Secret Garden Music – Kilkenny Arts Festival – Review


Kilkenny Arts Festival 2014 – 8th to 17th August

Secret Garden Music

The festival has been in full swing since last Thursday with Shakespeare Globe UK playing Much Ado about Nothing in the Castle Yard, the Heath Quartet working their way magnificently through all 16 Beethoven string quartets in lunchtime recitals in the complementary calm glory of St. John’s Priory and to come on Friday and Saturday in St.Canice’s Cathedral, Barry Douglas will play and conduct the 5 Beethoven piano concertos with Camerata Ireland. This is all delicious artistic endeavour at the high end of the culture scale and has Kilkenny City placing its splendid well known architecture to the fore. However a new little acorn has been planted by this year’s festival committee and its musically skilled director Eugene Downes by the use of four of the city’s gardens for free fifteen minute concerts. Each day there is a performance at two of the venues which are Butler House Garden, Heritage Council Garden, Kilkenny Castle Rose Garden and finally Rothe House Garden at 3 pm and 4pm. The secret part is that the name of the performer is not known nor what will be the programme. But trust the committee and its director, there are treats in store.

On Monday in the wonderful manicured space of Butler House Garden in a small temple like structure Martin Hayes fiddler extraodinaire played to his heart’s content in the fresh air with unthreatening clouds scudding by in the blue sky. There was delightful disparities in the audience ranging in age from mature vintages to some very young growths. All were silent, entranced as they listened to the master make his fiddle work its magic amongst the clipped box hedges and the cleansing light breeze. What a privilege it was to be there.

Yesterday in the more bucolic working space which is the Rothe House Garden where fruit trees and vegetables grow Dan Trueman and Caoimhin O Raghallaigh introduced me and I suspect a good proportion of the again disparate in age audience to the delights of the hardanger fiddle, a Norwegian fiddle which brings according to the helpful programme “a haunting quality to the folk dances for which it was designed.” In this garden, only created six years ago but designed so far as possible to recreate the original sixteenth century garden which served the daily needs of Rothe House and its occupants, Trueman and O Raghallaigh liberated from their hardanger fiddles sounds which were unfamiliar but arresting. It was not difficult to imagine that this out of time garden which is in the making and is slowly being revealed to us as it gradually develops and matures may have heard sounds of a similar type when it was first supplying its produce to the inhabitants of Rothe House. It was all a little bit of a dream, all a little bit of a fantasy.

By Frank L.

Secret Garden Music
continue until Sun 17 August
Butler House Garden, Rose Garden, Kilkenny Castle, Rothe House & Gardens, The Heritage Council

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