Kilkenny Arts Festival 2014 – Preview
In the glorious sunshine of the contemporary 18th century garden of no.63 Merrion Square, Eugene Downes, the new festival director launched the programme for this year’s festival with elegant aplomb. It was a masterclass in a how such a speech should be delivered and augurs well for the success of the festival. He mentioned many of the highlights and the ones which struck a cord with me were the performance of the entire of Beethoven’s string quartets by the Heath Quartet and his five piano concertos by Barry Douglas and the Camerata Ireland, a new interpretation of King Lear in dance directed by John Scott with Valda Setterfield one of the legends of New York dance taking the tltle role, a performance by Kate Tempest of her new album Everybody Down with a full band and Shakespeare’s Globe UK’s production of Much Ado about Nothing.
There is an embarrassment of riches contained within the programme. An unusual touch will be the use of the city’s gardens twice a day for free pop up 15 minute concerts.
2014 Kilkenny Arts Festival full programme line up
Artistic residencies, unexpected collaborations, surprise guests and secret garden music create a world of artistic magic in Ireland’s medieval city this August.
Festival dates: 8-17 August 2014
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 ten days of the Festival by the acclaimed Heath Quartet in a series of ten 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, co-curated by Kilkenny Arts Festival with Martin Hayes, gathers some of the finest musicians in America and Ireland – with backgrounds in traditional, jazz, folk, contemporary, oldtime, bluegrass and many other styles – for a week of unique, cross-genre 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 13 August, 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, 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 Shakepeare’s King Lear by Irish Modern Dance Theatre. In an exciting gender reversal, New York modern-dance legend Valda Setterfield takes on the title role.
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 Prize-winning 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 fifty 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 once-in-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.
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 float off the wall. They are highly skilful compositions that articulate her experiences through form, pattern and colour.
This year’s Hubert Butler Annual Lecture will be 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: 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. Also appearing are Irish novelists Hugo Hamilton, Liz Nugent & Donal Ryan and poets Eilean Ni Chuilleanain, Conor O’Callaghan & Peter Sirr.
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. The Ark and Improvised Music Company will also present the premiere of a new interactive performance and visual adventure with guitarist and technology whizz Shane Latimer, acclaimed vocalist and improviser Lauren Kinsella and cartoonist Patrick Sanders. The musicians will create funky jazzy melodies on the spot, while Patrick draws cool cartoons of the music and projects them live.
Booking details: www.kilkennyarts.ie
Tel: +353 56 775 2175 (from 7 July)
In Person: Festival Box Office, 14 John St, Kilkenny (from 7 July)
Kilkenny Arts Festival is core-funded by An Chomhairle Ealaíon / The Arts Council and supported by Fáilte Ireland and Kilkenny Local Authorities.