What an exquisite evening! I was lucky enough to be tipped off for tickets and got one despite the performance selling out in 24 hours.
The performance took place in the Irish World Academy at University Limerick. First time I had been to the theatre - not too small and not to big - the perfect size for audience and cast. Like the size of a Parisian theatre. The acoustics and sound were excellent too with as perfect lighting. Should be used more as a theatre for arts outside of UL system.
Serious piece of kit for performing arts.
The first performance on the gamelan was from the students of the academy. Very lovely and joined by a very talented lady acrobat who did amazing things with a hula hoop. High up in the air.
She told the conductor she wanted to fly over the gamelan and that is why I used the title I did for this blog.
Gamelan is the classical music of Indonesia stretching back almost a thousand years. The orchestra is made up of tuned gongs and other bronze percussion instruments, with a handful of softer instruments such as the bamboo flute, the two-stringed fiddle (rebab) and drums (kendhang).
Each gamelan orchestra is individually built and no two are tuned exactly alike.
This gives each gamelan its own distinct character or timbre. Each new gamelan is given a name of recognition on its birthday and premier performance.
The one in University of Limerick, which was made in Indonesia forged traditionally in brass, was fittingly named 'fragrant flower'.
Every Moment is Divine
The night opened with the students followed by various artists and my favourite was Kathleen Turner who is a singer, songwriter, community musician and vocal tutor at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, where she is Course Director for the Masters Degree in Community Music and teaches on a number of programmes including MA Songwriting and BA Performing Arts.
I thought the song was a work of art she sang, only to find out later she wrote it too. Apart from the song being lovely I thought the structure perfect, its poetry inspiring and rhythm intriguing when fixed with the gamelan. So true Turner - every moment is divine. Her voice had a lovely 'folkysy' timbre to it.
The dulcet tones of Iarla O' Lionard were in super form for the evening. He chose a poem in Irish from the time of old Irish and it was magnificent. This dovetailed into an article that I was reading earlier in the week about the tradition of 'ollamh' in Ireland before the colonialists took 40,000 Irish off to Jamaica as slaves and dispersed everyone else across the globe. The 'Ollamh' was a healing medical tradition of Ireland connected to medical schools even ones in Persia at the time.
No wonder we like reggae music and cannabis in Ireland.
Something we are still healing from with deportation, exportation, exile self exile being major ways families cope.
The song, as Sean Nos, just reverberated across the theatre in only a way Sean Nos can do and whose singers take as normal when it is, in fact, magical. One of the reasons the singing tradition goes well with the gamelan.
I was not a huge fan of the wedding piece but was of everything else. There was one soft musical piece that reminded me of some of Brian Eno's work.
At one point I could absolutely see this all being performed in Indonesia, Bali, and a number of European theatres. Or for some movie company to commission the orchestra to write a number of musical pieces to be the musical accompaniment for a movie highlighting the effects of climate change and its imminent dangers. With scenes from a changing Mother Earth on screen above the orchestra.
The evening created a lot of nostalgia in me for Bali where I spent time twice.
Their shamans are quite powerful and they have a lovely beautiful spiritual practice of Hinduism. However its special and colourful.
There is something more to it, something regal in comparison to the Hinduism practiced in India.
The World Belongs to Lovers
So with the haunting melody of the gamelan that you hear a lot of in Bali, the sudden urge to smoke a clove scented cigarette, different temples appearing in my mind, an old teacher who taught me Kama Sutra Kama Mudra amongst other things, I was being reminded that the world belongs to lovers.
These teachings transform the world kaleidoscopically to such a beautiful place.
This was further enhanced by a lovely couple - 'lockdown' newly weds - sitting to my right who started chatting to me. She an MA student of Mercier's who now works with gold. She gorgeous to his handsome. With the whole world in front of them. Much easier to live in love than out of. The four boundless qualities, love, compassion, joy and equanimity came flowing in. I was grateful that somehow the forces in the heavens sat them next to me. I suggested Irish gold and a trip to Bali for them.
For me they and the gamelan go hand in hand - beloveds. Meeting them that evening with the gamelan and all what was flowing through my mind remembering the teachings of the kama sutra kama mudra put a beautiful Balinese bow on the evening.
Finally, Professor Helen Phelan reminded everyone of what Shaw said when it came to soul's which was very fitting. 'To see your face you look in a mirror but to see your soul you look at a work of art'.
This reminded me of Maya Angelou's, ' The ample soul needs constant reminders and refreshments daily of its right to be and to be wherever it finds itself'.
You could tell on the evening that this Academy and academic department was also a community in the way the musicians spoke to and of each other. Very classy indeed and the luckier we are for this locus of creativity - locally, nationally and internationally.
When you hear of the next performance of the Irish Gamelan Orchestra make sure you go.
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