It’s doubtful that any other person, apart from the artistic director, has contributed to Notes From Xanadu in as many different ways as James Keaney. He has been both front of house and backstage for all of our live performances in the theatre, as well as playing the piano in our launch concert and taking the part of Colm in Riders to the Sea last December; he did work experience on all aspects of the arts centre during TY (transition year in secondary school, for readers outside Ireland); and has shared his work as a prolific composer/musician with us on many occasions. And it’s in this last guise that we are featuring him today: James has released a new single especially for Hallowe’en, and we think it’s delightfully spooky. This is Kick or Treat!
Notes from Xanadu is delighted to be featuring another track from the prolific James Keaney as part of our birthday celebrations. As you probably know, James has been heavily involved with Xanadu Online Theatre, taking part in the launch concert, playing the role of Colm in our production of “Riders to the Sea” in December 2020, as well as taking on several roles front of house and behind the scenes in both the theatre and the arts centre. Today’s track is called Cat Coup, and is taken from his new album, Wait. If you would like to hear more from James (why wouldn’t you?) you can follow him on Youtube and Soundcloud (and on Notes From Xanadu, of course). Wait, and James’ previous album can be purchased at Bandcamp.
As well as appearing in our launch concert, James Keaney took the role of Colm in Xanadu Online Theatre’s production of “Riders to the Sea” in December 2020, as well as taking on several roles front of house and behind the scenes in both the theatre and the arts centre. Today we are showcasing him on the arts centre for the second time with his new piece Preserve. Do all James’ track titles start with P? Follow him on Youtube and Soundcloud (and on Notes From Xanadu, of course) to find out!
Please note: this video contains flashing images.
Those of you who were at the launch concert for Xanadu Online Theatre will know James Keaney as a talented pianist, who was the first winner of the Junior Musician of the Year competition at the Galway Music School in 2016. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg – James is also a skilled bass player, guitarist and composer. Today he makes his debut on the arts centre with his new piece Plank. You can follow James on Youtube and Soundcloud.
Please note: this video contains flashing images.
On Friday, I payed a visit to two highly contrasting properties in Hampstead, where the National Trust were celebrating the opening of two new exhibitions.
First on the itinerary was Fenton House, which is hosting Hampstead’s Village People: Portraits of Cultural Icons, in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery. The photographs are tastefully housed in two rooms on the ground floor, and cover a range of artistically influential people from the area over the last 100-plus years. I was particularly taken by the pictures of Daphne du Maurier and Cecil Beaton, as well as Peter Barkworth, whose writing had previously made a great impression on me.
Then it was on to explore the house. I was intrigued to learn that 55 of the paintings on permanent display were bequeathed by Peter Barkworth, and there are some wonderful paintings in Fenton House. There are also rather a lot of harpsichords – on average two per room on the first floor. Glass cabinets full of china and what I would describe as knick-knacks in each room complete the eclectic collection.
Before leaving, my companion and I took a stroll about the gardens, which are well worth a visit. Beautifully laid out, on several levels, they seemed to induce a sense of peace and serenity in me, especially seeing the spring flowers just starting to appear.
Secondly, we visited 2 Willow Road, the home of architect Erno Goldfinger, for Ryan Gander’s The Artists have the Keys. Gander has been interested in Goldfinger’s work since 2005, and he has approached the current exhibition in an extremely immersive fashion, almost as if he was asking what else might Goldfinger have added to the house himself. Gander’s art is place amongst other objects in the property, and guest are given a list of which pieces are in which room, but with no other indication as to location. I enjoyed this mini-challenge, which was similar to a live hidden-object game, at the same time as appreciating the house in it’s totality and all the other art contained within. Gander’s work is very much in sympathy with the style of the place, which also hosts work by Bridget Reilly and Max Ernst, to name but two. I particularly enjoyed Things just happen to me, a chess set inspired by components from a Bedford truck circa 1975.
I found the house itself fascinating, from the bed that folded up into a cupboard, to the sliding doors between rooms, to the photographs stuck inside the bathroom cabinet. A couple of very helpful volunteers were kind enough to share their vast wealth of knowledge about Goldfinger, his wife, and the house with us, and I went away feeling stimulated and informed. I couldn’t stop myself saying “No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die,” at least once though!
Both Fenton House and 2 Willow road are open from 11am-5pm, Wednesdays to Sundays (last admission 4.30pm), but entry to 2 Willow road prior to 3pm is by tour only. For more information and admission prices, please visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk or telephone 020 7435 3471 (Fenton House) or 020 7435 6166 (2 Willow Road).
Photographs courtesy of Sam Roberts.