December a sizeable contingent from the choir sang to the residents in Beneavin Nursing Home in Finglas. In June Ronnie Sheehan organised a tour of the Botanical Gardens which was most enjoyable.
A very useful innovation last year was the introduction of ‘line leaders’ to help sort out musical difficulties within each voice group in the choir, speeding up the learning of pieces and strengthening the choir’s sound. So, take a bow Ciara, Máiréad, Úna, Claire, Brian, Miriam, John and Guillaume. Another point worth noting is the influx of new members. Choirs always have a certain turnover of personnel so it is great to have a steady flow of newcomers knocking at the Dolce door. We have been very fortunate to attract quite an amount of significant vocal talent in recent years, resulting in an abundant supply of soloists for concerts and strengthening the overall sound of the choir.
Before we conclude this review we must remember with heartfelt sympathy those choir members who have experienced bereavement or serious illness in their lives in 2016. We are very conscious in Dolce that we are a community in which people care for each other and we seek to express this in various ways.
And so, let us finally look forward to all that 2017 brings. Our immediate focus on our return in January is to prepare for The National Concert Hall (April 23rd) and Ulster Hall, Belfast (May 6th) , where we, along with singers from other choirs and Dublin Orchestral Players , will perform Mendelssohn’s 2nd Symphony. This represents another step forward in the Dolce story: performing a major work in major venues, with a full orchestra .
We look forward to the experience with relish.