Kaleidoscope Night began over seven years ago under the guidance of cellist Kate Ellis and violinist Cliodhna Ryan as a monthly night of classical, contemporary and experimental compositions set in the atypically informal surroundings of the Odessa Club on the first Wednesday night of every month. In early 2014 the reigns were handed over to another pair of string players, violinist Karen Dervan and cellist Lioba Petrie (along with the recent addition of flautist and marketing manager Lina Andonovska) under whom Kaleidoscope Night continued to thrive as an outlet for Irish classical musicians and ensembles to chase down and explore their creative impulses.
In October of 2015, Kaleidoscope found a happy new home in the Bello Bar which has just seen the addition of a new piano, opening new possibilities for the team’s curatorial prospects. Wednesday 1st of February, however, will see them decamp to the larger capacity Sugar Club for their 100th ever Kaleidoscope Night, which promises to be a celebratory night for the team who show no signs of stopping just yet.
In terms of moving your audience from the city centre to Portobello, is there a lot of the same people, or a central community, that is going to all the shows?
We have hardcore audience members who book their tickets every month, and some of those have followed us from Odessa, but we now have a new base of audience members, new faces, who have been with us for the whole of this season. What we’re trying to do, and other salon series that are happening like Listen At Arthur’s or Ergodos’ Santa Rita Concerts, we’re all doing our best to take a slice of a very tiny pie when it comes to audience numbers. We’re getting 100 people into the shows since we started our new season in September. It’s hard work to get that many people in, but I think that the audience that we’re getting, they do support the other endeavors that are similar like Listen at Arthur’s or the smaller jazz gigs that like Improvised Music Company are putting on.
Of course that’s really been the aim of Kaleidoscope, it’s a springboard for both performers and audience members to diversify.For performers, they’re in maybe a full-time orchestral job; they need creative avenues available to them. People who have full-time jobs, they don’t have time to book a venue or find funding, so we’re there for those people who say, “I really want to do this“. They’re coming to us, and they’re delivering their abilities and their creative output, and they’re offering that diversity to our audience, and the audience are diversifying their cultural coigns and goings, their cultural tastes.
Is there a conscious balance between material from the classical canon and having new composers’ work? Or do you have ground rules for yourself, or do you have a theme for a programme? How does that work?
It’s balance really, that’s the integral part, because the audience comes wanting to get a taste of various different genres. The audience literally gets a journey of different musical tastes. Nothing will ever be in the same concert again; they’re all completely unique packages. It’s quite exciting for the audience because they don’t necessarily know what they’re coming to listen to. They might absolutely love the piece of music that they’ve heard and be sitting next to its composer, and then they might hear a classical piece that they’re not that fond of, but they know that the jazz section of the evening will blow their mind. It’s the real variety in that excitement of not really knowing what you’re going to get that’s really attractive. I suppose, in terms of our remit, people do see us as an important part of the contemporary music scene, an important platform for that. And we have worked very closely with Irish contemporary composers and contemporary performers. Someone like Kate Ellis, it was because of her involvement with the project from the beginning, she brought that pillar of contemporary performance with her and made it part of the evening. I guess, outside of that, we’re trying to give people something that they’re not going to see somewhere else. There’s lots of chamber music or small ensemble music happening around Dublin, but some of it’s much more from the canon, much more straightforward stuff. And our remit, as far as the Dublin musical map, is to cover the more unusual end of things, stuff that you’re not going to see anywhere else, maybe ever again.
And the fact that it’s back in a small room, you’re so close to the performers, that’s one thing that we really enjoy about it. You’re not in this formal environment. I mean, that’s still a good way to enjoy a concert, but this has an intimacy and social aspect to it that I really enjoy, and I think our performers love it as well, because it’s not all that often that they get to play in that sort of environment.
Would the musicians you use typically be playing in ensembles that play in the Concert Hall?
Pretty much yeah, the Concert Hall, and churches, in the country, are typically where you get classical music presented, so it’s all very formal. The big institutions of classical music in Dublin, the two RTÉ orchestras, the RTÉ String Quartet, they’re all battling with the same argument, how do we remove the intimidation factor from this music? And I don’t think you can remove the intimidation factor from the National Concert Hall, the feeling of sitting there 100 feet away from the stage, and they’re up there on another planet, there’s nothing you can do to beat that intimidation factor down. And again, it’s a lively way to experience classical music. A lot of the music, especially from the Classical or Romantic era that we would programme, is actually meant really for the [small] setting. It was really written for a big concert hall, so it’s kind of nice to return to that kind of experience.
Tell me what’s going to happen at the 100th show.
We have the Cassiopeia Wind Quartet who’ll be performing [Igor Stravinsky’s] The Rite of Spring, because it’s 1st February. I sort of took a nod from John Kelly, because he has a tradition of always playing The Rite of Spring on his show on the radio on the afternoon of 1st February, so when we were hatching plans we thought that would be so cool. And it’s this quintet’s rearrangement of it.
And Cassiopeia are going to be performing the premier of this new piece that has been written especially for them by David Stalling, He performed at the very first Kaleidoscope Night, so it’s a nice little arc, to have him write a piece for wind ensemble and electronics.
And then we have Dublin Guitar Quartet, which is fantastic. They’re performing excerpts from Rachel Grimes‘ album Leaves of Grass that was originally written for solo piano. They don’t perform in Dublin that much, they’re bigger in America. Then we have a baroque ensemble called Spackling Band, which comprises four musicians who’ve all performed at Kaleidoscope in so many guises and this is an ensemble that they’ve put together about two years ago. Then we have Cornucopia Brass Quintet who are from the RTE Concert Orchestra performing Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story Suite with a drum kit. That’ll be to finish the night and that’ll be fun.
Are there any other future plans that break out from the usual monthly concerts?
We’re involved in New Music Dublin, which we’re absolutely delighted to be a part of, which is a nod to the contemporary music role that we play. It’s a big festival that’s making a comeback presented in the Concert Hall. It’s an RTÉ and National Concert Hall run event that involves the RTÉ orchestras, the RTÉ Contempo String Quartet and Crash Ensemble. It’s a big scale festival, and they’re doing little festival club nights. That’s running the first weekend of March, a three-day festival, and we’re a part of that. Following that, we’re doing a special event for International Women’s Day, which falls on the Wednesday 8th March. Because of our New Music Dublin involvement, we’re moving our regular Bello Bar show to the second Wednesday of the month, because it falls on International Women’s Day, so we’re going to have a program me entirely comprising female composers.
It doesn’t seem like you’re going to run out of ideas any time soon.
That’s a testament to the musicians in the city. Talk about shoulders to the wheel! Even though Kaleidoscope has been around for so long, seven and a half years, you might think people would be sick of it, but the performers are still so into it. We have amazing support from the community of musicians. People are in contact with us all the time with their new projects, something that’s really burning in them that they want to do.
The 100th Kaleidoscope Night takes place at 8pm on Wednesday 1st February at the Sugar Club. Tickets cost €13.50/€15.50 from kaleidoscope100.eventbrite.ie For more, see the kaleidoscope night Facebook page.
Words: Ian Lamont
Photo: Ruth Medjber