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SINFONIETTA REVIEW: Irish musicians, dancers charm Sinfonietta audience

July 20, 2017
By STEVE LESTER - Correspondent ( , Lake Placid News

Things started out calmly and pleasantly enough with Irish-themed pieces by Victor Herbert, Sir Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan), and Amy Beach, America's first prominent female composer. Then things changed dramatically with the introduction of Irish flutist Joanie Madden during the Lake Placid Sinfonietta's July 16 Sunday Symphony Series.

She strode out right on cue without making anybody run downstairs to fetch her as pianist Olga Kern had done the previous week. She then electrified the atmosphere with her large presence, large personality and hugely successful Irish super group, Cherish the Ladies, as she took over the concert at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts.

Admitting that a fitting nickname for her group might be "Rosie O'Donnell and the Irish Spice Girls," Madden said the group formed in 1985 "around a kitchen table playing traditional songs our fathers had passed down to us." Cherish the Ladies has since toured the world, recorded 16 albums, performed in an Emmy-winning PBS special, and been nominated for a Grammy that ultimately went to Yo Yo Ma.

Their portion of the concert featured mostly original pieces, many of which were slow ballads, combined with a few traditional numbers as the concert ran past 10 p.m. Despite the concert's length, the audience didn't stream for the doors right after the announced "final song," but seemed more than willing to stay put during two encores.

While most bands that feature dancers seem to have all the guys playing the instruments and all the gals doing the dancing, Cherish the Ladies does the complete opposite as Irish step dancers Garrett Coleman and Jason Oremus added extra excitement to the faster numbers with their precision choreography and individual athleticism.

Some Irish humor found its way into the evening as well with Madden introducing an original love ballad with a quote from her father who said, "Love is blind. But marriage? Now that's an eye opener!"

The biggest laugh may have gone to pianist Kathleen Boyle during the only time she spoke all evening while announcing a love ballad she had written. She explained that her parents were from Ireland, but she was born in Scotland. After much thought, she determined that being Irish-Scottish means "we like to drink, but we don't like to pay for it."

While the concert may not have suffered had one or two of the ballads been cut, they didn't seem to drag down the pace of the evening either. All of their pieces, including the fast ones, were skillfully written with changes in tempo and key signatures to keep them sounding fresh. They were expertly performed by memory with unquestioned musicianship, and the arrangements the orchestra played behind them gave the overall sound a certain rich, lush texture that kept the audience spellbound as music director Ron Spigelman's baton held everything together.

An orchestra member commented afterward that they had spent "half a rehearsal" working with Cherish the Ladies before going onstage with them.

A notable quality of Madden's flute playing involved the reverb setting on her microphone that gave her various woodwind instruments a celestial quality as if played in a cathedral. When asked about it later, she said she'd tried various products that ran into four figures, but in the end settled on "a hundred dollar Boss pedal" one can buy in almost any music store.

While there is much joy expressed in the music of Cherish the Ladies, there are also qualities of longing and sorrow that reflect the Irish immigrants' experience with leaving their homeland and being separated from loved ones as they forged new lives in this strange new land called America. And yet throughout it all there is an element of beauty that never leaves.

For the second week in a row a capacity crowd filled the LPCA, but on this night no matter who you were or where your family came from, everybody was Irish.



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