Wednesday 16 October 2019

Town's musical son has Mass appeal

The World Premiere of The Gathering Mass composed by Pierce Turner at Mass on Sunday morning with solsists Roisin Dempsey and Pierce Turner
The World Premiere of The Gathering Mass composed by Pierce Turner at Mass on Sunday morning with solsists Roisin Dempsey and Pierce Turner

Maria Pepper

Musician Pierce Turner is basking in the warmth of a big Wexford hug after a Gathering weekend devoted to his music.

Pierce who divides himself between his home town and New York, performed three gigs including a self-composed Mass in Bride Street Church on Sunday morning.

His 'Homecoming Hug' weekend was a resounding success with heart-warming receptions all round.

There was rapturous applause and a standing ovation from the congregation in Bride Street Church.

The reaction delighted an emotional Turner who wasn't sure what to expect.

'It was a much greater success than I expected it to be. What made it special is that it's not something I do normally,' he said.

Turner is not a particularly religious man but in composing the Mass which was filmed for RTE's Nationwide programme, he was returning to his roots.

'I've been influenced by church music since I was seven or eight. I sang in the choir in Bride Street at midnight Mass'.

'The Plain Chant and Gregorian Chant were the first truly deep music I heard and it influenced me for life.'

'And if you want to veer into something classical, the church is the perfect setting. the acoustics were just stunningly beautiful,' he said.

The Mass was celebrated by Fr. Aodhan Marken and performed by Turner with Bride Street Church Choir under choirmaster and organist Ger Lawlor, and solo soprano Roisin Dempsey. Turner said he couldn't have done it without Ger Lawlor who was a 'huge help.'

The musician shed a tear when the congregation stood up and clapped.

'I don't care what anyone believes but if you get 800 people in a beautiful church, all together for the same purpose, something is going to happen that's magical,' he said.

Turner's musical life and times -'From Wexford to Manhattan and Back Again' - were the subject of a forum in Wexford Arts Centre on Saturday afternoon, featuring the playwright Billy Roche; the author and columnist Liam Fay and the writer and Hot Press columnist Jackie Hayden.

It opened with an excerpt from a documentary about Turner by Colin Murnane in which the film director Jim Sheridan recalls seeing him playing a gig in New York in the 1980's.

Sheridan said he was feeling creatively frustrated at the time and seeing the Wexfordman's confidence in action in a Manhattan bar, inspired him to direct 'My Left Foot'.

The three day celebration opened on Friday night with a concert in Greenacres which saw Turner enjoying the 'special treat' of performing old and new material with a top quality string quartet.

The finale was a crowded 'parlour session' on Sunday night in the Sky and the Ground, the South Main Street pub named after a line from one of Turner's songs.

With applause still ringing in his ears, the musician is now in temporary recovery following an intensely busy but satisfying weekend.

Wexford People

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