Music festival honours its greats

THE KILKENNY Music Festival, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary has decided to honour some of the city and county’s best known musicians for their huge contribution.

THE KILKENNY Music Festival, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary has decided to honour some of the city and county’s best known musicians for their huge contribution.

The festival which will take place from March 6 to March 10 now has 80 competitions in total including choral, vocal, piano, string,woodwind, brass and chamber music categories.The festival launch was held in the Mayor’s Parlour recently and was hosted by Mayor Sean O’hArgáin. Also in attendance was Councillor Martin Brett. The committee were pleased to honour some of Kilkenny’s best known musicians. Each one will have a Cup dedicated to them which will then be presented to the Prizewinners of their particular category. The Memorial Cups presented were to honour the memory of Breda Phelan and Larry Daly.

Breda Phelan and Larry Daly

Breda’s Cup was presented by the Watergate Theatre to acknowledge the huge contribution made by Breda to the stage in Kilkenny. Breda played a major role with Kilkenny Musical Society, having first taken a main role in Maritanna in 1944. Her performance that year ensured regular principal appearances in future productions including ‘Country Girl’(1945), Pirates of Penzance’ and ‘Maid of the Mountains’(1952) ‘Arcadians’ and ‘Scent from Heaven’ (1953).

From 1973, when Kilkenny Musical Society was founded, until 1986 Breda appeared in many productions including’ The Desert Song’,’ Waltzes from Vienna’, ‘Merry Widow’ and ’ South Pacific’ to name but a few. Breda spent many years working Front of House after her retirement from the stage. It is only fitting that the Breda Phelan Memorial Cup be assigned to the Senior Girl’s Vocal Solo for songs from Musicals and Modern. There is a very large entry for this competition which will be held in St Canice’s Co-Educational National School on March 7.

The Larry Daly Memorial Cup is dedicated to the memory of a man who was born into a family with a long musical tradition. Larry was a member of St James Brass and Reed Band , the Transport and General Workers Union Band and the Dublin Concert Band. Nothing pleased Larry more than to see a young person with an instrument. He delighted in witnessing the way in which their young lives were enriched by being a member of a musical ensemble, whether a local community band, orchestra or traditional group. Larry’s son Liam, a former French Horn player with the army is following in his father’s footsteps and is currently on the music teaching staff of St Canice’s Co-Ed Primary School which has a flourishing brass programme. Larry’s wife Joan and his family are delighted that a cup will be presented in his memory at this year’s festival. Joan will be presenting the cup to the winner of the Junior Wind Recital. Festival committee member Ann Marie Kenny accepted the cup on behalf of the Daly family.

Kit O’Toole

Kit O’Toole began teaching in Kilkenny in 1983 when she decided to share her love of music through teaching piano. Students of all ages and experience will remember lessons in the piano room of the house on Bishop’s Hill some of whom were tutored by Kit from Elementary all the way to Senior Cert. Over a 25-year-career as a teacher she saw students achieve distinction levels at all grades. Kit’s house was a centre for the Royal Irish Academy piano examinations. Her late husband John, also an accomplished piano player had many a discussion over the kitchen table about exams pending. Kit greatly enjoyed her years teaching piano and will be honoured to present her Cup to the winner of the Under-17 piano completion which takes place on March 7 at St Canice’s school.

Tom Dullard

Tom Dullard is probably best known for his appearances with Brass Menagerie. Tom was interested in music from very early age. He got his

first guitar at 15 years of age and learned a few chords. He subsequently joined The Black Aces Showband playing rhythm guitar. He loved the sound created by the brass section and bought a trombone and learned to read music. Having mastered the art of trombone playing Tom then started up a Big Band called Brass Menagerie . The band were in huge demand for all sorts of functions and the dance floors would be packed with people enjoying the energy of the band. When St Canice’s Co-Ed won an AIB Better Ireland Award to set up a Brass Programme in the school Tom came on board as a volunteer teacher. Together with the late Jim Cantwell. Charlie Parsons and Joe Dowling they got the show on the road. Anxious to give something back to the community following years of support for his musical endeavours Tom has set up a band which rehearses in the Fr Mc Grath Centre. He is currently teaching seven saxophones, two trumpets, one trombone, a bass guitar and drums. This band intend to perform at charity events and members are enjoying ensemble playing. Tom will be in attendance at the Primary School Brass competition where his Cup which was presented by his family will be presented to the winning
competitors. This competition will also take place in St Canice’s school on March 7.

Maureen O’Keeffe

The final Cup is being presented by Kilkenny Music Festival itself to Maureen O’Keeffe who is a founding member of the festival. Maureen was a huge supporter of the Rev. CJ Sherin to whom the festival is dedicated. The festival is Maureen’s dream and she has worked unstintingly over 15 years as Cups and Trophies Secretary. Her home at John Street became the home of the festival where the committee would meet and the Cups would be gathered in preparation for the upcoming festival. Together with her great friend Siobhán Dowling who sadly passed away recently she ensured the growth of the festival by sourcing cups and trophies for the increasing number of new competitions as well as watching over the financial affairs. Maureen’s family business Meubles is a sponsor of the festival and has helped numerous young musicians to further their careers by providing an annual bursary.

Maureen has been involved in countless numbers of charity events over decades and but Kilkenny Music Festival is closest to her heart. The committee are delighted to present the Maureen O’Keeffe Founder’s Cup. Maureen herself will choose the recipient at the State Street Kilkenny Festival Gala which will be held at the Watergate Theatre on March 20.

Pat Shortis

Pat Shortis was born in a little thatched house in Maudlin Street 92 years ago. He left school at 14 and went to work in the brewery until his retirement after 50 years. Pat’s darling wife May, who passed away a few months short of their 50th wedding anniversary was his biggest influence and supporter. Pat plays regularly in two bands - ‘The Shortis Brothers’ with his son Seán, and the ‘Wetlands Orchestra’ with his great friend Jim Coady. With Jim he has performed at countless charity events over the years. His daughter Mary and husband Chris Wong are delighted to present a Cup in his honour which will be awarded by Pat to the winner of the Primary School Saxophone Competition which will be held in St Canice’s on March 7.

Praise for the festival

Mayor Sean O’hArgáin praised the work of the festival in providing a performance platform for not only Kilkenny’s ever increasing number of young instrumentalists and singers but the growing numbers attending from all over the South East and beyond as far as Dublin.

“The Kilkenny Music Festival is now one of the most important and influential festivals in Kilkenny’s calendar of events,” said Mayor O’hArgáin. He also praised and thanked the musicians who were being honoured for the wonderful legacy they have left and are still creating for generations to come. He thanked the young string quartet - Marble City Strings - for providing the wonderful music.

Festival spokesperson Regina O’Leary thanked St Canice’s Credit Union, Kilkenny Borough Council, Statestreet and Meubles whose financial support ensures the future of the festival.

The festival will be held at the following venues over five days - Kilkenny College, St. Canice’s Co-Ed National School, CBS Secondary School and Gaelscoil Osraí. Enquiries to Festival Secretary Ann Marie Kenny on 086 3569745 or at

Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.

Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.