Hospital Voices (2018)
Waterford Healing Arts Trust celebrated its 25th anniversary with a specially commissioned work from Waterford poet Edward Denniston and composer Eric Sweeney. Developed in collaboration with patients and staff, the piece is a collection of four poems and a prelude set to music where audio clips of hospital voices and sounds connect and frame the narrative…….This an unusual and thought-provoking work….. This audience witnessed something truly unique and special today.
(Pat McEvoy, Waterford News and Star 5 February 2019)
Music Web International-Genuin Recordings
Eric Sweeney’s Duo for clarinet and piano (1991) is a delight. Apparently, the composer used to utilise serial techniques and extended tonality, before having an ‘Epiphany’ in the late 1980s. His style now appears to be a fusion between Irish folk music and minimalism. It is an exciting and enjoyable piece. (John France)
The Bright Seraphim ERIC SWEENEY CD REVIEW
Sweeney’s Soaring ‘Seraphim’.
(Eric Sweeney, the former Head of the Music School at WIT and recently retired Organist from Christ Church Cathedral has launched a CD that was played and recorded on the magnificent Christ Church organ in Cathedral Sq. Eric has been a busy composer for quite some time now and has a large body of work at the end of his quill. Three operas, two symphonies, five concertos and dozens of choral and instrumental works shows an active mind and a reliable muse. Eric was recently elected to Aosdána – the state-sponsored academy for creative artists, and his work has been performed nationally and internationally.
But I’m guessing he’s feeling right at home here now with his friends in the magical atmosphere of Christ Church. There’s a large attendance for the launch and Eric performs four of the pieces on the CD. Dr. Hazel Farrell – a former student of Eric’s – is a sort of musical poacher-gamekeeper now as she speaks on Eric’s work. It’s clear she admires Eric’s contribution to music as composer, scholar, academic and teacher.
Hazel’s talk is warm and informative as she ranges over the changes in Eric’s work over his artistic career. Dr Farrell mentions a feature of Eric’s work that is particularly attractive to the listener – the layers of repetitive patterns that sit on top of each other and work away under the surface of the melody. Hazel also mentions the importance of folklore and mythology in his compositions and I remembered asking Eric at a Q&A once why he was so drawn to myth, especially in his operas such as Ulysses and the highly successful ‘Invader’ that staged in Waterford and Wexford. ‘Myth sets out to explain why life is as it is’ observed Eric ‘because stories are universal and as old as the dawn of civilisation’.
Hazel also mentions an essential – if not always obvious – quality in writing music: beautiful melodic writing. And, as if, on cue, Eric’s ‘Bright Seraphim’ is bouncy, bright and rings around the cathedral. There are some dark chords and bubbling undertones, however, that reminds me of the conflict between the Seraphim and Fallen Angels who got the boot out of Heaven in pre-Creation times.
The Imagine Festival has been a good platform for the launch of the Sweeney CD that makes a significant contribution to the musical heritage of Waterford.
‘The Bright Seraphim’ is available from Christ Church Cathedral and at €10 makes a pretty good Christmas present for classical music fans.
(Pat McEvoy. Arts Correspondent, Waterford News and Star, at the Imagine Festival. 28/10/18)
The Green One- Opera – (2015)
What they said about The Green One……
Sweeney/Roper return with new opera-
“There’s a real Gothic feel to the piece…that evokes tensions, anxieties, conflict and love. Of course, it’s a love that speaks its tale in flowing lyrical sweeps that carry you along… The score is powerful and dramatic; making demands on its audience to move beyond melody and tunefulness to see the inner world Sweeney/Roper create. Vocally, the singers are asked to cope with acrobatic leaps in scales that must have proved difficult and Eric is blessed with a strong chorus in inky-black dramatic cloaks that moves easily around the John Roberts’ Cathedral to give a wonderful Gothic feel to the piece…There’s an irresistible attraction to The Green One that I found compelling and that lean-forward attentiveness of the audience on the night is just what every writer strives to achieve. The final standing ovation was certainly merited”.
Pat McEvoy – Waterford News and Star
“Billed as “an allegorical tale of how the seasons came to into being” it is based on a Sumerian legend of the love and jealousy of Ishtar (Goddess of fertility, love, sex and power) and her sister Allatu (Goddess of the underworld) for Tammuz (a mortal boy)…This opera should be a highlight of the Imagine Festival with its story of jealousy, passion, fragility and the capricious nature of humans who believe they are Gods.”
Liam Murphy – Munster Express
“An immense task, but utterly enjoyable the whole way along as well, such a beautiful piece to work with really did make it a joy! ”
Keith Currams – film maker
“Opera has been in the news recently with Irish singers kicking up something of a fuss on radio and newspapers about the paucity of opera in Dublin. Wexford was in full swing but it wasn’t the only opera hot spot in the south east. Composer / librettist team Eric Sweeney and Mark Roper presented their second operatic venture. The Green One. The Gothic plot was a Middle Eastern variation on the creation myth of Persephone and Demeter with the Green One , a mortal boy torn between two sibling goddesses. I liked the use of dimmed lighting to create a theatrical mood. A flavour of Roper’s elegant verse, well crafted verse here.”
The sun in my eye, rain on my skin
Smell of rose, jasmine, cinnamon.
Taste of an apple, wind in the pine.
Bread, music, leaves, honey, wine. ( Mark Roper)
(Cathy Desmond: The Examiner)
“This is exceptionally good – clear, compressed, lucid, powerful, accessible, lyrical – brilliant. I imagine it took a long time to write and yet the finished product (the surest signal of perfection) looks like it was effortless to write.”
“Given the nicely contrasting ominousness and lyricism of Eric Sweeney’s score and the distinctiveness of the singers’ voices, Christ Church Cathedral was a great choice of venue. It heightened the sense of the sacred in the libretto and score. The space was used imaginatively for direction of the cast: the central aisle for entry and exit procession and, at the close, the entrance space for the ghostly effect of the Tammuz character in the distance behind the audience, obliged to the seasonal cycle Ishtar and Allatu.
The cumulative effect of the performance was atmospheric and communicated poignantly the now important theme that for ‘us’ humans, it is best we recognise the necessity for some kind of beneficial compromise with the seasonal cycle (and all that ensues), and with the cycles of life and death that isn’t just our cycle of life and death.
What was notable about this ‘chamber’ opera was the sense of timing, drama and mood-shift that both composer and librettist managed in the making. There was a pleasing sense that the performance wanted to engage an audience as opposed to being a piece of ‘modern’ opera for itself. Also the ‘semi-staged’ element did emphasis the sense of dilemma of choice and interaction between characters, which made the performance more than a recital. One came away with a story, a definite theme, some haunting ingrained chorus refrains, and with a distinct sense of numinous atmospherics from the piano and electric percussion. And of course, in such a space, it was thrilling to hear – without amplification – the solo human voice engage with Eric Sweeney’s score and Mark Roper’s words.”
Evening: The Lighthouse at Hook Head (2016)
New Ross Piano Festival
The young and beautiful Olga Scheps, dressed in a sparkly green evening gown, presented a more evening programme for the Saturday noon Coffee Concert, but she wowed the audience with a Chopin set. Opening with Eric Sweeney’s Ros Tapestry premiere piece, Evening: The Lighthouse at Hook Head. This was beautiful with a gathering tone reminiscent of an incoming tide and a boat making for the shore, with a sense of urgency. The clang of a distant bell got gradually louder, insistent and intrusive and then the relief and tranquillity of safe harbour and a joyful arrival.
Liam Murphy Munster Express October 13th 2015
THE INVADER Opera (2013)
“youthfully alive and vivacious”
“The Invader… is good-looking and elegant”
“The musical style might best be described as eclectic minimalist. Echoes of Philip Glass abound, but the musical material is much more varied, the 10-player ensemble exploring areas of harshness and dissonance as well as harmonic clarity”.
Michael Dervan http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/opera-houses-survive-even-thrive-despite-boulez-s-pessimism-1.1811304?page=2
“The Invader is imaginatively presented”
“Sweeney who conducts draws one into his dramatic and sensitively melodic minimalist score from the opening bars of his arresting prelude….he shows his skill in tackling both aria and ensemble that follow a traditional operatic arrangement”
“The Invader…deserves a niche in the chamber opera repertory”
Pat O’Kelly, The Irish Independent.http://www.independent.ie/entertainment/books-arts/review-the-invader-at-theatre-royal-waterford-30306217.html
“a well-crafted, chamber opera in a gothic horror vein”
Cathy Desmond, The Irish Examiner.http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/artsfilmtv/artsvibe/reviews-270074.html#
“Ben Barnes direction brings out all the textured and layered meanings of Sweeney’s magnificent score and Ropers powerful libretto…This is theatre at its best…Eric Sweeney’s evocative score reflects the paradoxical gentle and terrible theme at the heart of the opera. It is lyrical and dramatic, dissonant and melodic…..Mark Ropers libretto is a poetic joy…As a piece of operatic drama, The Invader, manages the rare feat of bringing the human drama into the realm of the archetypal and the heroic, thanks to beautiful rousing melodic lines and a subtle and varied orchestration, both of which were given full justice under the baton of the composer, in the superior acoustics of the new Wexford Opera House. At less than two hours long, much credit goes to the creative team of composer-librettist Sweeney and Roper and director-choreographer Barnes and Seward and their cast of accomplished singers for such a exceptionally well produced and enjoyable spectacle”
Theresia Guschlbaur, ONLINE MERKER:
The dramatic action was propelled by the pulsating intensity of Sweeney’s music….The Invader bristled with energy, being in turn rivetingly grotesque, fascinatingly erotic and musically compelling.
Dick O’Riordan, Sunday Business Post.
The opera is a quality production that matches Sweeney’s atmospheric score. This is theatre at its best. It was edgy, riveting and hypnotic….Ben Barnes’ direction brings out all the textured and layered meanings of Sweeney’s magnificent score…lyrical and dramatic, dissonant and melodic and also richly atmospheric… The Invader was a real conqueror.
Pat McEvoy, Waterford News and Star
It was a great night to be in the theatre – the Theatre Royal, for the premiere of the Roper/Sweeney opera, The Invader. A piece of history, a triumph for two creative artists who are part of the rich (in spirit) and diverse orbit of Waterford arts. They came together as a result of a choral collaboration for The Tall Ships, and went on to write an opera in the city that nurtured and encouraged their collective vision. The standing ovation was a deserved triumph, an acknowledgement, sharing the best in creativity and celebrating a wonderful achievement. A night to remember…..Eric Sweeney and Mark Roper came up the river, and like Dion proclaimed ” Nothing keeps its shape for long, that’s my song, that’s my song, Worship me” They were worshipped and Waterford was worshipped in celebration, becoming part of ‘ I was there in a history book’
Liam Murphy, Munster Express.
WATERFORD/ Theatre Royal: THE INVADER – a new Irish opera by Eric Sweeney. English version
NEW IRISH OPERA: THE INVADER by Eric Sweeney (30. May 2014). English version
The Invader, a new opera by Irish composer Eric Sweeney, premiered at the Theatre Royal in Waterford, Ireland, on the 23rd May and takes its inspiration from Euripides’ play the Bacchae. Poet Mark Roper has adapted the original, by adding the central figure of Mia, King Pentheus’ daughter and has thus made the play surprisingly relevant at a number of different levels to a contemporary audience. The dichotomy between civilisation and the ‘wild’, society versus nature, male rationality versus female intuition was already a preoccupation in Ancient Greece, but Roper in his own sparse and subdued style manages to astound and surprise with a clever double mirror effect of wise grandmother Agathe/ candid granddaughter Mia, versus stern King Pentheus/ playful Dion, the god of pleasure and creativity.
ONLINE MERKER: The piano at time underscoring, is most effective when used for its percussive quality, not without a nod to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, and adds welcome rhythmic contrast: this works particularly well in the passages with the ‘wild women’ to accentuate the sheer raw power and threat of their primal energy. These wild women are the Bacchaes, a choir of 7 superb young singers, who have indeed found, under the expert direction of movement director Libby Seward, their ‘inner’ wild dancer and perform vocally and physically with a primal energy rarely seen on a operatic stage. Their movements is exuberant, and so contagious that they draw in young Mia, the daughter of King Pentheus, who has been overly protected by her father since the death of her mother in childbirth.
Unable to grieve, and hence to move on, he compensates for his loss by insulating his daughter from the wi(l)der world, exposing her to an unhealthy degree of intimacy which even Agatha, his mother is uneasy with. And indeed, that unease is passed to us audience, as we witness a display of fatherly affection which director Ben Barnes skilful suggests borders on the manipulative and indeed incestuous, Mia the obedient child playing puppet to the father’s puppeteer. In our days of tabloid headline a la Fritzl, any hint of inappropriate intimacy spells trouble ahead.
And indeed trouble there will be, as the young woman starts to hear ‘the call of the wild’ and is eventually wooed into the woods by Dion and his 7-strong cohort of wild women. Away from the enclosed walls of her father’s castle, Mia, sung with dramatic bravado and luminous warm tones by British soprano Natalie Jouhl, discovers freedom, adulthood and claims that in the woods, she can at last breathe.
In time, King Pentheus himself will be drawn into the woods, but not before a playful encounter with Dion, played with poise by young Israeli tenor Telman Gushevsky, in which the once oppressor is unmasked and turned into little more than a ‘crown on a stick’ through the skilful use of a foxtrot tune, during which Dion convinces the King to dress up as a woman. In this new garb, Joe Corbett, as King Pentheus, makes a convincing, at time pathetic but poignant father, holding on desperately to what he thinks he can control, only for his daughter to elude him as she must, if she is to become an independent adult. In a last attempt to retrieve her, he follows Dion into a bacchanal of debauchery, where unmasked by his own daughter, she will be pitiless and the instrument of his demise. Queen Agatha, sung by the excellent Alison Browner, sombre and dignified throughout, appears in the aftermath of the scene and brings young Mia out of her torpor, with a few last wise words: her son died at the hands of the wood and the wild, rather than by human hand… the forces of nature (or human frailty) are what did it…
As a piece of drama, The Invader is a taut, tender and at time terrifying piece of theatre, elegantly framed in a handsome set by Monica Frawley and subtle lighting by John Cominsky. As a piece of operatic drama, The Invader, manages the rare feat of bringing the human drama into the realm of the archetypal and the heroic, thanks to beautiful rousing melodic lines and a subtle and varied orchestration, both of which were given full justice under the baton of the composer, in the superior acoustics of the new Wexford Opera House. At less than two hours long, much credit goes to the creative team of composer-librettist Sweeney and Roper and director-choreographer Barnes and Seward and their cast of accomplished singers for such a exceptionally well produced and enjoyable spectacle.
ONLINE MERKER: THE INTERNATIONAL CULTURE PLATFORM FOR MUSIC THEATRE, CONCERTS, PERFORMANCES, LITERATURE, MEDIA, EXHIBITIONS IN AUSTRIA AND THE WORLD.
NEW OPERA REVIEW The Invader
It was a great night to be in the theatre – the Theatre Royal, for the premiere of the Roper/Sweeney opera, The Invader. A piece of history, a triumph for two creative artists who are part of the rich (in spirit) and diverse orbit of Waterford arts. They came together as a result of a choral collaboration for The Tall Ships, and went on to write an opera in the city that nurtured and encouraged their collective vision. The standing ovation was a deserved triumph, an acknowledgement, sharing the best in creativity and celebrating a wonderful achievement. A night to remember.
Using a Greek play by Euripides, The Bacchae (405BC), for inspiration, a starting point, Mark Roper, the librettist, adapted central, blood, death, revenge, carnality images, and provided a strong sinewy framework for Eric Sweeney to compose music that was often very melodic and lyrical, creating a chamber opera that romped up into a gory, crazed, revenge of Women against the controlling, but ineffectual King Rex (played by Joe Corbett), whose own carnality led him to leave the protection of his walled City (Urbs Intacta).
Set in a pale marbled house with four tall patio windows (Monica Frawley’s design). The style is contemporary, but the shift-like costumes of the Women suggested a different, more Bacchanalian time or of Victorian vampires. The Kings daughter, Mia (Natasha Jouhl) is drying her hair and watching bullfighting on a flatscreen tv. His mother the aristocratic, Agatha is fussing disapprovingly.
The seven Woman sing of ” a dream…a ship come up the river…like an arrow to the heart”. On the ship is The Invader, Dion (short for Dionysus). Here’s a thought what if Rex was Reg (short for Reginald), or would that be a symbol too far in a production where director, Ben Barnes and movement director, Libby Seward use (if not overuse) layers of bull images; a red scarf, long knives, carnal conflict, a bowl of a white creamy substance that the Women smear on themselves, and blood. There was also some very sensual fish images with a woman spreadeagled on a table.
Dion, like Darryl van Horne from The Witches of Wastwick, liberates the Women and leads them to the Woods for pleasure and carnal delights, and this in turn leads Mia to join the cult-like coven, who return to wreck the house/City in a scene reminiscent of Moran’s, The Manson Family – An Opera, when they ransacked Sharon Tates house.
At times in the first act, the music seemed light and of a different genre and needed a much larger orchestra to fulfil Sweeney’s sweeping, busy lyricism. But, by the second act as the gore, bestiality and revenge motifs emerged, and with the excellent vocal work of Alison Browner (Agatha) and Telman Guzhevsky’s (Dion), the music hits home. Roper’s words were taut and sinewy and the chorus of Women oozed sensuality, and craziness, into an orgy of frenzied bloodletting.
Rex is lured into the Woods, with the promise of seeing naked women, and the tragedy is revealed, as his daughter presides over his mutilation. The King and the City were destroyed (perhaps another deconstructed image of a difficult time of transition from City and County (Wood) into a Municipality.
This was a powerful opera where the “most gentle” became “the most terrible”. It could also be a metaphor for the creativity of the arts rising up again and again, renewing the human urge, the many human urges for spectacle and affirmation. Eric Sweeney and Mark Roper came up the river, and like Dion proclaimed ” Nothing keeps its shape for long, that’s my song, that’s my song, Worship me”
They were worshipped and Waterford was worshipped in celebration, becoming part of ‘ I was there in a history book’ MUNSTER EXPRESS. ARTS & THEATRE REVIEWS. LIAM MURPHY (3 JUNE 2014)
Ceol Rince Ros Mhic Threoin (New Ross Dance Music) (2009)
This concert and the festival had a surprise ending: a specially-written piece for three pianists on one piano by composer Eric Sweeney. Imagine Arvo Part meeting jigs and reels and you have the gist. It was a little gem, just like the festival itself (Dick O’Riordan – Sunday Business Post)
As a special goodbye, and what a parting gift, three pianists – Finghin Collins, Antti Siirala and Sunwook Kim, premiered a special commissioned Eric Sweeney Ceol Rince, a jig, but what a jig – this four minute piece had the excitement of a Riverdance. In the presence of the composer, it was a parting gift to treasure and look forward to hearing again. (Liam Murphy, Arts Correspondent, Munster Express)
Hymn to Gaia (2009)
Review of Taunton Choral Society – Saturday 18th April 2015 at St Mary Magdalene Church
‘Hymn to Gaia’ – Eric Sweeney:
Taunton Choral Society’s latest concert last Saturday presented two modern works; one well known to concert goers but the first piece performed was the UK premier of ‘Hymn To Gaia’ by the contemporary composer Eric Sweeney (who was in attendance for this auspicious occasion). Written within a tonal framework but exploiting haunting harmonic progressions and together with some engaging rhythmic writing, the work combines narration with solo and chorus writing, using both traditional Mass texts with spiritual writing from a range of sources. Thus the key to the successful performance of such a work is the careful balance of the forces and clarity of line; the performers under the expert direction of Stephen Bell achieved this magnificently. The careful attention to detail in articulation and dynamics, such as in the opening ‘Kyrie’, allowed the layers of text to complement each other rather than mask one other. Indeed the clarity of text across the dynamic range was impressive, especially in the more contemplative parts of the work where the text remained clear despite being performed pianissimo. The balance between the sections was very good, notably in the Sanctus where the cascading entries in the chorus overlap. Supported by superb soloists Alison Kettlewell and Gareth Dayus-Jones, this was a very well prepared and presented rendition of a engaging work; it was no wonder the composer looked delighted! (E O Jenkins, Taunton Express)
The premier of a substantial piece of new work – Hymn to Gaia – by Eric Sweeney was the highpoint and achievement of New Music Week. This significant body of work….underlined the calibre and contribution of Eric Sweeney as a composer of first rank. Structured like a Mass – a Mass to the world with Kyrie, Gloria, Interlude, Sanctus, Agnus Dei and Requiem, it uses a range of cultural symbols and religious to establish a new take on the fragile biosphere we call Earth. Eric Sweeney conducted and I was lost in admiration. (Munster Express, 26 March 2010)
Eric Sweeney’s Hymn to Gaia celebrates the wonders of the created universe and the divergence of human life ….. his piece is almost a wake-up call for us to look after the beauties of the created world. He uses texts from all the main religions, and from poets such as Gerard Manley Hopkins and Walt Whitman. (Arminta Wallace, Irish Times 11/3/10)
Music and the Environment Sweeney’s new eco-friendly composition is scored for choir, soloists and narrator. The work is conceived as a musical expression surrounding nature and how we care for it. The opening movement is almost like a plea for our failure in respecting and cherishing our planet, and the second movement is a celebration of life and vitality in nature. (www.galwayindependant.com)
The piece sets out to tackle the thorny subject of the relationship between humanity and the planet earth….The work is profound…All Eric Sweeney’s characteristics are there, the tempered minimalism, the melodic lines and sometimes modal harmony, the manageable dissonance, the broad sense of structure and key areas and, above all, the feeling that the music has been created to challenge, yet without the impracticalities that come from one who does not know his or her resources….I would urge those interested to follow the piece’s progress.There are certainly some wonderful moments.’ (Alastair Johnston-Organists’ Review)
Hymn to Gaia is a cantata of powerful imagery and significance, proclaiming that “nothing is ever really lost”…. a wonderful exploration of life, sustainability and redemption….It was a wonderful night of tribute and celebration at Christ Church Cathedral to, at one wish, acknowledge the occasion of Eric Sweeney’s retirement from teaching at WIT and, in a more creative sense, give glorious testament to his contribution to this city as a composer with an international reputation… The standing ovation was warm, sustained and heartfelt. (Munster Express 25/4/11)
Walk/Don’t Walk (2002)
Eric Sweeney is a most distinguished composer whose music is too little heard, at least outside Ireland, so that it is always nice to be able to hear some fairly recent work of his. This is the case of his trio Walk/Don’t Walk, “a piece in which the different melodic lines all follow certain shared parameters but respond in different ways” (Eric Sweeney). The piece opens with a “walking” ostinato with the flute providing some melodic material. The music briefly halts, muses and moves on again, the melodic material changing hands. The basic material is somewhat repetitive, but by no mean minimalist. This is a delightful work and a most welcome alternative to Debussy’s ubiquitous sonata. (Hubert Culot, Classical Music Reviews, Music Web International)
Triocca’s selection and treatment of works from Irish composers Philip Martin and Eric Sweeney is marked by the way they always pursue substance over style with regard to new music. (Lyric fm, Lyric releases)
……More continuous energy was manifest in Sweeney’s Walk/Don’t Walk, for flute and harp, in which the rhythmic impulse of an aerobic walk was so persuasive, not to say hypnotic, that the few abrupt halts, obeying the instruction “Don’t Walk” hardly disturbed the onward flow. (Douglas Sealy-Irish Times)
Dance Music (1989)
The visit of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to Ireland for three concerts this last week has been important enough as an event, but when the orchestra decided to commission a work by an Irish composer the significance of the visit became much greater. Eric Sweeney’s Dance Music proved to be a delightful piece. One can see the influence of the minimalist school of Adams or Reich in the rapidly repeated patterns of sound and something of Aaron Copland in the dramatic outburst in the score. However the music has its own true personality and communicates its joyful sequences with great assurance. (Sunday Tribune)
Dance Music is about 15 minutes long, easy on the ear and full of rhythmic invention. It will do well at the Proms. (Irish Press)
…a lithe and sinuous piece, of fascinating rhythmic variety developed by asymmetric stresses on a basic jig-time and with subtle orchestral colouring. (Irish Independent)
…an innovative experiment, a first venture into Oirish minimalism, giddily compacting ceaselessly overlapping fragments of an Irish jig into a busily moving yet static framework. (Irish Times)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari – Live film score by Eric Sweeney
Last Friday night, with blue uplighting the towering Gothic vaults and red light flooding the choir behind the screen on which Cesare the somnambulist lay dormant, St. Canice’s was ready for KAF’s first film screening and live score.
One of Ireland’s most significant composers and organist of Waterford’s Christ Church Cathedral, Eric Sweeney and seven piece post-rock ensemble, 3epkano collaborated to compose and partly improvise the score for The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, which is regarded as the first true horror film..
Both Sweeney and 3epkano are known for performing live silent film scores, and while their film choices overlap with the likes of Murnau’s Nosferatu, their styles differ greatly as Sweeney uses a more traditional approach with the church organ and 3epkano bring modern instrumentation and inventive percussion to the films. Sweeney’s skillful playing on the famous church organ and the full, deep sound of the ensemble had an often gigantic effect with the acoustics of the cathedral. Echoing some of the ideas from the original orchestral score (at least the version on the 1996 edition), the ensemble incorporated clattering bows and pizzicato, fluttering organ keys and a wide variety of techniques for various effects while the dynamics of the score ranged from warm and sentimental strings to thunderous drums and organ drones with some startling and tense moments. The organ and the ensemble sometimes felt separate like the organ was the classic background while the ensemble played quietly over it while at other times both elements merged and swelled.
Having been working through “Best Silent Era Films” lists this summer, I was familiar with some similar works of the time, leaving Dr. Caligari for last since I’d seen it on the bill for the festival. I’m delighted that it turned out that the best was left for last as the film itself stands out visually for its abstract set of painted card, its unusually decorative intertitles and method of storytelling. Everything down to the tinted lighting of the cathedral fitting the two tones throughout the film of warm and cold enhanced the show.
The score brought a modern gothic horror sound to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, updating the cinematic tension for today’s audience (a couple of jumping heads in the crowd) and I think really enhanced this iconic film. For me, this was one of the best KAF events I’ve been to yet and I’d love to see a collaboration like this again at future festivals. (Suzanne Williams)
Christ Church Cathedral brought their Organ Festival to a close with a really scary showing of the the classic silent movie Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari as their contribution to the Imagine Festival….Eric Sweeney on the organ with his own improvised score made my flesh creep with wonderful scary passages of music that were so apt to the visual content. Eric Sweeney provided over seventy minutes of atmospheric music and his work was the perfect accompaniment….Great night and loads of praise for a classy sensitive composer – Eric Sweeney! (Munster Express)
The Phantom of the Opera – Live film score by Eric Sweeney
THE DARK, perhaps eerie surroundings of St Mary’s Collegiate Church was the setting for the 1929 showing of the original silent, black and white film, Phantom of the Opera. With its remarkable acoustics and many imposing features, and the ancient archway in the Church which was the impressive site for the location of the screen, one could be forgiven for remembering the words of the Phantom when (hearing Carlotta singing for the first time) said “My God..this place really is haunted!”
The splendid and unique Phantom of the Opera event took place last Friday night 11th November 2011. The setting of the event was perfect – candles ordained the church and the massive 12ft screen took centre stage of the imposing archway of St Marys Collegiate Church.
When renowned Irish composer and organist, Eric Sweeney, took his place to perform a live organ improvisation to the film, he received a resounding welcome and applause from the large audience who came along to experience this rare event. And they were not disappointed. The film itself, the atmosphere, the surroundings and the inspiring music of Eric Sweeney, brought together an event which was not only unique, but moving and haunting. Not a muscle moved, not an eye strayed from the screen and not a note of the music was missed.
This exclusive event was an enchanting evening of memories, music and magic which will long be remembered by those lucky enough to be there. (BECKY GRICE, Editor, East Cork Journal)