Bach and Betjeman raise €2,675 for refugees

 Critique by Berni Dwan.

On the evening of April 26th there was a frisson of expectation at the Quaker Meeting House in Monkstown as the growing crowd warranted extra chairs being brought in. The punters were gathering for a fund-raising event, organised by impresario, Hilary Semple, to assist refugees coming to Ireland. The imminent prospect of poetry and music would be at worst, pleasant and familiar, or at best, compelling and highly entertaining. The poetry was delivered by Patrick Semple and the music was performed by two former members of the RTE Concert Orchestra, Elizabeth Petcu on flute, and Mircea Petcu on violin.

Conversation during the interval conveyed, without a doubt, that the evening was proving to be compelling and highly entertaining. An introductory talk about the plight of refugees by Nigel Bell reminded us all why we were sitting in Monkstown Meeting House on a Wednesday evening. Informative and amusing introductions to the music and poetry by Elizabeth and Mircea Petcu, and Patrick Semple, set the scene for a marvellous evening’s entertainment.

Some people mess about with boats on rivers; some people mess about with bits of old engines and spare parts; it is obvious to the discerning listener that Patrick Semple has been messing about with works of literature for many years. The poetry programme was an interesting mix of old favourites and a few modern surprises. It is no mean feat to deliver such a mix of poetry in a convincing manner, conveying humour or sadness to order when required. Patrick Semple achieved this like an old trouper. Excerpts from The Merchant of Venice and Verses on the Death of Dr Swift, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, Gray’s Elegy and Goldsmith’s Deserted Village were delivered with suitable pathos and not the slightest hint of maudlin sentimentality. Conversely, more contemporary and quirky offerings like Fleur Adcock’s The Video, Jenny Joseph’s Warning, Betjeman’s Sun and Fun and The Clothes Line by Paul Durcan, were performed in a mischievous style.

Patrick, Elizabeth and Mircea do a lot of collaborative thinking in preparation for these events. It is not easy to put together a programme of poetry and music that synchronises beautifully and charms an audience. Following The Merchant of Venice pieces with a descant recorder and violin drone version of Greensleeves made for an atmospheric opener, while lovers of the more Baroque style would have been delighted with Telemann’s Presto from Fantasy in G Minor charmingly performed on flute by Elizabeth Petcu, or ‘Badinerie’ from Suite in B minor by Bach, performed by both Elizabeth and Mircea on flute and violin. The lovely thing about watching Elizabeth and Mircea perform together is witnessing the pure emotional intelligence they inject into the music, and the infectious joy they gift to the audience.

I had a group of friends with me ranging in age from mid-twenties to early seventies. By the end of the evening they were all ‘smitten’. I can now confidently confirm that Mr Semple has an adoring fan club who will enthusiastically attend all fund-raisers at which he performs. Patrick also read one of his own fine poems, Albert. You can read it yourselves on


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