Glasshouse Perform Ólafur Arnalds – “…And They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness” – Pepper Canister Church – 1-12-16 – Gig Review by Frank L.
“…and they have escaped the weight of darkness” composed by Ólafur Arnalds performed by Glasshouse
Arnalds is thirty years old, comes from Iceland and in his early musical career was a member of heavy metal and punk bands as a drummer. However his musical influences and skills are from diverse sources. In 2014 he created “the Chopin Project” which began as a musical dedication to his grandmother. He had great respect for her and even as a young metal-loving musician he would listen with her to works by Chopin. On her deathbed, Arnalds said “she was just lying there, old and sick, but very happy and proud. And I sat with her and we listened to a Chopin sonata. Then I kissed her goodbye and left. She passed away a few hours later.” However four years earlier he had already composed “…and they have escaped the weight of darkness” which was the principal piece performed on a chilly night on the 1st December 2016 in the Pepper Canister Church, Mount Street Crescent.
The simple interior of the church with its richly painted apse made a fine setting. It is an ecclesiatical space in which Glasshouse chose to marry Arnald’s sounds with the vastness of the church. Glasshouse is a newly formed ensemble from varying musical backgrounds. It consisted of piano (Kevin Corcoran), violins (Naoise Dack and Philip Dodd), viola (Owen Ronayne), cello (Rory White), bass (Sam Homfray) and electronics (Brian Fallon) who were fairly cramped for room in the transept. There was, in addition, a translucent screen (lit from behind) upon which various abstract shapes moved. The first series of images, in the darkened church, with just the violins and piano playing were reminiscent of fireflys on a warm summer’s night notwithstanding the winter’s chill so close by. The piece lasted approximately forty five minutes during which the importance of the piano was almost constant. Kevin Corcoran, the pianist, was at all times in command and ensured that the audience travelled on a musical journey of some considerable depth with him and the entire ensemble.
After the interval, a selection of musical extracts from six songs by Arnalds were performed. In between were recited poems which included “The Moth” by Jana Prikryl (Czech Canadian poet), extracts from Journey’s end and the Vastness of the Universe by Jónas Hallgrímsson (a much loved nineteenth century Icelandic poet) and the Elves’ Prayer as told to Ragnhildur Jónsdóttir (an Icelandic seer, artist and environmental activist) by Tamina at Hellisgerði Park. A microphone was used and perhaps in the acoustic of the church the spoken word without amplification might have been more atmospheric. That said the second part was also absorbing.
This concert had the imprimatur of the embassy of Iceland in London. All those who attended are in its debt and to the other individuals who made this ambitious and well-executed concert possible. In these unsettling political times, it is a joy to welcome uplifting work from another, somewhat distant, Atlantic island and also to take pride that it was performed in Ireland with such commitment and style. In the architectural gem that is the Pepper Canister Church, Arnalds, who would be a stranger to most, was made accessible in an impressive yet friendly way.