Magic moments from and top tips for Sounds from a Safe Harbour festival

As the Sounds From A Safe Harbour festival hits Cork, Cillian Murphy and the other curators pick their top tips for the weekend ahead, and tell Des O’Driscoll about their magic moments from previous events.

Magic moments from and top tips for Sounds from a Safe Harbour festival

As the Sounds From A Safe Harbour festival hits Cork, Cillian Murphy and the other curators pick their top tips for the weekend ahead, and tell Des O’Driscoll about their magic moments from previous events.


Mary Hickson is from Fermoy, Co Cork, and is the main driving force behind the festival.

The former CEO of Cork Opera House lives in Cork with her husband and two children, but travels regularly to some of the other music events she is involved in locations such as the US, Copenhagen and Berlin.

Favourite moment from a previous Safe Harbour festival:

“The double piano show — S. Carey and Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) performed stripped back versions of many of their well known songs on two pianos, featuring Michael Lewis, at CIT School of Music in 2017. I cried my face off. “

Top tips for thais event:

  Spiritual America - A collection of songs exploring secular spirituality, composed by William Brittelle. Featuring special guests: Metropolis Ensemble, Arone Dyer (Buke and Gase), Andy Stack (Wye Oak), Sam Amidon. 2pm, CIT School of Music, Sunday.

I first heard Spiritual America in March of this year. It literally stopped me in my tracks, I have never heard anything like it. It made me feel an energy I haven’t had with music in a while, it felt strangely familiar in so many ways but was drawn in and swallowed up by its completely new sound.

"This is something altogether different and thrilling, and I just knew then and there I had to share Brittelle’s vision for music with Cork.

"I connected with it in a deeply powerful and emotional way — being devastated and uplifted in equal measure. I am so excited and grateful to have the opportunity to present it to the Sounds from a Safe Harbour audience.”

  Efterklang at Live at St Luke’s, 4pm, Saturday.

“This will be my third time presenting Efterklang in Cork, the first time being for Steve Reich’s 75th birthday festival in 2011.

"I love this band and was so excited to see them back after a couple of years hiatus. Much of this album was created in Berlin as part of 37d03d last year and will feature many musical friends, I cannot wait!”


Before he became an actor, Cillian Murphy played with various bands in his native Cork, and has maintained a keen interest in music, occasionally popping up with his own show on BBC 6.

He is currently starring in Peaky Blinders on BBC One. Favourite moment:

Seeing Bon Iver in the Opera House in 2017 is a special memory for me. I had never seen him live before, so to see him in Cork for the first time was all the sweeter.

"The show was so emotionally charged — so full of positivity and hope, and the Opera house seemed at the same time intimate and vast, like all great venues. One I’ll never forget.”

Top tips:

  Caoimhín O’Raghallaigh and Thomas Bartlett at Live at St Luke’s. 8pm, Saturday

“This is definitely a must see for Gloaming fans as these two extraordinary musicians are key members of that wonderful group. But they are of course extraordinary players in their own right.

"It will be fascinating to see what magic will be created when these two come together for this show.”

  Swan Lake/Loch na hEala, by Teac Damsa at Cork Opera House, until tonight (Thursday)

“I first saw Swan Lake in 2016. It is an experience that has never left me. One of the most moving, uplifting, exhilarating nights I’ve had in a theatre. Get out and get yourself a ticket for this masterwork.”


Dublin-born playwright Enda Walsh made his breakthrough with Disco Pigs, starring Cillian Murphy, while living in Cork. Though now based in London, he gets to Cork regularly, including for ongoing collaborations with the Corcadorca theatre company.

Favourite moment:

“There was a small moment in the event in Rearden’s in 2017. Called Ear Den (a fantastically ridiculous name) ... it was a secret gig or gigs where the audience walked room to room and unannounced artists performed.

"Essentially you didn’t know who you’d be watching until you were watching them. In one room the audience grouped around a number of singer songwriters, which included Christof van der Ven, Talos, Lila Vargen, Jack O’Rourke, and David Kitt, to name a few.

"I am a huge David Kitt fan and I walked into the room as he started to sing. I properly welled up. There was an extraordinary energy in that room.”

Top tips:

  Jon Hopkins (DJ set) at Dali. 10pm, Thursday 12th September.

Very excited and extraordinary to see that Jon Hopkins will be here in Cork. He is the master of creating and harnessing musical universes that are both epic and truthfully emotional.

"This will be a physiological and spiritual experience for us all.”

  Don’t Fear the Light, Saturday, 2pm at Cork Opera House.

“I saw the Minimalist Dream House (the Labeque sisters with Bryce Dessner and David Chalmin) in the Barbican in London recently and it was a hugely inspiring and beautiful evening of music. Truly exceptional musicians who are collectively outstanding.”


Aaron Dessner and his twin Bryce are both members of American rock band, The National, and have been heavily involved the Safe Harbour festival since its initiation.

As well as helping to organise the event, the Cincinnati siblings are usually involved in several collaborative performances through the festival.

Best memory:

I have too many to name but my brother Bryce and I improvising experimental guitar music while Cillian Murphy performed a monologue written for the moment by Enda Walsh at The Everyman theater — a lonely metronome on the floor ticking away to guide us.

"The memory still gives me goosebumps.”

Looking forward to this year:

  Heartship by Dorothy Cross, pictured, and Lisa Hannigan [in which Hannigan sing while coming up the harbour on the James Joyce navy ship, which will also be carrying a human heart that had been discovered in a crypt in Christ Church (now Triskel) in Cork in 1863.]

“One of Ireland’s greatest visual artists in deep collaboration with Lisa Hannigan, one of the country’s most sublime voices — Heartship is conceptual performance piece that is not to be missed.”

  Sam Amidon at Live at St Luke’s, Sunday, 6pm

“Sam Amidon is one of my absolute favorite performers who mines folk traditions in original and unexpected ways.”

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