Kilkenny Arts Festival presents: The Marble City Sessions 13-17 August

Kilkenny Arts Festival presents: The Marble City Sessions 13-17 August

Kilkenny Arts Festival is renowned for bringing together some of leading artists and voices from around the world. During the Festival each year many exciting and once off collaborations take place. One Festival strand which specifically celebrates this great spirit of collaboration is The Marble City Sessions. This unique series of collaborations which take place during the festival is co-curated by Martin Hayes.

This year see two sets of hugely talented siblings - Maighread and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill and Louise and Michelle Mulcahy in the Set Theatre. Martin Hayes makes an eagerly awaited return to St Canice’s with his newest groundbreaking ensemble, Dennis Cahill, Liz Knowles and Doug Wieselman. See why Richard Thompson is regarded as one of the genuine songwriting, and guitar-playing greats in his very special gig in the Set Theatre. Niall Valley brings together singer Karan Casey, harpist Úna Monaghan, fiddle player Aidan O’Rourke with the NYC jazz outfit Harriet Tubman Trio in a musical celebration of the struggle for civil rights in Ireland and America. Acclaimed dancer Sandy Silva is accompanied by guitarist Steve Cooney in a combination of stunning short films from the Migration Dance Project and exhilarating live performance. For the closing concert in the Marble City Sessions, Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill are joined by a line-up of outstanding musicians, including concertina wizard, Cormac Begley, Singer/harpist Síle Denver, dancer Sandy Silva, Steve Cooney and more for a celebration of eleven days of Festival magic in St. Canice’s Cathedral.

Tickets on sale now from  



Maighread & Triona Ni Dhomhnaill

Louise & Michelle Mulcahy

This unique event brings together two celebrated pairs of sisters from very different parts of the Irish tradition. Maighread and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill – leading lights in Irish traditional music for over 40 years – are steeped in the rich tradition of West Donegal, while flautist and uilleann piper Louise Mulcahy and her multi-instrumentalist sister Michelle – one of Ireland’s most creative harpists – hail from Limerick. For this concert the siblings join forces to explore their musical heritage in an unmissable collaboration between some of the finest talents working in traditional music today. (Set Theatre)


Martin Hayes Quartet 

Martin Hayes makes an eagerly awaited return to St Canice’s with his newest groundbreaking ensemble. Mixing traditional tunes with unconventional instruments – courtesy of guitarist Dennis Cahill, viola d’amore player Liz Knowles, and clarinettist Doug Wieselman – the Martin Hayes Quartet is busy redefining how traditional music can sound. The result, ‘intimate in feel and panoramic in scope’ (Journal of Music), is a beguiling blend of tradition and innovation at once familiar and utterly fresh. For this year’s concert, the quartet is complemented by dancer Sandy Silva, another unique performer whose work takes a fresh approach to traditional forms. (St. Canice’s Cathedral)


Richard Thompson 

It’s 13 years since he was presented with a lifetime achievement award by the BBC, but Richard Thompson shows no signs of resting on his laurels. In the intervening time the folk rock legend has curated London’s prestigious Meltdown Festival, recorded the soundtrack to Werner Herzog’s wonderful documentary Grizzly Man, and released a string of critically acclaimed albums showcasing the songwriting prowess that earned him an Ivor Novello Award and more than one Grammy nomination over the course of a glittering 50-year career. This very special gig in the Set is a wonderful chance to see for yourself just why Thompson is regarded as one of the genuine songwriting, and guitar-playing, greats. (Set Theatre)


Sounds Like Freedom
A Musical Celebration Of The Struggle For Civil Rights In Ireland And America

Irish traditional music has a proud history of speaking out against injustice, and it was when he heard the Harriet Tubman Trio that concertina-player Niall Vallely got the idea for this unique concert exploring the musical connections between the civil rights movements in Ireland and the US.

Harriet Tubman Trio

Named after a celebrated African American who liberated 300 slaves, the Harriet Tubman Trio is a powerhouse of New York’s experimental jazz scene whose earth-scorching blend of funk, rock, jazz and dub is infused with revolutionary zeal. For this very special collaboration the trio is joined by a quartet of musicians whose work sits at the cutting edge of trad: singer Karan Casey, harpist Úna Monaghan, fiddle player Aidan O’Rourke and Vallely himself. Performing songs of protest and rebellion, Sounds Like Freedom celebrates the subversive spirit of Irish traditional music and forges new connections between musicians whose work speaks the language of protest.

For a taste of the Harriet Tubman Trio don’t miss their free Sofa Session gig at Billy Byrne’s on Wednesday 14 August at 10pm. (Set Theatre)


Sandy Silva with Steve Cooney

Canadian dancer Sandy Silva is a pioneer of ‘body percussion’, an expressive dance style that uses the whole body to weave tapestries of sound, from the whisper of a shoe on a floor to blazingly fast tap rhythms. Drawing on a breathtaking range of traditional dance forms, from Cape Breton to the Appalachian mountains, Silva works at the crossroads of movement and sound, forging a style both totally unique and utterly compelling. This show combines stunning short films from the Migration Dance Project – Silva’s award-winning exploration of migrant experiences – with exhilarating live performance, accompanied by acclaimed guitarist Steve Cooney. (The Watergate Theatre)


Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill

From The Gloaming to The Martin Hayes Quartet, the unique partnership of Martin Hayes’ fiddle and Dennis Cahill’s guitar is one of the must enduring and fruitful in Irish music, and has been at the heart of many of the most exciting traditional music projects in recent years. For this closing concert in the Marble City Sessions, Hayes and Cahill are joined by a line-up of outstanding musicians, including concertina wizard, Cormac Begley, Singer/harpist Síle Denver, dancer Sandy Silva and Steve Cooney for a celebration of eleven days of Festival magic. (St. Canice’s Cathedral). 


Maighread & Triona Ni Dhomhnaill Ireland, Louise & Michelle Mulcahy

Date: 13th August, Time: 9pm, Venue: Set Theatre, Tickets: €25


Martin Hayes Quartet 

Date: 14th August, Time: 7.30pm, Venue: St. Canice’s Cathedral, Tickets: €30/€27


Richard Thompson 

Date: 14th August, Time: 9.30pm, Venue: Set Theatre, Tickets: SOLD OUT

Sounds Like Freedom

Date: 15th August, Time: 10pm, Venue: Set Theatre, Tickets: €25

Sandy Silva, with Steve Cooney

Date: 16th August, Time: 6pm, Venue: The Watergate Theatre, Tickets: €15

Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill

Date: 17th August, Time: 8pm, Venue: St. Canice’s Cathedral, Tickets: €30/€27





By phone: 056 775 2175

More information / see the full programme at:

FACEBOOK: Kilkennyarts

TWITTER: @kilkennyarts

INSTAGRAM: @kilkennyartsfestival


Kilkenny Arts Festival is core funded by the Arts Council / An Chomhairle Ealaíon, and also funded by Fáilte Ireland and Kilkenny County Council.



Kilkenny Arts Festival is one of the leading festivals in Ireland, celebrated for its effortless blend of tradition and innovation, and for its electrifying range of events, staged in some of the country’s loveliest venues. 

Since its foundation in 1974, Kilkenny Arts Festival has gathered many of the world’s finest musicians, performers, writers and artists in Ireland’s medieval city. For ten days each August, the city’s historic churches, castle, courtyards, townhouses and gardens offer a magical setting for unique collaborations and intimate encounters between audiences and artists.

From outdoor theatre to contemporary dance, the Festival is dedicated to staging events of the highest calibre, thrilling audiences of all kinds. Classical music has been at the core of the Festival from the very beginning, with concerts featuring globally acclaimed artists such as Victoria de los Angeles, Alfred Brendel, Jordi Savall, Steven Isserlis, Dawn Upshaw, Nigel Kennedy and Joshua Bell, among many others.

In recent years the Festival has enriched its music programme with major new initiatives like The Marble City Sessions, a cross-genre series of unique musical collaborations featuring a range of artists, hosted and co-curated by the great Irish traditional musician Martin Hayes. 

Indeed, artist residencies now lie at the heart of everything the Festival does, offering a combination of continuity and innovation that gives the Festival its unique spirit. The Festival’s orchestra-in-residence, the Irish Chamber Orchestra, collaborates with leading national and international performers on a range of concerts combining the traditional with the thrillingly modern, while in recent years the position of poet-in-residence has been graced by everyone from Paula Meehan and Eavan Boland to Billy Collins and Robert Pinsky.

Kilkenny is spoiled with some of Ireland’s most magnificent historic spaces, such as St. Canice’s Cathedral and the Black Abbey– sites of countless breathtaking concerts – and the Castle Yard, home to dazzling theatrical productions by the likes of Rough Magic, Shakespeare’s Globe and Druid Theatre. From St John’s Priory to the Set Theatre, few festivals can boast such a wealth of venues, and the  Kilkenny Arts Festival is constantly devising unique events for the city’s hidden gems.

Today, Kilkenny Arts Festival is one of the leading festivals in Ireland, celebrated for its effortless blend of tradition and innovation, and for its electrifying range of events, staged in some of the country’s loveliest venues.

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