Saturday, October 31, 2009

In praise of Joe

I think I might have made Joe Power's day, earlier in the week. We've been "down south" this past week, which explains the light blogging. Whenever we're in Dungarvan I always visit Ben O'Neill's shop - it's official Nereffid policy to support any shop that makes an effort to sell classical CDs. This time round I bought the 6-disc Hans Hotter set, part of EMI's Icons series. Joe's eyes lit up and he exclaimed "That's my favourite CD in the entire shop!" Last time I was there we'd been talking about Hotter and Winterreise, actually, but I'd forgotten that. Joe says he himself sings "Der Leiermann" sean-nós style, which strikes me as a very good idea. He also enthused about Hotter's performance of "Schlummert ein" from Bach's Ich habe genug. Seriously, if there'd been anyone else in the shop they'd probably have wanted to buy the thing too. Joe knows, of course, that the days of the CD shop are numbered. How numbered are they? Well, we were in Cork for the last couple of days and I think a reasonable case can be made for Ben O'Neill's being the best classical shop outside of Dublin.
Now, don't get me wrong - it's a small selection, and it's mostly vocal music, and it doesn't change much over the years, and a lot of it is somewhat overpriced (for instance, you might find a dusty Hyperion album at full price that was reissued at budget price several years ago). But the selection is put together by someone who genuinely cares about the music, which is a rare thing indeed. I have no idea who decides what, say, HMV in Cork or Swords sells. You get a mix of lots of Andrea Bocelli, Katherine Jenkins, and Il Divo, and then maybe a €60 Lohengrin or something obscure like Charles Avison. They don't seem to have a clue what they're trying to sell or who's going to buy it.
So, hats off to Joe, and if you're ever in Dungarvan, call in to Ben O'Neill's and ask him about the masterclass Thomas Quasthoff did with Hans Hotter.

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