cj#288> Wexford Diary – Opera Festival 95


Richard Moore

Dear CJ,

This is an experiment.  To balance our philisophical/historical
discussions, here's something about the real world here in Wexford.  Let me
know if you find it interesting or not.


It happened so quickly I could hardly believe it.  And it wasn't because I
wasn't paying attention.  Since the Festival marks my one year anniversary
in town, I'd been watching the preparations carefully, and wanted to
carefully note the shift from Festival-preparation-time to
Festival-time-itself, to see the tourists begin to drift in, the pubs begin
to get crowded.

Last Thursday daytime was definitely still pre-Festival, I'm sure it was.
At the Arts Center they were still hammering away on the display cases for
the stained glass exhibit and installing the last of the new recycled
theater seats.  And they still hadn't had their dress rehearsal for
Elipsed, their Festival play.  On Main Street was only the usual crowd.

Even the official Festival Launch on Thursday night was a locals event.
It's the one time all year that fireworks are allowed, and every child in
the county was in attendance, with parents in tow.  Everyone listened
patiently as the Mayor and visiting dignataries made their speeches from
the Guinness grandstand-truck, while the kids twirled their glowing tubes,
or wore them as headbands.

By 4th of July standards, the display was minimal, but the level of
appreciation was world class.  No eye left the sky until the last missile
spiraled upwards, and the last multi-colored incindiary bouquet wilted
earthwards.  As the crowd began to disperse, someone said "Well, that's it
for another year", summing up perfectly the significance of fireworks on
the local calendar, right up there with Christmas or St. Patrick's Day.

Walking back along Main Street to the Thomas Moore, I found the street
alive with kids and teenagers skulking and scurrying in age-grouped bunches
-- their one time of the year to own the turf.  The parents had somehow
vanished, there were no baby strollers, and you'd think Wexford was a
youth-only town.  It had become a gayer place, a magic time, but it was
still very much a locals happening -- no sign yet of invading opera
clientele.  When would they arrive?

I stepped into the Thomas Moore, and in that instant, it was suddenly
_already_ Festival Time.  While I was watching the fireworks, and watching
the fireworks watchers, the interlopers had snuck into town, perhaps in a
massive airlift by silent invisible helicopters, each group dropped into
their own favorite pubs.  _My_ pub, usually sparsely populated at that
still-early hour, was bustling like you wouldn't normally see till half
nine or so, and the extra faces were unfamiliar.

It had happened all at once.  I hadn't blinked, so I didn't miss a
transition, there just wasn't any.

But these were no wide-eyed which-way-is-the-loo strangers to Wexford.
These were repeat customers on their annual pilgrimage, settling into
"their" pub, ordering their obviously missed well-drawn pints, and taking
ownership, in their turn, of town.  They had returned to their Brigadoon by
the Quay, and found it was still there, and that it was still party time.
By the time I walked home the youth-scene had vanished, and we've been in
high-Festival mode ever since.

Friday began the packed calendar of events.  Padrick, a local well-known
photographer, was launching a slightly frivolous exhibition, and that was
my first stop.  He's one of the T Moore regulars and his usual work is
black & whites of Ethiopia, Bosnia, and other stark, moving subjects.  This
time he was showing a series of scenes taken over the years of the same
Wexford street corner.  A beautiful idea, and a special treat to see, at
least for us locals.  He's not worrying about sales on this one, a labor of
love.  His co-exhibitor is also a local, but his subject was exclusively
Venice, California, taken two or three years ago.  Having lived in Venice
_many_ years ago, and having revisited it recently, I couldn't help feeling
the whole exhibit was more or less designed for my personal pleasure.  Even
without the choice of free red or white wine.

Next, after a brief check-in visit at the T Moore, was the opening of
Eclipsed across the roundabout at the Arts Center.  More wine of course.  I
joined the celebration, but didn't stay for opening night, partly because
I'd rather see it after they've practiced for real, and partly because The
Pike was having its Singing Pubs competitve entry, and that was a no-miss
event.   It was just a year ago that I couldn't get in to that same event,
having arrived at the last minute -- and being there this time felt like
the precise-one-year-clock-tick anniversary of my residency.  They did a
splendid job.  I felt a _little_ hurt they didn't invite me to be on the
team, but they really didn't need two harmonica players.  Besides, I'm on
the T Moore team, which will be more of an improv circus than a
performance, but we _will_ have fun when we're on next week.

Saturday found every normally unoccupied retail space suddenly turned into
an art gallery, sprouting like desert flowers after a storm.  The Arts
Center itself had four different openings.  This was not a day to try to
accomplish anything.  One wandered, watched the crowds, appreciated the
art, sipped the wine, and noticed that all of a sudden we were in the
middle of Fall weather, last week's late warm spell having thoroughly

Saturday night went to see Eclipsed.  It was very special indeed.  Most of
the all-woman cast hadn't performed in a full-length play before, although
the director and one of the actresses were full professionals.  You
couldn't tell in the peformance the difference in experience -- it was hard
to even focus on the mechanics of the production -- it was captivating,
moving theater.  The subject is the "Magdalen Laundries", which existed in
Ireland from the time of the Potato Famine, right up until the early 1970s.
Girls who got pregnant in no-contraception, no-abortion Ireland were sent
off to be "taken care of by the Sisters".  Their refuge/prisons were
laundries operated by the Nuns.  Their babies were taken away at birth
never to be seen by the mothers again, who spent their whole lives in the
laundries, to be finally buried in unmarked graves.  The script was
appropriately moving, the cast re-created the experience flawlessly, and
there were few audience eyes that stayed dry.

Ireland may be slow to change its conservative ways, but the momentum of
change now is awesome.  You read about the cease fire and peace
negotiations in the papers, but that's only the media-visible tip of the
melting iceberg.  The danger is not that change will slow down, but that
the uniqueness of Ireland could be swept away by "modernization".
Fortunately, that is not likely to happen.  Ireland is the periphery of the
periphery of the new Europe, and that will hopefully save her from the
insane rush to change for change's sake.



 Posted by      Richard K. Moore <•••@••.•••>
                Wexford, Ireland (USA citizen)
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