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New talent on song at Summer Sessions in the Courtyard Annexe at Wexford Arts Centre

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Dakota Venn Keane.

Dakota Venn Keane.

Emmeline Turley.

Emmeline Turley.

The Cherry Orchard.

The Cherry Orchard.

Sasha O' Brien Phillips.

Sasha O' Brien Phillips.

Katherine Atkinson, Director, Music Generation Wexford.

Katherine Atkinson, Director, Music Generation Wexford.

Elizabeth Whyte, executive director of Wexford Arts Centre.

Elizabeth Whyte, executive director of Wexford Arts Centre.

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Dakota Venn Keane.

wexfordpeople

It was standing-room-only for the first ever gig in the new Courtyard Annexe at the Wexford Arts Centre, the first of two Summer Sessions designed to showcase new local talent, presented with the support of Music Generation Wexford, Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board and Wexford County Council.

The honour of being the first new artist to play this intimate venue fell to Dakota Venn Keane, a 17-year-old singer/songwriter/guitarist from New Ross. Although stylistically his own man, being the son of noted local rockmeister Brendan Keane hasn’t done him any harm.

He has a strong confident singing style and his song writing shows a maturity beyond his age. ‘Dizzy from the Drama’ showed his keen pop instinct for a song that got message and melody across with minimum fuss. ‘Man on Fire’ is a worthy vehicle for his attractive vibrato and ‘Looking for Crossroads’ proved his natural voice requires no embellishments. Watch out for him.

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Emmeline Turley has represented Wexford at the Community Games and should have her first single out by the end of the year. Based on her Summer Sessions performance she deserves to have a higher profile locally, given her repertoire of stimulating songs and a delicious voice that can do sturdy and delicate as the mood requires.

Her opener had a dreamy waltzy feel to it that won the audience over immediately and her closing number teased them with a tinkling keyboard intro. In between she proved how she can apply her truly flexible voice with admirable care for the material at hand.

Sean Power from Ramsgrange, aka The Cherry Orchard, and whose second album should be along in a minute, is not only a terrific songwriter and singer, but he also knows his way around a piano.

‘My Only Wish Was To Be With You’ strikes me as a fully-formed love ballad with hit potential. ‘In Another Life’ has an appealing wistfulness about it that could attract airplay form those with ears while ‘Blackberry Picking’ had a jolly rompish feel to it and was driven by charming music triplets. Another one to watch.

The last, but certainly not least, of the new talents on the night was Sasha O’Brien Philips whose experience to date includes a key part in the musical A Higher Love and being trained by Sharon Clancy and Marketta Malcova.

While there was a tendency on the night for artists to opt for slower, more reflective songs, Sasha stirred the pot a little with her faster-paced original ‘Between The Lines’ which she wrote when she was 16. It has a winning melody that contrasts neatly with her staccato guitar notes. She also displayed her versatility with a personalised cover of ‘Like A Stone’ by Audioslave that captured the atmosphere of the original to wrap up an accomplished set.

Those four new talents were bookended by two of Wexford’s more established talents. First we heard compere/host Rachel Grace who kick-started proceedings with two of her own fine songs and her expressive keyboard work.

The night ended with a brace of songs from mentor and Frankenstein Bolts singer Justin Cullen. He has an attractive guitar style to supplement his confident vocals on ‘Bad Impressions’, and he followed it with a song that came complete with some leisurely finger-picking that nicely reflected the warmth and balminess of a terrific night of music.

The Courtyard works well as a comfortable music venue with easy access and clear sound. So, roll on Summer Sessions 2 on Friday July 29 when the bill will include Ella Dempsey, Aoibhe Reville, Ayda, Taylor Dench and Ash Kiely. I’d strongly advise you to get there early.


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