Castles, Cathedrals and Divine Music

So – Tuesday

The old city hall of Dublin which was originally the royal exchange is really a spectacular building with a beautiful rotunda and a small exhibit of the history of Dublin in the basement.  It was moderately interesting, but I could have skipped it, but it’s right in front of Dublin Castle so at least it wasn’t out of the way. 😉

Dublin Castle is an interesting place – There has been a castle on that site for over 1000 years – it started with a viking fortress, then the normans built the first castle in the 12th century if I remember right… then a bit later a fire started and to keep the fire from getting to the tower with all the city records or the one with the gunpowder (!) they created a firebreak by blowing up the wooden buildings inside the castle between the fire and the rest of the building.  It worked and the fire was controlled, but there was a lot of damage… so they did the natural (?!) and over the next couple of hundred years knocked down the rest of it and built new – all but one tower which remains from the original norman fortress. 

The tour here includes the state apartments which were originally the home of the viceroy – the man who ruled Ireland on behalf of the King.  When the last viceroy left in 1922 (when Ireland became independent) he took his furniture with him, so very little of the furniture is original – but some of the rooms are quite spectacular.  The largest and most spectacular room is St. Patrick’s Hall – which is the central space for state occasions including the inaugurations of Ireland’s presidents.  The thing that struck me about that is how small it is – not to say it’s a small room – but how small it is for inaugurating a head of state – I can’t imagine they can fit more then 200 people – probably not that many. 


2 Cathedrals a stones-throw apart

From the castle, I went to visit the cathedrals – yes, plural.  Dublin has 2 cathedrals which are a 5 minute walk apart.  Originally one was built inside the walls of the city and one outside.  Of course the walls of the city are long gone, but the cathedrals are very much still here.  Interestingly enough, though they were both built as Catholic cathedrals, they were both converted to anglican when the Church of England was created.  Even though Ireland is largely Catholic, they remain anglican today even though there is no Catholic cathedral in Ireland.

First I went to Christchurch Cathedral and then to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  St. Patrick’s is built next to a park which contains the site where St. Patrick is said to have baptized many people into christianity at an ancient well.

I arrived at Christchurch with good timing, just as one of the days 2 guided tours was about to start.  The tour was interesting, but the best part was that it included a visit to the bell tower, to the room where the bells are rung, and they even let us ring 3 of them.

Timing was good at St. Patricks as well, since I was there near the end of the day, and was able to stay for the choral evensong service sung by their boys choir.  It was beautiful and amazing.  The sound of the boys choir with the organ in that acoustic was really sublime.

From there, I had a long but pleasant walk to Cornerstones Pub which is considered the best place to go for traditional Irish music in Dublin – this is one of the places where the real sessions till happen, where various musicians come in sit down and just start to play together.  Someone starts a tune and everyone who knows it joins in.  

It was completely different from the formality of the evensong, of course, but equally wonderful.

When I thought I was tired enough I might fall off my barstool, I caught a cab back to the hotel.


Andy the TV Star 😉

The next morning I was back out at RTÉ, this time in the Television Center building to be on Morning Edition – the morning news magazine program.  They have a beautiful and very sophisticated studio – the cameras are fully robotic. In fact, other then the on air talent, the only person in the actual studio was the teleprompter operator (at least I think that’s what he was doing).  A far cry from other TV studios that I’ve been in where there’d by 3 or 4 camera operators, a couple of assistants and a floor director, at least.  Of course I’m sure there’s sill a control room full of people running it, but I didn’t see it.

I sat in a waiting room outside the studio, and once the piece before me was done they brought me in, clipped a mic on my jacket and we were ready to go.  When the show came back from commercial the went to news (the newscaster was 10 feet to my left) and then to business (10 feet to the left of the newscaster) and then back to the host (called the “presenter” here) who interviewed me about the show.  While we were waiting during a commercial, he asked me if John Williams stole a lot of ideas from Holst, since so much of “The Planets” reminded him of John Williams film scores.  I realized that would be an interesting thing to talk about in the interview, so I suggested that we do that, which we did.

I was concerned about how much I would end up repeating myself from Monday’s radio interview, but it ended up not being a problem at all.

If you want to watch it, let the ads play, then cue forward to about 1 hour 22 minutes.


Then last night was the first rehearsal with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and guest conductor Michael Seal.  It is truly a pleasure to work with this ensemble of very skilled and talented artists.  I’ve been very excited about doing this concert from the beginning, but even more so after the rehearsal.

This afternoon we rehearse at the concert hall, and then we perform at 8!

And tomorrow night I’ll be home.  Wow.

Dublin day 2 and being on The Mooney Show

Another very full day!

In the morning I got to meet someone I’ve know in an online community for a long time, but seeing as she lives here in Dublin, we had never met in person.   We went to Kilmainham Gaol (jail) which is a very old prison that was the site of a series of executions which really were a key turning point in what would eventually cause the Irish people to fight for and win their independence from the British.  It’s a very well run museum now.  You go on a tour with a guide, who talks about the history of the jail, but with a particular focus on the events which lead to Irish independence.  It was a surprisingly powerful experience.  I’m not sure to say that I enjoyed it is the right word, but I’m very glad I went.

It gave me a real sense of Irish history that I didn’t have at all.  And I was particularly glad to go with an Irish friend, both because it’s the kind of experience that’s nice to have someone to discuss it with and because of her perspective as a decedent of the people who were involved.

The Mooney Show

After the experience of the morning, I headed out to RTÉ Radio Center to be interview by Derek Mooney for his daily radio program.  

A bit of background here – RTÉ is the Irish national broadcasting company – they do both TV and Radio.  The orchestra I’m doing “The Planets” with is also a part of the organization.

I’ve spent enough time as an interviewer and also recording engineer to be very comfortable in those roles (at least when I’m doing something I know I can edit…) but I’m NOT normally in the interview subjects seat – it’s quite a different experience.  It did go very well, though.  Derek and I really enjoyed talking together, and that made it easy.  I was shocked when we finished and he thanked me saying we’d done a full 1/2 hour.  (I was expecting 5-10 minutes.)

You can hear the results by clicking on these words!

Celtic Nights

At night I went to see a dinner show called Celtic Nights which had been recommend.  It takes place in the restaurant of The Arlington Hotel which is right on the River Liffey which runs through the center of Dublin.  They actually have 2 shows, at 2 hotels that are not far apart.  One is described as “traditional” and the other as “contemporary”.  I’m not exactly sure what the difference is, but I knew I was interested in seeing traditional Irish music and dance so that’s the one I went for.

As I was finishing dinner, a couple of the musicians started to arrive and set up.  For those who know the music world, it is sort of set up like a typical bar gig, but with a larger (though not huge) stage. The musicians do their own sound and lighting (which is to say they get it set the way the want it and then don’t touch it for the rest of the night.  So it ended up being somewhat simpler and with less production then I expected.

However, it was far from disappointing.  The band is a 5 piece called Púca with bodhran (traditional Irish drum), banjo, accordion and guitar plus a lead vocalist and 2 of the instrumentalists also sing.  And let me tell you, these guys can PLAY and they put on a GREAT show.  Add to that 4 extremely talented dancers in the 2nd half, and it really made quite an evening.  A solid 2 hours with no intermission.  Very engaging, very well performed and thoroughly enjoyable.

It may not surprise you to hear that on returning to my hotel, I tipped over into bed 😉