Kilkenny Arts Festival 2014 set to attract 40,000 visitors

Liam Ó Maonlaí will perform on extraordinary glass instruments created in a recent collaboration with Irish glass artist Róisín de Buitléar at Kilkenny.

Liam Ó Maonlaí will perform on extraordinary glass instruments created in a recent collaboration with Irish glass artist Róisín de Buitléar at Kilkenny.

OVER 40,000 people are expected to attend the 41st Kilkenny Arts Festival, which kicked off on Friday last and runs through to this Sunday, August 17th.

This year’s Festival, the first under the directorship of Eugene Downes, is, in his view, “is all about artistic residencies, in-depth collaborations and surprise guests in a programme that moves beyond conventional art form boundaries”.

The programme leads with two highly ambitious special projects in contrasting musical fields, Beethoven Quest and The Marble City Sessions. Beethoven Quest is an epic journey through the great composer’s string quartets and piano concertos.

Beethoven’s complete string quartets will be performed throughout the Festival by the acclaimed Heath Quartet in a series of 10 lunchtime concerts, while the complete piano concertos will be performed by Barry Douglas (piano/director) and Camerata Ireland over two evenings in the glorious acoustics of St Canice’s Cathedral.

Other Beethoven Quest events include a talk by composer Gerry Murphy on The Man Behind The Music, and The Irish Songbook, marking the composer’s Irish connection in a concert of his settings of Irish folksongs in the stunning Long Gallery of Kilkenny Castle.

The Marble City Sessions, cocurated by Kilkenny Arts Festival with Martin Hayes, gathers some of the finest musicians in America and Ireland – with backgrounds in traditional, jazz, folk, contemporary, old-time, bluegrass and many other styles – for a week of unique, crossgenre collaborations building to an unforgettable Festival Finale where many of the resident artists will join forces in a gala night at St Canice’s.

At the heart of the Marble City Sessions is the extraordinary new Irish-music group, The Gloaming. In addition to their St Canice’s performance on August 13th, each member of the group combines with other leading musicians for a series of intimate concerts and pop-up gigs.

Also in residence for the Sessions are some of America’s finest musicians, including jazz guitar legend Bill Frisell, cult progressive folk singer/ instrumentalist Sam Amidon, crack New York clarinettist Doug Wieselman, Old Time fiddler Cleek Schrey, composer and hardanger player Dan Trueman and peerless percussive dancer Nic Gareiss.

Other major international artists in residence include former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre Company.

Described by The New York Times as ‘the most popular poet in America’, Billy Collins will take part in a series of events including public readings and a workshop for poets.

Following sold-out performances in 2012 and 2013, Shakespeare’s Globe, one of the world’s leading ensembles, will return with the only Irish performances of their brand-new production of Much Ado About Nothing in Castle Yard, often described as Ireland’s finest open-air theatre setting.

Shakespeare is also at the centre of this year’s major Festival commission, the world premiere of Lear Project, a reimagining of Shakespeare’s King Lear by Irish Modern Dance Theatre and in an exciting gender reversal, New York moderndance legend Valda Setterfield takes on the title role.

One of the leading Baroque conductors in Europe, Christian Curnyn brings his Early Opera Company (UK) to Ireland for the first time with a concert performance of Handel’s most enduringly popular opera, Acis and Galatea, with a top-flight international cast.

Other Irish firsts include the ancient polyphonic choral singing of the Basiani Ensemble (Georgia), and explosive performance poet Kate Tempest (UK) for the Irish premiere of her new album Everybody Down.

Also on their first Irish visit will be Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino (Italy) who blend Italian and North African sounds in an explosive Mediterranean mix of passion, energy and rhythm.

Stargaze, one of the coolest contemporary chamber orchestras in Europe, come from Berlin to perform a spectacular gala, which will see them present three contrasting projects that explore the possibilities for collaboration between pop and classical music.

They will join forces with The Dodos, an acclaimed indie band from San Francisco; perform the Irish premiere of a new song cycle Death Speaks by Pulitzer Prizewinning composer David Lang, featuring Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond); and a unique performance of Terry Riley’s In C, joined onstage by many of the Festival’s artists-in-residence for an epic feat of improvisation.

One of the greatest classical artists of the last 50 years, pianist Alfred Brendel will deliver a lecture sharing his thoughts on a wealth of musical topics.

Following the huge popularity of the giant inflatable sculpture Miracoco in last year’s festival, UK artists Architects of Air return to Kilkenny with a new and very different luminarium –Pentalum, a breathtaking and magical labyrinth for all ages to explore.

Critically acclaimed Benjamin Bagby will give audiences the oncein- a-lifetime opportunity to experience the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf as it might have been originally performed in those candlelit Saxon halls.

Liam Ó Maonlaí will perform on extraordinary glass instruments created in a recent collaboration with Irish glass artist Róisín de Buitléar, which is also showcased in the flagship craft exhibition in the National Craft Galley in Castle Yard.

Resonance brings together two artists whose innovative work explores the sonic qualities of glass. Róisín de Buitléar’s Irish Incantation/ Ortha is a series of glass sound objects made to create an Irish incantation, a harmony of voice, object and Irish soul. When played by different hands and breaths of phrasing and rhythm, they become an evolving conversation. Karen Donnellan’s work is concerned with the intangible essence of things.

Informed by her interest in the metaphysical, her work draws on a wide range of media including blown and cast glass, woodturning, sound, light and film. Working with composer Alma Kelliher, her work explores the boundaries of sound technology and experimental glass art.

Visitors will also be invited to try out their own music. New York-based painter Marilyn Lerner’s first exhibition in Ireland, Circle In The Square, will take place in the Butler Gallery.

An extraordinary artist who has been committed to abstract geometric painting for over forty years, Lerner’s oil paintings are painted on wooden panels with bevelled edges so that they almost fl oat off the wall.

They are highly skillful compositions that articulate her experiences through form, pattern and colour.

During the Festival, visitors will have a unique opportunity to view the interior of St Mary’s Church, one of the most important medieval buildings in Kilkenny, stripped back to reveal its original volume before the next phase of architectural development begins.

In a special intervention for Kilkenny Arts Festival entitled Outside In, Canadian artist Max Streicher will fill the interior with animated clouds suspended from the transept and the nave.

The near weightlessness of these forms enables them to rustle and shift, responding with surprising subtlety to the action of air within and without.

Audiences are encouraged to explore the stunning medieval and historic spaces both indoors including St Canice’s Cathedral, St John’s Priory, Castle Yard, the Parade Tower, Butler House, the Black Abbey, Rothe House and the Heritage Council, as well as more modern performance spaces including the Set Theatre, Watergate Theatre and Left Bank.

Within Kilkenny’s medieval centre lie some of Ireland’s finest historic urban gardens, and in a new initiative this year, the Festival presents Secret Garden Music where each afternoon, four of these stunning historic gardens will come alive with free pop-up 15-minute concerts.

The gardens are secret, and so are the artists. This year’s Hubert Butler Annual Lecture is titled ‘Theatre of War: Inside the UN Security Council’, as Richard Ryan, Irish Ambassador to the UN from 1998 to 2005 and President of the Council in the aftermath of 9/11, reveals some of the inner dynamics of this secretive and powerful institution during a tumultuous period. Other talks, lectures, readings and discussions include a one-off conversation between Lady Antonia Fraser and Roy Foster on Writing Lives on Tuesday, The Art Of Historical Biography; Thomas Pakenham on Historic Irish Demesnes; and a key lecture by Niall McCullough on architectural interventions in historic spaces in Kilkenny, Ireland and Europe.

The Festival will also present a wide range of family workshops, performances and events by creative leaders including Cartoon Saloon, the National Craft Gallery and Butler Gallery.

For further details, visit www.kilkennyarts.ie.

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