St John the Baptist Church on Seafield Road Clontarf is a peach of a venue. Spacious, yet intimate, with lovely cream-coloured brick walls, it has a warm acoustic: bright and clear but without excess echo. Just perfect.
This, then, was the venue for Dolce’s most recent outing on Friday 10th October for the Shades of Autumn concert, in aid of Clontarf Hospital, compered by well-known tenor, Bryan Hoey.
Dolce opened the concert with O Radiant Dawn, a triumphant antiphon looking forward to the birth of Christ, by contemporary Scottish composer James MacMillan: a wonderful opener, full of unconfined joy. This was followed by Gaudent in Coelis, by 16th Century Spanish composer Tomas Luis de Victoria: a more delicate and complex piece celebrating the Feast of All Martyrs. Siyahamba, a vibrant Zulu hymn from South Africa, rounded off a trio of pieces which shared a general theme of religious celebration, but from three very different traditions and perspectives.
Next up was Nicole Robinson, a young soprano from Clontarf with a bright future, who entranced the audience with The Gartan Mother’s Lullaby, a traditional Irish air, and the beautiful Chanson Triste, a 19th Century romantic song by Henri Duparc. The very sensitive piano accompaniment for Nicole, and indeed for all soloists in the concert, was provided by Stephanie Maxwell.
Compere Bryan Hoey then delighted the very receptive audience with two songs: O Sole Mio and Are you Right There Michael?, with the audience joining in heartily on the choruses of the Percy French number.
The first half of the concert concluded with a commemoration of the Battle of Clontarf, comprising a very illuminative account of the battle by Dolce’s in-house historian Lorcan O’Meara, interspersed with suitable songs: Ireland’s Call, followed by the exciting Michael McGlynn arrangement of Dulamán and An Irish Blessing. The highlight, of course, was a rousing rendition of Ireland’s Call, in which the local Rugby-following audience did themselves proud.
The second half opened with a recital by local organist John Rowden, which included a splendid arrangement of Sibelius’s Finlandia. This was followed by two haunting Beatles songs : The Long and Winding Road and In My Life, which were performed to perfection by Dolce, and a solo performance by Dolce’s Paula Curry of Moon River, which went down a treat, especially when the audience were once again invited to join in. This was followed by the theme song for the concert, Autumn Leaves, in a sumptuous choral arrangement (with which Dolce won First Prize in New Ross Choral Festival last year).
Nicole Robinson returned at this point to delight the audience again, this time with a sparkling performance of Art is Calling Me from Victor Herbert’s operetta The Enchantress.
The centenary of the outbreak of World War 1 was then commemorated with the three most iconic songs from that time: Pack up Your Troubles, Tipperary and Roses of Picardy, the last- named in a very moving solo performance by Dolce’s Lorcan O’Meara.
Coming towards the end of our Shades of Autumn concert, we continued with the wonderfully gentle Reverend Eli Jenkins’ Prayer from Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas, and concluded with the powerful, uplifting anthem from Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah. Lots more audience participation, happy faces, generous applause, the perfect finish.
And we sang really beautifully throughout: words, notes, timing perfect, and nuances to beat the band. Such satisfaction reflecting on a good job so well done. Nights such as these are why one joins a choir.