Friday 23 August 2019

My cultural life: Sonny Condell

Sonny Condell
Sonny Condell
Master and Commander
Energy to Waste

Sonny Condell was born in Newtownmountkennedy in 1949, and is married with two daughters, and one granddaughter. He formed the band Tir na nOg in 1970 with Leo O'Kelly, and Scullion with Philip King and Greg Boland in 1977. Recent releases include The Dark Dance with Tir na nOg and Long Wave with Scullion. Sonny Condell's new CD Seize the Day (in collaboration with the poet Patrick Kehoe) is out now and available at or at Freebird Records, Wicklow Street, Dublin. Sonny's next Dublin gig is with Robbie Overson at Annesley House Fairview on November 25.

Design: Dublin Waste to Energy Plant

Energy to Waste

The new silver giant at Poolbeg (above) has been quietly drawing me to its charms. It is a wondrous thing, with its plume of white vapour telling the wind direction and its shiny, shape-shifting lines. Sometimes, depending on the light, it almost disappears, and as you drive around the bay, its angles change, become impossible and then reform. It's like a ship that some would wish could sail away. But it's here to remain firmly anchored ashore, and I'm starting to enjoy it.

Music: Symphony of Sorrowful Songs

By Henryk Gorecki. This very beautiful music starts with a low rumbling of bass fiddles that builds slowly into repeating ponderous interweaving themes like a procession walking by. The music translates the dark place that is Auschwitz. One part of the symphony depicts the prayer for mercy of a young woman, written on her cell wall in 1944. There are no frills or verbosity in the solo soprano pieces, just the simplicity of grief. The creation of this moving piece feels like a stand against all cruelty.

Painting: Group of Cavalry in the Snow


These days I keep returning to the National Gallery to one little picture in the European section, Ernest Meissonier's Group of Cavalry in the Snow (above). It is a small picture depicting a wintry hillside where two cavalry men hold the horses, as their officers survey the frontier from the vantage point of a rock. You can see that the wind must be bitingly cold as it whips at their uniforms. One can feel and hear the crunch of frosted snow under the horses' hoofs and the whine of the leafless trees. It's wonderful to gaze into a history so vivid and tangible.

Film: Master and Commander

Master and Commander

It was interesting to see how the claustrophobic, crowded, below-deck world of naval warfare would take the cinematic treatment. Patrick O'Brian's wonderful adventures of Captain Aubrey and his medical officer and botanist friend, Stephen Maturin, are a favourite of mine. I seldom go to the pictures, but this clever trickery of direction took me away like the sailor lost overboard in the monstrous green waves. I loved the picture of the grumbling cook listening outside the cabin to the friends playing music to the backdrop of the Galapagos sundown outside their window. Real boy's stuff - must get out more!

Book: The Rings of Saturn

Author WG Sebald left us all too soon when he was killed in a car crash in England in 1970. In The Rings of Saturn, he takes a walking trip along the Suffolk coast, stopping off here and there and getting lost in the dunes. He travels with the memories and stories of people he has met in his past. Like all Sebald's novels, he writes of lonely people and forgotten places, often with a scattering of small black-and-white photographs.

Sunday Independent

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