The Fermanagh Live arts festival, which concluded on October 7, 2012, upheld its established tradition of welcoming performers from elsewhere while highlighting the work of local artists, those who have links with the county and those who have settled in Fermanagh.
The opening concert at the Ardhowen theatre was given by two of the most influential figures in modern Irish music: Donal Lunny’s father was an Enniskillen man and Andy Irvine now resides in Fermanagh.
The pair go back a long way, to the seminal groups that were the Bothy Band, Planxty and Moving Hearts, bands who awakened traditional music from centuries of stasis with intricate harmonies, complex time signatures and new instruments, notably the bouzouki, mandolin and mandola.
The pair have since travelled the world collaborating with other musicians. Irvine has a particular passion for Eastern European music and Lunny, a frequent guest on the television series Transatlantic Sessions, has rubbed shoulders with top names in the world of folk, jazz and pop.
With family and friends in the audience, including actor and singer Adrian Dunbar, the two performed some of their favourite tunes from 'Reynard the Fox' to 'The Plains of Kildare', 'Indiana' and finally 'The Blacksmith'.
Guitar ace Pat McManus, who grew up in a famous musical family from Kinawley, was such a keen fan of the Bothy Band that he hitchhicked to Belfast to see them perform many years ago. Then in Mama’s Boys, McManus and his two brothers fused traditional music with rock. Nowadays he fronts a neat rock group called The Painkillers, and they drew a crowd to the newly refurbished Bush Bar venue.
In contrast, and perhaps because they were scheduled on a Friday rather than Saturday night, DJs Lisa and Alice Wallace played to a sparsely filled dancefloor. Apart from the funk dance master Dylan Quinn, who was spotted grooving and texting in time to the beat, the young town trendies were notable by their absence.
That, indeed, was a great shame, for these enterprising and talented sisters (pictured at bottom of page) – who grew up on a farm at Florencecourt – are mixing magic not only on the UK club scene but in Ibiza, where they have recently acquired a manager.
Fans of organ music, meanwhile, were treated to a programme of Bach, Mendlessohn and Vierne at St Macartin’s Cathedral by Ian Keatley, currently organist and director of music at Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin.
The distinguished Mr Keatley, who trained the Westminster Abbey choristers for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, learned his craft in the organ loft at St George’s church in Belfast. Under his command the cathedral organ responded with the full force and range of its capabilities.
Across the street at St Michaels church Gareth Knox, who learned his music at Portora but now works as a professional musician and teacher in London, gave an accomplished performance of piano works, including the well known 'Fantaisie Impromptu Opus 66' by Chopin. Knox played it flawlessly, its romantic reverie enhanced by the echoey acoustic in the church.
In 2004, classically trained violinist Vladimir Jablokov (pictured above) left his native Slovakia and began busking on Grafton Street in Dublin, though not for long. Today, with his sextet Classical Twist, Jablokov is wowing audiences with original arrangements of popular classics and hits by Van Morrison, the Beatles and Dave Brubeck.
This was the group’s first concert in Northern Ireland. Backed up by his violinist brother Anton, Vladimir displayed the technical brilliance, cheeky humour and fascinating rhythms for which he is becoming increasingly famous.
The evening continued with a late night cabaret performance by Yankee Panky, a saucy, satirical review by two American ladies who are now residents of Enniskillen. Jeanne Monroe and Melissa McKeague have such a strong local fan club that their performance was booked out. Punters were not disappointed when they served up their usual fare of Stephen Sondheim, Cy Coleman and David Shire numbers liberally sprinkled with spontaneous improvisation.
In all, the festival offered three art and three photographic exhibitions. At the Higher Bridges Gallery Intact Deserts Alfonso Lopez Monreal’s paintings in watercolour, local pigments and acrylics are inspired by the flora, fauna and desert landscapes around Zacatecas in Mexico.
A bus carrying artists from Belfast arrived for the official opening at the Cooper Wilkinson gallery of Humbly Through the Dust. Curated by Dr Helen Sharp, some of the works were chosen from the British Council collection including cameo pieces by Tracey Emin and Mark Wallinger.
Grayson Perry’s well known print 'Map of Nowhere' also featured, as did Maggi Hamblin’s exquisite watercolour 'Bird and Dog Fighting'. Alongside them hang art works and installations by contemporary Irish artists. Pedal the bicycle at the entrance to the exhibition and Emily Robyn Archer’s 3D zoetrope sends a bird fluttering into flight.
The photographic exhibition Winter in Fermanagh at the Devenish Gallery displays black and white landscapes by Michael Brown. Each one of these carefully photographed and presented shots perfectly captures the crisp chill calm of snow on water and land.
For the first time Fermanagh Films for All club collaborated with the town’s commercial cinema to screen the official Northern Ireland launch of Portrait of a Zombie, by director Bing Bailey (watch the trailer above). And in the Clinton Centre conference room the BBC screened three television films from their archives. A boy soprano nameed Neil Hannon sang 'Pie Jesu' in the Marble Arch Caves.
In the Seale Room at Portora, author Carlo Gebler, who now lives in Fermanagh, explained the background to the writing of his novel The Dead Eight. The writer teaches in Maghaberry prison, where a bank robber told him about the revolver they call the Dead Eight. The book is Gebler’s account of a real life story, that of an innocent man, Harry Gleeson, who was hanged for the murder of Moll McCarthy in Tipperary.
On the final evening of the festival, Franco’s restaurant was the venue for a café theatre production of A Picture of Dorian Gray, billed as a Gothic drama with Wildean wit, by Dublin based Wonderland Productions, while Blakes Pub had the last laugh with Ardal O’Hanlon.
Humbly Through the Dust at the Cooper Wilkinson Gallery continues until November 3, as does Intact Deserts by Alfonso Lopez Monreal at the Higher Bridges Gallery.