Musical Highlights at Kilkenny Arts Festival 2023

Japanese singer Ichiko Aoba who will perform with Crash Ensemble at Kilkenny Arts Festival on 17 August (Photo: Kodai Kobayashi)

Musical Highlights at Kilkenny Arts Festival 2023

11-day festival to feature Philip Selway of Radiohead, Oumou Sangaré, Martin Hayes, Irish Chamber Orchestra, Ichiko Aoba, Crash Ensemble, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Dan Trueman, Barry Douglas, Lixsania Fernández, Iarla Ó Lionáird, Carducci Quartet and more.

Kilkenny Arts Festival, now celebrating 50 years, has announced its 2023 programme, which includes a wide range of musical performances across folk, classical, contemporary, pop and more.

Running from Thursday 10 to Sunday 20 August in various venues around the city, this year’s festival will feature Radiohead member Philip Selway on Friday 11th at St Canice’s Cathedral. As well as being the band’s drummer, he is also a composer and singer, has scored soundtracks for film and dance projects, and released several albums that span genres from contemporary classical to electronica. For this performance, he will be joined by Adrian Utley, Quinta, Chris Vatalaro, Laura Moody and members of the Irish Chamber Orchestra to perform songs from his latest album, Strange Dance, and more.

Earlier on Friday 11th, in a lunchtime concert at St John’s Priory, Camerata Kilkenny (Rachel Beckett, Sarah Groser, Maya Homburger and Malcolm Proud) will be joined by soprano Zoë Brookshaw for a programme of Bach, Purcell and more. They will perform a separate programme the following day at the same time. Dónal Dineen will end Friday with a club night at the Set Theatre.

Malian musician Oumou Sangaré, backed by a seven-piece band, will perform on Saturday 12 August at St Canice’s Cathedral. Over three decades, Sangaré has achieved acclaim for her music that mixes the rhythms of her native Wassoulou region with Afro-pop, folk-rock and blues.

On Sunday 13th, the Carducci Quartet, who last year performed the complete Shostakovich string quartets at the festival, will begin a series of four lunchtime concerts at St John’s Priory, featuring works by Haydn, Beethoven, Rebecca Clarke, Caroline Shaw, Glass, Ravel and more.

Also on the first Sunday of the festival, Iarla Ó Lionáird will be performing at the Set Theatre (9.30pm) with pianist Cormac McCarthy and clarinetist Matthew Berrill. This is the first of two performances by the sean-nóssinger. The second is on Wednesday 16 August, when Ó Lionáird, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and actor Ciarán Hinds will perform the orchestral song cycle Sweeney by composer Neil Martin. This work is based on Seamus Heaney’s collection Sweeney Astray and marks 50 years since Heaney performed at the first Kilkenny Arts Festival in 1974. RTÉ broadcaster John Kelly will interview Martin before the concert.

Hayes and guests
Martin Hayes will perform the first of two concerts on Monday 14th, beginning with a set with cellist Kate Ellis at the Watergate Theatre at 9pm, followed by a concert at St Canice’s Cathedral on Saturday 19 August in which he will be joined by guest artists including fiddle player Aoife Ní Bhriain, piper Brìghde Chaimbeul, dancer Colin Dunne and pianist Cormac McCarthy. On 14 August also, Barry Douglas will give an evening recital at St Canice’s with a programme of works by Schubert as well as Liszt’s Sonata in B minor.

Following a concert at the Louth Contemporary Music festival last month, Chamber Choir Ireland will again perform the Caroline Shaw work How To Fold the Wind on Tuesday 15 August at St Canice’s (7.30pm) as well as the Irish premiere of Rhona Clarke’s Requiem and two works by Arvo Pärt. Cuban viola da gamba player Lixsania Fernández will perform on Tuesday at St John’s Priory. Her programme will focus on the music of Spanish baroque harpist, guitarist and composer José Marín.

Crash Ensemble commence a series of three concerts on Wednesday 16 August, beginning at the Watergate Theatre at 9pm with a double bill with Diamanda La Berge Dramm and Sam Amidon. On Thursday at the Set Theatre (8pm), a quintet from the ensemble will perform with Japanese vocalist and guitarist Ichiko Aoba, and on Friday at St Canice’s the full ensemble will perform Andrew Hamilton’s Friendly Piece, which received its premiere at New Music Dublin earlier this and about which reviewer James Camien McGuiggan wrote in the Journal of Music, ‘we were utterly charmed by the gentle wit of the work… The audience’s delight was palpable.’ 

Also on Friday, Scottish piper Brìghde Chaimbeul will perform at Rothe House at 5pm, and the Irish Chamber Orchestra, directed by violinist and conductor Thomas Zehetmair, will play works by Schubert, Mendelssohn, Linda Buckley and Beethoven at St Canice’s at 8pm.

Finally, on the last day of the festival, 20 August, Hardanger d’Amoré fiddle players Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Dan Trueman will perform at the Set Theatre at 8pm. They released their second album together, The Fate of Bones, last November, following Laghdú in 2014. 

During the festival there will also be installations by Dumbworld, an open rehearsal by Aoife Ní Bhriain and Colin Dunne, a recital by harpsichordist Malcolm Proud and Cornett player Darren Cornish-Moore, intimate mini-performances in locations around the city titled ‘Encounters’ for groups of up to six people and featuring Hayes, Ní Bhriain and more, a collaboration between writer Fergus Cronin and songwriter and guitarist Kevin O’Doherty, and the evening Rollercoaster Sessions presenting songwriter Broken Chanter (David McGregor), guitarist and vocalist Dave Holland, Katie Kim and Elaine Howley, and singer-songwriter Josienne Clarke.

Commenting on the programme, Festival Producer Marjie Kaley said:

We’re very excited to announce this year’s programme. It’s a landmark year for the Festival, and although it’s not been without its challenges, we believe that this year’s Festival represents the very best of what has put Kilkenny Arts Festival on the map for half a century – world class talent from across a diverse spectrum of arts practices, transforming – and being transformed by – Kilkenny’s truly unique places and people.

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Published on 4 July 2023

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