A question of taste: Norah O'Leary

Wexford native Norah O’Leary is the cellist with period ensemble Ensemble Dagda who specialise in 17th century music. They will be performing as part of the East Cork Early Music Festival on Saturday in Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh. Full details on www.eastcorkearlymusic.ie

Norah O'Leary will play cello with Ensemble Dagda at Sirius in Cobh on Saturday.

Best recent book you’ve read:

I have just finished Dearbhla Reynolds’ The Cultured Club, which is absolutely fantastic.

Best recent film: The last Spider-Man film. I loved it.

Best recent show you’ve seen: David Power and Camerata Kilkenny performing ‘The Piper and the Fairy Queen’. It’s such a clever combination of early music and Irish music and when the pipes joined in for the ‘Messiah’ I was blown away.

Best piece of music you’ve been listening to lately (new or old): With the approach of the East Cork Early Music Festival I have been listening to Barokksolistene’s album The Image of Melancholy — it’s dedicated to [group member] Bjarte Eike’s father which really resonates with me at the moment.

Money is no object — which instrument would you buy? I am on the look out for a bass viol at the moment, then I think perhaps I would buy a spinnet.

First ever piece of music or performance that really moved you: Hansel and Gretel in the Wexford Opera House. I was only about four or five and I was awestruck.

The best gig or show you’ve ever seen: Maria Keohane singing at the West Cork Chamber Music Festival 2014.

TV viewing: I don’t own a TV but I do watch some series online... at the moment I’m watching The Good Wife.

Radio listening and/or podcasts: RíRá on RnaG, I’ll always try catch Evelyn Grant and I’m definitely a big fan of RTÉ 1 at around 6am on Sunday.

You’re curating your dream festival — which three artists are on the bill? The baritone Edward Grint, Kinga Ujszaszi on violin, and David Adams on harpsichord... so almost a combo of this year’s Kilkenny Arts Festival and East Cork Early Music Festival.

Best celebrity encounter: Bud Ekins — or more commonly known as Steve McQueen’s stunt man and best friend — my family have a B&B and Bud would come year-in and year-out on his way to a motorbike rally in Kerry. I knew him from when I was knee high, and none of us realised he was a big deal ’til we had known him about 10 years. There was a documentary on him a few years ago on the TV and I was bowled over because here was this man I knew from sitting in my kitchen who was elsewhere mingling with huge Hollywood stars.

You can portal back to any period of human cultural history — where, when, and why? I would go to the premiere of Handel’s Messiah in Dublin in April 1742, it’s probably terrible cliche for a baroque musician to say their favourite piece is the Messiah, but I love it. I would also love to go back and fight with Michael Collins... he’s my all time hero.

Do you have any interesting ancestors or family? My aunt Helen O’Leary is an artist in the USA she has a Guggenheim and many, many other rewards. In the last two years, I discovered my great grandparents are Dora Hughs and Walter (Wally) Hall (brother to Henry Hall) who were involved with the founding of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra (then RTÉ Light Orchestra). My grand mother would then have been Maureen Hall of the The Hall Sisters but I never met them.

Unsung hero: The volunteers who work for the various cancer associations. The therapists who give over time providing free sessions to patients and families, the drivers of the minibuses to radiation and chemo sessions and all the silent donators.

You are queen for a day — what’s your first decree? I should say world peace or a health system with no waiting lists... but it would have to be free coffee for all!


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