First off, congratulations to all concerned on a very successful Arts Festival. I kicked off the Festival in the Watergate Theatre at Stephen Rea’s reading of Oscar Wilde’s ‘De Profundis’, addressed to his lover ‘Bosie’ (Lord Alfred Douglas) when Wilde was incarcerated in Reading Gaol (1895 – 1897) Profoundly moving, in my humble opinion, however, the Irish Chamber Orchestra was not necessary. The ‘music’ of ‘De Profundis’ is in the words, words wrung from ‘the heart’s deep core’ and the troubled, tortured soul. Stephen Rea did not need mood music. One man, one table, one voice, that’s all was required.
A different class of ‘orkestra’ entirely was the Lemon Bucket Orkestra in The Set Theatre who blasted out music that was wildly colourful, carnival-like, and crazy. Crazy as in got-to-dance, got-to-do-something-with-my-body to this mesmerising, marvellous music (so I tapped my feet - I have the Travel Pass for Godsake) I would encounter the Lemon Bucket Orkestra in Cillín Hill later in the week. Same band, similar sound but totally different mood. ‘Counting Sheep’ was a ‘black horse of a different colour’ if I may mix my metaphors. This ‘guerrilla folk opera’ was a personal retelling, and recreation, of the popular uprising that succeeded in toppling the Ukrainian government in 2014. Political? You bet. Powerful? You bet. Emotional? You bet. Educational? You bet. Should you have gone? You bet.
And then there was ‘The Messiah’ in Saint Canice’s Cathedral and for sure that was something special. As was Schubert’s ‘Trout Quintet’ performed in St. John’s Priory by the Fidelio Trio & Guests. Listening to it, I was transported, just across the road, to the banks of our own lovely Nore where I could see, and hear, the trout rising, and plopping into the dappled, sunlit water. That’s the poet breaking out in me. And the poet did break out in me at Eoghan O’Drisceoil’s poetry reading in Bosco’s Café in the Watergate. Relaxed and informal, this was poetry in-the-round as Eoghan later called on the writers present to recite. And we did. And the entire experience was simple, unpretentious but poetic nonetheless. And equally unpretentious, but nonetheless artistic, was Daithí (David) Houlihan’s exhibition of his signature, delicate drawings and water colours in The Parade Lounge.
And I thoroughly enjoyed Swiss puppeteer Peter Rinderknecht’s show in the Barnstorm Theatre. ‘A poetical play for children’, I was the big child sitting in the front row, thoroughly engrossed and amazed at the man’s ingenuity. Still in Barnstorm I was mightily impressed by an exhibition called ‘Placescape’ created by 14 Kilkenny residents around the theme ‘Place’. I was particularly impressed, and intrigued, by Danielle Olvario’s Nipa Hut, a Filipino home, and her short, informative essay re same. But the most unique event of this Arts Festival had to be my private audience with the viola da gamba player Liam Byrne in the ancient, and intimate, Talbot’s Tower in the grounds of Ormonde College (and fair dues to former Councillor Betty Manning who was very much responsible for its restoration) This was truly special as Liam played a 17th century song, ‘The Porter’s Rant’, especially for yours truly; short (there were others queuing) sweet but unforgettable. And I loved Chamber Choir Ireland in St. Canice’s Catholic church who offered us a feast of choral Russian, sacred, song. A unique, exceptional experience. Finally, to one of my prized purchases (all of €24) this Arts Festival: two origami swans, the exquisite and delicate, creations of origami artist, Narumi Yamaguchi, exhibiting in the former Presbyterian church on the Ormonde Road. Oh, and I am not forgetting the delightful pot of fig & ginger jam I purchased at the Art & Craft Collective in the Mother of Fair Love School. Tasty, tangy, zesty – a work of art!