Irish Stew: Cultural Notes from the Emerald Isle

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Wenger Corporation - Cork School of Music

Cork School of Music

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, we’ll turn the spotlight green and focus on a few unique aspects of Ireland’s culture – then and now.

Handel Seeks Irish Affection…and Beer? One of Ireland’s biggest musical triumphs is due to a German tourist composer and the debut of his Easter oratorio now heard every Christmas. Follow us?

G.F. Handel traveled from London to Dublin, Ireland’s cultural hub, in 1741. Although one of Europe’s most celebrated musicians/composers, Handel was seeking a more appreciative audience – and maybe a pint of Guinness. (OK, he was 17 years early for the beer!)

The premiere of Handel’s “Messiah” oratorio took place on April 13, 1742; the piece became his most famous work. Debuting during Lent, it was intended to be performed before Easter – not Christmas.

Music is “IT” in Cork. Some of tomorrow’s Irish performers are likely being educated today at the Cork School of Music (CSM), part of the Cork Institute of Technology located in Ireland’s second-largest city. In America at least, it seems unusual to consider a music school within a technically focused university. (However, Dublin’s Institute of Technology also features a Conservatory of Music & Drama.)

We visited CSM several years ago; their new facility had just opened, encompassing 140,000 square feet (13,000 m2) and built at a cost of $39 million (€65 million). The building includes a fleet of more than 60 Steinway grand pianos, along with countless music stands, chairs, stage platforms and choir risers from Wenger. “This Wenger equipment offers us two primary benefits,” said Eamonn Comerford, Facility Manager. “The easy assembly and handling saves time; the superior quality ensures years of use.”

Name That (Controversial?) Tune
You can likely guess the Irish folk ballad famously performed by Judy Garland, Bing Crosby and Elvis Presley (at separate times, of course!) But did you know “Danny Boy” (no, we don’t know any other Irish folk songs either) is banned from funerals in some Catholic dioceses? Certain church officials feel the song is not sacred enough.

We attended a Catholic funeral for a family friend of Irish heritage several years ago. Two grandsons performed “Danny Boy” as a prelude and it felt very appropriate. The second prelude seemed a stretch – “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry – although their Irish grandfather was named John.

Name That Famous Rigging Company Founder
And we’ll end by citing the proud Irish heritage of John Clancy, who began designing and building stage equipment in 1882, while working as a stagehand in Syracuse, New York. For more than 125 years, J.R. Clancy Inc. has worked to ensure “luck” has nothing to do with safe, reliable backstage equipment. “Clancy” originally appeared in Gaelic as “Mac Fhlannchaidh”…we’re glad it was shortened to Clancy!

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