18 Oct 2017
Tuneful TravelTuneful Travel

No small thing for music lovers: Tine Thing Helseth & Gunnar Flagstad’s Dublin concert

I recently spent two weeks in Ireland and one of the trip’s highlights was the unexpected opportunity to hear a truly phenomenal trumpet player, Norway’s Tine Thing Helseth, and her accompanist Gunnar Flagstad, on the initial concert of their first tour of Ireland. This October 10, 2017 concert was held in the beautiful stone sanctuary of St. Ann’s Church in Dublin, built in 1720.

I learned about this concert only by happenstance: as I entered my hotel in Dublin the evening before I caught a brief glance of ads on a TV screen announcing upcoming concerts in town. I was quite familiar with Tine, having watched many of her youtube videos. I had even looked into traveling to hear her on some of the occasions she performed in the Midwest. So I immediately jumped online to book a ticket to hear her perform on Tuesday, October 10 (and for a mere 20 Euros, or about $22).

The concert marked the first of the duo’s 8-city Irish tour sponsored by Music Network, Ireland’s national music development agency whose slogan is “Making Live Music Happen.” The Music Network also recorded the concert, so I hope to be able to watch it online sometime in the future.
The venue: St. Ann’s Church, 18 Dawson St., Dublin

Front facade, St. Ann’s Church, Dublin (photo: Google Images)

This lovely stone Church of Ireland church is located close to the Grafton Street shopping district. The exterior is described as neo-Romanesque and was updated in the 1860s. The interior contains much carved wood and many stained glass windows which must be brilliant during the daytime. Famous parishioners include Bram Stoker, author of the novel “Dracula”, who was married here in 1878. I particularly liked the gold and green ivy design behind the altar which is visible in some of my photos of the two musicians.

I was able to sit in the second row, the first row being reserved for video recording equipment and some friends of the musicians.  My seat put me only 10 feet or so from the musicians, and I sat mesmerized during the entire concert enjoying the intimate musical experience.

The sanctuary of St. Ann’s Church in Dublin, Ireland

The concert

I was intrigued to note that Tine was barefoot when she and Gunnar entered the “stage” at the front of the church. This seemed a very pragmatic choice as she stood for the entire two hour performance, although I wondered if the stone floor felt cold to her bare feet.

Tine Thing Helseth adjusting her trumpet between pieces

The program covered a wide swath of classical music and included the world premiere of a piece by Irish composer Deirdre Gribbin. Tine introduced the pieces and gave just enough of a context to add to the listener’s enjoyment.

Tine Thing Helseth’s introduction to the next piece on the program

First up was a lyrically haunting piece with a flowing piano introduction: Velkomne med aera (Welcome with Honour) from Suite No. 1 “Hundrad folketonar fra Harbdanger” (A Hundred Hardanger Tunes), Op. 151 by Geirr Tveitt. (Note: I’ve included videos from youtube because I couldn’t make my own recordings since the concert was being taped for television).

This was followed by Perpetuum Mobile (Homage to Johann Strauss) by Edvard Hagerup Bull.

These were followed by an adaptation for trumpet of Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich’s Four Romances on Poems by Pushkin, Op. 46.  

In her introduction to Cafe 1930 (from Histoire du Tango, 1986), Tine said that composer Astor Piazzolla was one of her favorite composers.

The technically challenging Sonata for Trumpet and Piano (1939) by German composer Paul Hindemith, rounded out the first half of the concert. Here is movement one of three: Mit Kraft.

After intermission the duo performed the world premiere of the piece commissioned by Music Network from Irish composer Deirdre Gribbon, ‘Through every wind that blows.’

This was followed by two multipart pieces: six Romanian Folk Dances Sz. 56, BB 68 by Bela Bartok and all eight movements of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s Haugtussa (The Mountain Maid) Op. 67 (arr. for trumpet and piano). Here is a video of #5: Elsk:

The last selection on the printed program included three songs by Kurt Weill: Nanna’s Lied (Nanna’s Song), Youkali, and Je ne t’aime pas (I don’t love you). Here’s a recording of the last song:

Bravo, Encore!

The duo received a standing ovation and delighted the audience by playing Libertango by Astor Piazzolla as an encore. To to my surprise Music Network has already posted excerpts of this piece filmed at this very concert on youtube.

This was a fascinating night of music in a historic venue. I really admire Tine’s skill: she makes playing the trumpet look effortless, which I know firsthand is far from the truth. Gunnar’s excellent and polished accompaniment blended seamlessly with the trumpet melodies. Bravo to the Music Network for bringing these performances to cities in Ireland.

For more information about Tine Thing Helseth, visit her website.

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