It's a beautiful day in Bantry! As I made that magical sweeping corner into the town the sun was sparkling on the sea, and with the purple mountains behind and bobbing boats it was a perfect picture and a beautiful welcome.
The town square was packed with the Friday market and the sounds of cocks crowing, music playing and plenty of lively banter. A kind stranger waited on the Glengarriff Road while I held up traffic to park awkwardly outside West Cork Music's offices on the Glengarriff Road. I had barely stepped onto the pavement when I bumped into Finola Merivale who will be my team mate for the Town Concerts this year, accompanied by Maike Lasseur who is fresh off the plane from Amsterdam for her annual trip to Bantry as another Festival Helper. ...Hugs all round of course!
As I head up towards the office I meet Guy Dalton, the brains and brawn behind this huge and complex production. Even on this surely most stressful of days he has his usual calm, collected way about him, his signature deadpan humour at the ready. And doesn't he only have his van right here! Grand job - I unload the emergency black music stands I've brought from Cork city, courtesy of Derek at All In Music in Cork, a Bantry man himself.
Up in the festival office Heather McDougall presents me with the all-important production schedule - this festival is by far the best organised production I have ever worked for and my schedule ensures I know where pretty much every musician and staff member is at ay time over the next 10 days.
I heave this year's Festival Programme off the shelf - at 144 pages long it is a weighty tome and one of the defining elements of this festival, full as it is of insightful programme notes that bubble over with the enthusiasm and sheer love of the music that inspired Festival Director Francis Humphrys to set up the Festival back in 1996.
After my obligatory splurge in the gorgeous O'Kanes Craft Shop (my annual shoe purchase there has come earlier in the week than usual and MAN am I glad to get out of those hot boots) it's time to get down to business.
I check into my gorgeous room at the Maritime Hotel and after lugging up the piles of clothes I won't wear up I crank up the computer, sort out the internet and yahey - we are live!
I’m looking forward to dinner at in a few minutes and meeting up with the rest of the gang ahead of the opening concert at 8 - especially Harold Fish (whose copy of the Belfast film An Everlasting Piece DVD, which he lent me last year, I have somehow remembered to bring back). Mealtimes are an important part of the day at the Festival, it brings all the team and musicians together twice a day at the Maritime Hotel for much needed sustenance and the ironing out of all kinds of issues.
The silence this year will be broken by the seriously cool Polish quartet Apollon Musagete. Poland is a bit of a theme at this year’s festival so the quartet’s performance of Szymanowski’s String Quartet No. 1 to open 9 days of amazing music is highly appropriate. To get to know them a little better follow this link for a recent interview I did with the Quartet for the Examiner newspaper.
After that we’ll hear violinist Tanja Becker-Bender and pianist Peter Nagy play Bartok, and after the interval the RTE Vanbrugh Quartet, the lynchpin of the festival will play Mozart’s K.575 quartet. Bring it on!
Time to get moving!
Hi all Valerie, Brendan (and three bears this year Duffy, Casey and Mountain Teddy) have arrived safely in Bantry via our traditional stopping off point Cafe Paradiso - wonderfull vegetarian food - very definitely not of the rice and sandles variety - Risotto with Ardrahan cheese - how good is that - currently in The Mill B&B enjoying some wine supplied by our gracious hostess Tosca Kramer - see you in Bantry House at seven bells Brendan Twomey
Right on Gerry - it is all about the music - Concert 1 completed only c 50 events to go - the Bartok was right up my street full of pasion, pace bravura moments - to say nothing of the performers !! In the second movement of the Mozart the Vanbrugh, the music and I suspect most of the audience were totally in the zone - the sudience loved it. Only eight days to go but with Bantry's fantastic ourdoor gym I know that I can last the pace - before eight in the morning and there were three people burning clories - if you have not seen it yet have look at the outdoor gym with the best view in the world -don't just look take some exercise!! Great idea - well done Bantry Town Council -
There was a great crowd gathering in the lobby of the Maritime Hotel eager to get over to Evelyn Grant's Morning Talk with the Apollon Musagete Quartet, the first of her morning talks this year. These talks have been so popular since they were introduced a few years ago to the festival. They are a lovely opportunity for festival goers to get to know the artists and of course with Evelyn's broadcasting background for Lyric FM, her huge knowledge of music and the life of a musician and her relaxed charm the talks always flow very freely.
They are the perfect way to start a festival day before the music begins at 11!
I'm off to young musicians the Westland Piano Trio's masterclass with Adrian Petcu. Looking forward to seeing Fiachra Garvey playing piano with this new trio after his fantastic performance last year (he went on to win the National Concert Hall's Rising Star award of 2011.) Also looking forward to hearing the wonderful violinist Roisin Walters again and Wicklow-born cellist Paul Grennan for the first time (his biog looks amazing - he's currently on trial with 2 BBC orchestras and has been working with the Irish Chamber Orchestra!).
What will Adrian Petcu have to say? I look forward to watching the masterclass in action!
The Westland Trio's masterclass with Adrian Petcu was fascinating and fun. As the musicians got settled Adrian those of us there to listen that the trio had picked 3 incredible and dramatic works (by Ravel, Brahms and Shostakovich) to work with for the festival. (They will continue to rehearse and masterclass them over the week, with a Town Hll performance on Thursday of the Ravel and Brahms, a performance of the Shostakovich in the big Young Musicians' platform in Bantry House on Saturday. Adrian suggested that 3 such big pieces will be a challenge for the audience as well as them and then with his gentle twinkling humour exclaimed 'we'll see how it goes!'
To begin Adrian pointed out to the musicians that they have many tutors and some of what he says may contradict what they've heard before. There are so many sides to a truth and he encouraged them to take whatever suits them, after all "you are the artists, you are the ones who will perform."
Adrian's insight and ability to communicate is wonderful. I was so impressed at the musicians who can lay themselves bare and open to criticism in this intimate, even oppressive environment. While Adrian is full of compliments ("beautiful!", "incredible!") he is also there to teach and the musicians all took what might be seen as his more negative observations with grace and humour.
One thing that he said struck a note with me - it's something that I think gives such an important insight to people who don't listen to much classical music, and regard it as something to 'relax to.' During the first movement of the Ravel he said to "look for colours that aren't only sweet" - I think that's so important to undertstand - so little of classical music is about sweetness and relaxing. This is a language that communicates everything - humour, terror, heartache, as well as sweetness and beauty...
The setting for the masterclass is beautiful, a first floor room in the Maritime Hotel. Behind the musicians we see the rippling waters of Bantry Bay where the seagulls bob on its surface and the changing sky goes through several seasons in the 90 minutes we are there.
What a day - the Polish 'lads' telling us about stadning up during performance, magnificant Vivaldi, 24 full-on Caprices, Moby Dick, Schuman all rounded off by a Stravinski Tango - sure what else would youe be doing on a dull Saturday in June PS the two Polish ladies survived the experience of meeting with Gerry Kelly
Like OMG Keith how can you talk about that concert (let alone blog from it) without mentioning Christina Zavalloni?! It's so great to have her back again - cripes, the colour, the darkness, the drama, the theatre in her voice... even from the volunteers seats at the back of the balcony with her face obscured by the church lights I was mesmerised by her gestures. I've never heard her singing early music but wow, the punch she packs into those Italian syllables...
Listening to Tory Amos and the Polish 'lads' on U Tube as I write this blog - who sais thet men cannnnot do too things at eh one timeee ? - this morning's concert was indeed superb - Christine certainly act out the jilted lover part with great gusto -
Note from the festival:
Tickets for the following concerts are now sold out:
Tuesday 3 July 11am
Wednesday 4 July 8pm
There are no Category 1 seats available for:
Sunday 1 July 8pm
Monday 2 July 8pm
Finale on Saturday 7 July 8pm
If you wish to book tickets please do so as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
Book online www.westcorkmusic.ie or 027 52788
We have just come in from a wonderfull death and the maiden - very precise playing - the Bartok was also first class ps who forgot to book the weather pps the dubs won this afternoon ppps who is going to win tonight?
I'm off to open the Town Hall for the Young European Strings who have their concert there today at 2pm...