Spike Cello Festival – Interview with co curators Lioba Petrie & Mary Barnecutt


Spike Cello Festival Dublin’s Alternative Cello Festival | 10th – 12th February 2017 | Interview with festival co curators & cellists Lioba Petrie and Mary Barnecutt.

We had the chance to talk to co curators & cellists Lioba Petrie and Mary Barnecutt. They told us about the Californian alt-cello scene and naked Cello playing! You can see the results below.

  • Where did the idea of a festival devoted to the Cello come from?

Lioba: Both Mary and I have been working behind the scenes in music production for a few years now. I am co-curator and director of Dublin’s salon series Kaleidoscope Night and Mary co-ordinates the prestigious Hugh Lane Gallery concert series. As well as this, what with both of us being cellists with an interest in the alternative side of music, freelancing around Dublin and writing our own music, our cello chats began! I love collaborating with other musicians and was delighted to be invited by Mary to perform with herself and Chequerboard and then more recently Adrian Crowley. She’s a kindred musical spirit.. and our cello chats became more frequent… and so Spike Cello Festival evolved out of a love for cello and wanting to provide a platform for the diverse wealth of talent we have in this country, talent that bases itself around the cello, and that has many different styles.



Mary: Yes – when we meet up we always have so much to discuss! I started off having a vague idea of an alternative ‘cello fringe’ festival, maybe around another classical music festival and after talking to Lioba we realized we had enough material to forge ahead with an entirely non-classical festival in its own right. I was also inspired by the ‘New Directions’ festival in California – alt-cello is big news over there!


  • Will this festival focus on classical music or more modern compositions?

Lioba: For our inaugural event our focus is a look at the cello from all angles except its classical roots. Even our choice of festival hub – which is the Workman’s Club on Wellington Quay – separates us from the more conventional concert environment.

The closest we get to a more formal event is when we feature Kate Ellis (Artistic Director of Crash Ensemble) at the Hugh Lane Gallery on Sunday 12th February at noon (a free event!). With the incredible support of the Improvised Music Company, a new work will be commissioned especially for the festival from composer/clarinettist Sean MacErlaine (from This is how we fly and Quiet Ensemble) for cello and electronics. This is very exciting for us to have a piece written for our inaugural festival and to have the wonderful cellist Kate Ellis to give us its premiere. Kate is at the very forefront of new music, constantly nudging musical boundaries and blurring the lines between “classical” music , improvisation and jazz, to name just a few styles that she feels at home with.



In addition to this new music we will also be including traditional music from Neil Martin, beautifully-crafted original song and compositions from Mary Barnecutt, the Irish premiere of a live film score to Chris Marker’s short film “La Jetee” (1962) from myself, jazz from an exciting collaboration between the innovative Cello Ireland and jazz guitarist extraordinaire Hugh Buckley and his quartet. Vyvienne Long will perform her beautiful songs, we’ll have a solo set from cello innovator Kevin Murphy and of course, our only overseas element, self-confessed cello goblin – yes goblin! – Rushad Eggleston, who will be giving workshops at the National Concert Hall on Friday 10th  and Saturday 11th, and then will perform for us that Saturday evening at The Workman’s Club.

Also it has to be said – no festival exists in Ireland for the alternative cellist so we thought we’d invent one!



Mary: It’s an opportunity for other people to see what many cellists know – that is it’s an instrument capable of a myriad of noises! We were completely over-loaded with ideas for players and had trouble cutting the list down to the four main gigs. Hopefully with more support and in future festivals we can feature more alt-cello practitioners – there are lots of us out there!

  • The Festival has a strong female line up. Do you think it is an instrument particularly associated with women? If so, why?

Lioba:   It was not a particular programming decision to have a strong female contingent, but there ARE many awesome females doing their thing in Ireland! However we did decide that we liked the idea of the three ladies – the two of us, and Vyvienne Long –  sharing the stage for the opening concert. (There are plenty of men programmed in this event … in fact I think we are nicely balanced.) Personally I don’t think the cello is particularly associated with either sex. It’s just a sexy instrument!



Mary: Funny – I’m just reading a biog of Charlotte Moorman,  an avant-garde cellist in the 60s (‘The Topless Cellist’) who thought it was the sexiest instrument. It’s the legs thing. She used to perform naked with an ice-cello and a hacksaw for a bow. This makes me feel very very tame.  But, I agree we had no gender agenda, it’s coincidence, a happy one of course, that there are more women than men involved this year.


  • This is the first Cello festival. Do you have plans for next year?

Lioba: I would hope that this is the first of many Spike Cello Festivals – we have had a lot of fun putting the programme together and creating such a special event! – but of course this is hard to predict. We are fully independent, self-funding and are relying on good will of musicians and an audience interested enough in the event to buy tickets to help us cover basic costs. Support from Una Ni Chanainn of Cello Ireland, Improvised Music company, Gavin O’Sullivan of the Hugh Lane Gallery series and the National Concert Hall has actually made this festival a reality.

We do have lots of ideas for next year! There is so much talent in this country that we simply just couldn’t fit them in to the programme this year – as well as lots of dream international guest artists that we both admire and would love to invite over. The fact that we are beginning with a three-day event jam-packed with everything from Yin–yoga with live cello to workshops, premieres and 4 concerts… Gosh we are off to a great start! Let’s hope people are as excited about it as we are!!

Mary: Yes! There was so much alt-cello and so many talented people doing it out there that we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. People have been really enthusiastic so I hope it becomes a regular feature in the calendar. There are more electronic acts for example I would love to have featured. In the end this is our inaugral event so hopefully we will manage to run it again and again.

I absolutely love too that it is in the Workman’s Club, Julie Cooper who works there has been so supportive. It really is the right relaxed, almost cabaret environment that can hold performances across the genres – and they have the Vintage Room overlooking the Liffey for the yoga cello! I hope we can work with them again next year and for many more.

For more information: Spike Cello Festival is www.spikecellofest.com, on Facebook here and on Twitter @spikecellofest.

Tickets and further information on events at The Workman’s Club are available from theworkmansclub.com and for events at the National Concert Hall from www.nch.ie.




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