Dublin gets in tune with West Cork

Bantry festival to stage a 12-hour mini version of its chamber music event in the capital, writes Jo Kerrigan

COME late June every year, lovers of classical music head to the West Cork Chamber Music Festival in Bantry. Now in its 20th year, it is one of the major dates on the international calendar for the genre.

But now Mahomet is uncurling himself and coming to the mountain, no less. Tomorrow, the National Concert Hall will bring the famed West Cork event to Dublin for a day of concerts.

You will be able to immerse yourself in wonderful chamber music for 12 hours: from a morning coffee recital to a young musicians’ afternoon performance to a major evening concert featuring violinist, Heinrich Kraggerud, to a late night-session with the Vanbrugh Quartet.

“The West Cork Chamber Music Festival has become one of the leading events of its kind in Europe, attracting local, national and international audiences alike,” says Simon Taylor, NCH chief executive.

“We feel that this one-day mini- festival will give our audience just a taste of what a week in Bantry is like: full of music from morning to night, with programming that combines the challenging and the unknown with the loved and familiar, performed by musicians of the highest quality in ever-changing and thrilling combinations.”

Praise, indeed, but no more than is due. WCCMF really is something extraordinary. From very quiet beginnings it has grown into one of the best-loved of festivals, renowned as much for its warmth and friendliness as for the quality and range of its music.

 Pretty well all of that is to the credit of founder/ director, Francis Humphrys, and his team of volunteers.

Every musician who has played there wants to come back, and visitors who arrive for a one-off put it in their annual diaries thereafter.

Of course, the intimacy of the venue has a lot to do with it. Who wouldn’t want to hear chamber music in Bantry House or in St Brendan’s Church? Let alone meet famous musicians wandering along the street or taking morning coffee? So why Dublin?

“The main impetus behind the event,” says Humphrys, “is that this year sees the 20th chamber music festival, so a West Cork day in Dublin seemed like one good way to celebrate. The festival itself is already so crammed with concerts, interviews, classes and talks that there really was no room to fit in any more events — though we will try!”

It is also an opportunity, he says, to invite back some of the musicians who have appeared in Bantry over the years.

“As well as others, like Henning Kraggerud, who always wanted to come, but was never able to because of his demanding schedule,” says Humphrys.

Many of the European summer chamber music festivals are based in places like Bantry that are off the beaten track.

“So it is becoming de rigueur for the major festivals to bring their programmes to major cities in the regular concert season. This gives city audiences a great opportunity to sample a festival day, while offering the festivals a welcome, city-based platform.

 This is especially valuable in Dublin, as there seem to be relatively few chamber music concerts, given the size of the city.”

Given the limitations of time, Humphrys says, they have packed quite a lot in.

“Four major soloists, two international quartets and two of our own top young musicians, while, on the following day, 16 young musicians get chamber music masterclasses with members of Artis and Belcea Quartets, and four young cellists each get a masterclass with Natalie Clein. Not too bad.”

West Cork Comes To Dublin begins at 11am tomorrow at the NCH. Tickets may be bought for individual concerts, or a day ticket is available for €65.

The West Cork Chamber Music Festival takes place in Bantry, June 26-July westcorkmusic.ie/chambermusicfestival

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