Do you have a date for the Cork Proms?

Do you have a date for the Cork Proms?

The inaugural Cork Proms will be staged at Cork Opera House during the Midsummer Festival, in June, and will, hopefully, become an annual event, says Siobhan Howe.

The Proms conjure up images of the Royal Albert Hall in London, with orchestral musicians gathered around a conductor.

The three evenings of the Cork Proms, at Cork Opera House, in June, are being curated by director, Wayne Jordan, and conductor, John O’Brien. Many opera house goers will be familiar with Jordan as director of ‘Prodijig’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’. Cork singers Majella Cullagh, Kim Sheehan, Laoise Leahy, Karen Underwood, and Camila Grieshel form part of the Diva line-up for the closing night.

The beauty of Proms is that they are a festival of music for everyone. You will leave having heard something familiar and something you’ve never heard before, and you will have fallen a little more in love with orchestral music.

For the three-night midsummer event, the Opera House will burst to life with a different theme each evening: an evening of classical music on June 21; a Broadway-themed show on June 22; and a closing night of pop, rock, and soul music, performed by some divas of music.

Do you have a date for the Cork Proms?

Wayne Jordan and John O’Brien were backstage at Cork Opera House, putting shape on what The Cork Proms will look like.

There was a palpable sense that something magical was being created; a highlight of the summer and, hopefully, the start of an annual tradition.

Jordan and O’Brien bring different qualities to this festival of music: Jordan is known for taking the familiar and turning it on its head, getting the audience to think in a different way about something they thought they knew; Cork is privileged that John O’Brien loves the city and chooses it as his home. The classical music scene in Cork is resurgent in no small part due to his influence.

This is not their first time working together, but it is the first time they have built something from the ground up, along with executive producer and Cork Opera House CEO, Eibhlín Gleeson.

Jordan says:

The intention behind developing these concerts has its roots in celebrating the Cork Opera House Concert Orchestra

It’s been growing and developing since its inception, in 2015. He describes the Proms as “an opportunity to explore what this orchestra can achieve and will put the orchestra front and centre”.

The development of the classical music programme — with an orchestra at its heart — has been a labour of love for Eibhlín Gleeson.

The opening night of The Cork Proms, on June 21, will see the first orchestral concert by the Cork Opera House Concert Orchestra. The theme will be influenced by midsummer, with the orchestra shining bright as the focus of the entire show.

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Cork Midsummer Festival is delighted to announce the latest early releases from our 2019 programme! First up - Cork Opera House and PwC Ireland will present the inaugural The Cork Proms, comprised of three successive concerts from June 21 - 23 featuring the celebrated Cork Opera House Concert Orchestra (COHCO) and a host of special local, national and international guests. The Cork Proms is a celebration of music, of Summer, and of Cork. Curated by Director Wayne Jordan (The Wizard of Oz, ProdiJIG: The Revolution) and renowned conductor, John O Brien and produced by Cork Opera House, The Cork Proms are a celebration of music in Cork, for the people of Cork. Tickets are on sale now - link in bio!

A post shared by Cork Midsummer Festival (@corkmidsummer) on

The orchestra will grow to its largest configuration to date — with 37 musicians performing on tiers on the stage, combined with individual concertos and lighting design by the very talented Drew McCarthy. The music will include Mendelssohn’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and Vivaldi’s ‘Summer from Four Seasons’, to bring the outside summer vibes in.

The establishment of the opera house’s first professional orchestra in its 164-year history was a landmark moment. Eibhlín Glesson wanted to establish a more solid foundation for classical music programming. Part of this was the now annual programme of opera concerts. To produce the best opera productions, you need live musicians, and so the Cork Opera House Concert Orchestra was born.

Eibhlín Gleeson describes the establishment of the orchestra as a ‘revelation’.

The development of the orchestra has given me the opportunity to programme things that I never in my wildest dreams thought we could programme

- she says

The orchestra has embraced the mainstream, performing with The Frank and Walters, Marlene Enright, and Jack O’Rouke, among others. It’s an orchestra that spends more time on the stage than in the pit.

The members are primarily made up of musicians who live in Cork or have been trained here, though some return to Cork to perform at the regularly scheduled performances, of which there have been nine in the just the last 12 months. “It can be challenging for a classical musician to make a living in Cork, unless they are teaching,” says John O’Brien. “Many of the orchestra’s members return home from Dublin or London to perform at the Opera House. This gives the orchestra a wonderful sense of community and togetherness, but there is also an enormous sense of pride among the musicians that they get the opportunity to return to their home town to perform.”

This orchestra has a strong sense of identity and personality.

Cork has a strong musical theatre following, and 2019 will be the first summer in a few years that Cork Opera House won’t be producing a musical theatre production. Instead, Jordan wants to engage with that musical theatre following in Cork and bring local talent to the stage to perform musical theatre pieces. The second night of The Cork Proms Broadway will be conducted by Cathal Synott, an award-winning composer and conductor, whose credits include Riverdance and Threepenny Opera. John O’Brien will get to spend a night in the stalls, watching the performance, an opportunity he is relishing.

Conductor John O'Brien
Conductor John O'Brien

The closing night is described by Jordan as “a night of epic song”: the orchestra and the Divas will perform reinterpretations of major late 20th and early 21st century pop, rock, and indie music, artists such as Queen, Bowie, Kate Bush, Cindy Lauper, and ABBA. This will be the real crowd-pleaser, beloved songs performed by the orchestra and by the sublime voices of some of Cork’s best-known female vocalists.

Whether you’re a classical connoisseur, a Broadway fan, or a lover of rock, this mid-summer extravaganza has it all.

Cork Opera House and PwC present The Cork Proms, in association with Cork Midsummer Festival, from Friday, June 21 to Sunday, June 23. Tickets are on sale now from Cork Opera House box office and website

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