In Review > Concerts and Recitals

Here All Night

NEW YORK CITY
White Light Festival | Lincoln Center
11/5/15

AMONG THE HIGH POINTS of the 2015 White Light Festival was the presentation by the theatrical group Gare St. Lazare Ireland of the American premiere of Here All Night, a work based upon the words and music of Samuel Beckett, in the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theatre in the West Side YMCA (seen Nov. 5). Most people primarily know Samuel Beckett as the playwright of Waiting for Godot. Beckett was a prolific writer, working in both poetry and the novel as well as being a playwright. He was also a formidable pianist and a great lover of music, incorporating references, lyrics and even melodies into his literary works. In 2010, director Judy Hegarty Lovett and her husband, artistic director Conor Lovett, composer Paul Clark and musician Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh compiled and organized music from Beckett’s various works and used them as the springboard for this theatrical work. In addition, the play utilizes a combination of music specifically composed for it by Clark and traditional improvisations by Ó Raghallaigh to create a very entertaining and thought-provoking whole.

Here All Night featured the strong yet sweet-toned singing of soprano Melanie Pappenheim, accompanied by a chorus of six female voices. The instrumental ensemble consisted of Ó Raghallaigh on Hardanger d’amore (a cross between the Norwegian fiddle named the hardanger and a viola d’amore), Christopher Allen on cello and John-Paul Gandy on piano. Interspersed were dramatic readings, primarily from Beckett’s novel Watt, by Conor Lovett. The entirety of the work centers upon the line “We shall be here all night,” also originally from Watt. Clark’s music is an interesting compound of styles, at times sounding almost medieval, at other times reminiscent of the music of György Kurtag or even shades of minimalist music. Although favoring sparse textures, Clark’s music was technically demanding, and received a superb performance from the musicians. Both Pappenheim and Lovett commanded attention on the stage in roles that emphasized the passivity of their characters. Ó Raghallaigh’s often improvised music provided exquisite reference to Ireland, without pandering or sliding into sentimentality. Indeed it was a rare example of music from different traditions being successfully transmuted into something new and imaginative. Hegarty Lovett’s direction was intimate and sensitive, and the Marjorie S. Deane Little Theatre provided the perfect venue for this production. One left the theatre intellectually stimulated and aware of having experienced a powerful and enjoyable—albeit non-linear—masterwork. Had circumstances allowed, I would gladly have returned for the other two performances.  —Arlo McKinnon 

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