A comedic take on the Classics

The billing in the 2009 Dublin Handel Festival programme states that performance duo The Classic Buskers have the ability to communicate the classics with virtuosity and laughter. This should have prepared me. However, there is no description of events which could have prepared me for this lunchtime’s musical madness in the Chester Beatty Library.

Handel with Care is the product of (among other things) flutist Michael Copley and accordionist (and occasional soprano!) Ian Moore. A quick google search located this video of a performance with the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra, which is a short taster of their musical “abilities”.

This afternoon’s performance was really a family occasion and it was a shame not to see more kids there. The ones which were there were swinging their legs with delight at the Laurel & Hardy-esque antics of the pair. Having said that, it was perfect light lunchtime entertainment without kids in tow and I’d have been swinging my own legs if they were only short enough! The laughter started with an announcement that they were going to perform Handel’s Water Music on original instruments. My mistake was assuming that by original instruments Copley was referring to those in use in the 1700’s. He instead produced a keyboard recorder and Moore proceeded to play accordion with one hand and a type of bugle for which I have no name with the other hand! More fool me…

Highlights included Borodin’s Polotsvian Dances with vocal percussion (you can just imagine the shower of spittle produced with Moore’s empathetic “ptshhhhhhh” in place of cymbals!); the vast range of ocarina’s used by Copley in Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto; the use of a “traditional Japanese folk instrument” which turned out to be an electronic Casio Digital Horn and Moore’s horrifying falsetto lament for all the terrible instruments in an orchestra, performed with a tiny crown on his head (cue accordion jokes).

There were a small number of sceptics in the audience who were hard pushed to make light of well known classics but even they cracked a smile for Sheep May Safely Graze – “a semi-staged performance” including grass and a inflatable sheep on a string.

There was something slightly melancholy about the performance that made me think of a clown who laughs his way through a circus performance and then has to muck out the elephants when the adoring audience goes home. But maybe that was put on to emphasise Moore’s plight as the suffering accordionist? Even so, it was a worthwhile afternoons entertainment, although a little too long for office-types scurrying out after 45 minutes.

I’m looking forward to Handel’s Acis & Galatea tonight, not only because of my expectations of a wonderful performance by Opera Theatre Company, but because it takes place in the Guinness Storehouse and I’m fascinated to see how that works as a venue. More later!

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