46th Kilkenny Arts Festival opens this evening

Mary Cody


Mary Cody



Asylum Productions, Kilkenny Arts Festival with  support of the Abbey Theatre present the world premiere of unique theatrical experience, The Big Chapel X, based on The Big Chapel by Thomas Kilroy

Asylum Productions, Kilkenny Arts Festival with support of the Abbey Theatre present the world premiere of unique theatrical experience, The Big Chapel X, based on The Big Chapel by Thomas Kilroy

The 46th Kilkenny Arts Festival will open this evening (August 8) with a programme that includes a thrilling and diverse array of theatre, music, literature, exhibitions, talks, dance, spectacle and surprise, performed in the most beautiful and atmospheric buildings.

The festival will light up both stages and the very fabric of the marble city itself, over 11 days of artistic adventures.

Some highlights include:

The festival collaborates with Rough Magic on two new productions: Much Ado About Nothing and Cleft
Another co-production with Asylum Productions will premier a promenade production of Thomas Kilroy’s novel The Big Chapel staged in Callan itself.
International stars of classical music make their Kilkenny debuts: the revered contralto Nathalie Stutzmann and the legendary Thomas Zehetmair.
The Fews Ensemble and Ciarán Hinds perform a special performance of Stravinsky’s iconic work, The Soldier’s Tale.
Acclaimed pianist Barry Douglas will perform at St Canice’s Cathedral, in a programme of Beethoven: Piano Sonata No.23 in F minor “Appassionata”, Rachmaninov: Moments Musicaux op.16 
and Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition.

After dark, Kilkenny will be lit by two spectacular projection shows: Flux at St Canice’s and Light Up the Castle at Kilkenny Castle.
The Irish Chamber Orchestra return as orchestra in residence for two special performances including Beethoven’s mighty ‘Eroica’ symphony under the baton of Zehetmair.
New Chamber Music in the Afternoon series features leading artists performing everything from Haydn to Arvo Pärt.
Martin Hayes’ Marble City Sessions features a gorgeous line-up of legends, including his own impossibly elegant Quartet, a new collaboration between the Ní Dhomnaill and Mulcahy sisters, the incomparable Richard Thomson, and an exciting collision of NYC jazz outfit Harriet Tubman and a quartet of traditional stars.
With Rollercoaster Records the Festival presents rising stars such as David Keenan along with favourites like Seamus Fogarty.
Spoken word events feature intriguing conversations on local and international issues, while a trio of poets invite us to explore their work.
Immerse yourself in exhibitions, including the intriguing US artist Amy Cutler at the Butler Gallery; an exciting contemporary design show at the National Design and Craft Gallery Blaise Smith and Eamon Colman celebrate Kilkenny itself in a landscapes exhibition.
Speaking at the time of the programme announcement, Festival Director Olga Barry said: “I’m so excited to welcome these extraordinary creators and perfomers to the Marble City this August. Kilkenny City itself is the ideal festival stage, with its amazing historic spaces and gardens; its compact, medieval cityscape and generous people has always made Kilkenny Arts Festival a simply gorgeous place for artists and audiences to come together easily and creatively. It’s an honour to present this programme along with such stellar creative partners as Rough Magic  - with whom we open a new Festival site at the Quad at St. Kieran’s College, Asylum Productions who will bring audiences to the town of Callan, the Irish Chamber Orchestra, Martin Hayes, Rollercoaster Records, Poetry Ireland and many more – and it’s a thrill to announce Crash Ensemble’s upcoming residency with an Irish premiere and special take-over at the Courtyard at Rothe House this August.”

Kilkenny Arts Festival is known for bringing artists, musicians and theatre-makers together to create unforgettable moments. The programme is filled with such moments including acclaimed actor Ciarán Hinds who takes to the stage to play narrator, solider and devil in a gripping concert performance of Stravinsky’s masterpiece The Soldier’s Tale, with the Fews Ensemble, led by Joanne Quigley McParland.

Kilkenny Arts Festival, through co-productions and supporting companies, continues to bring new works to the stage.The festival is delighted to collaborate with Rough Magic on two new productions. Following last year’s award winning production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream Rough Magic returns with a vivid contemporary staging of Shakespeare’s beloved screwball comedy Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Ronan Phelan with a sterling ensemble cast, performed at The Quad at St Kieran’s College. Cleft, by Fergal McElherron, a dark, visceral, folkloric tale about one family’s unrelenting will to survive, directed by Lynne Parker, starting Simone Kirby and Penny Layden (Rough Magic, Glór in association with Galway International Arts  Festival and Kilkenny Arts Festival).

Asylum productions, Kilkenny Arts Festival with the support of the Abbey Theatre present the world premiere of a unique theatrical experience, The Big Chapel X, based on The Big Chapel by Thomas Kilroy, adapted by John Morton, Medb Lambert and Donal Gallagher. Kilroy’s novel is a fictionalised retelling of the real events surrounding the notorious ‘Callan Schools’ Affair’. This radical adaptation sees the people of Callan (supported by a team of professional theatre artists) retelling their own story, using the town of Callan as its stage. 
This will be accompanied by a special programme of events exploring the impact of Kilkenny on Kilroy’s work, the unique challenges of staging the production in Callan and an architecture project which reimagines Callan’s regeneration and redevelopment as a pilot town for Project Ireland 2040.

 There will also be a chance to see a new work in progress, at a rehearsed reading of Genevieve Hulme-Beaman’s new work Rat King. 
As well as lighting up stages and venues across Kilkenny, this year the festival will light up two of the city’s most iconic spaces:

In partnership with the OPW, the walls of Kilkenny Castle will be lit up with a spectacular light show, with panoramic viewing at the Rose Garden the show is also partially viewable from various vantage points across the city, while KCLR will provide the offsite soundtrack.
A multi-sensory spectacular inside St Canice’s Cathedral - Flux (Eat My Noise Productions) which mixes screens, projection, live organ, live  electronics and tape in a breath-taking immersive experience.
This year’s classical music programme offers an exciting mix of debuts and returning talent.

Acclaimed pianist Barry Douglas will perform at St Canice’s Cathedral, in a programme of Beethoven: Piano Sonata No.23 in F minor “Appassionata”, Rachmaninov: Moments Musicaux op.16 
and Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition.

International baroque ensemble Phoenix 55 with conductor/contralto Nathalie Stutzmann who will perform a very special Bach programme.
Kilkenny Arts Festival continues its partnership with the Irish Chamber Orchestra and leader Katherine Hunka, bringing with them – for his first visit to the Festival – the star violinist and conductor Thomas Zehetmair alongside violist Ruth Killius in a mammoth Beethoven programme also featuring Britten’s Double Concerto.
Continuing Kilkenny’s lifelong commitment to presenting the finest chamber music, this year’s programme sees a stellar collection of international and Irish ensembles and artists perform a diverse range of music from the ‘canon’ of the European Art Music tradition and beyond as part of Chamber Music in the Afternoon offering a variety of forms and styles and features a wide range of composers including Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Clara Schumann, Britten, Elgar, Debussy, Brahms and Pärt. The series will kick off with the Festival orchestra in residence, the ICO, directed by Katherine Hunka, in a programme of Elgar and Britten. For the first time the Festival welcomes young chamber music collective, Musici Ireland, for a pair of concerts, Arvo Pärt, and Brahms’ String Sextets.
New Irish talents will include Cork-born pianist Fionnuala Moynihan performing Clara Schumann, and Patrick Rafter, performing Debussy and Franck with Michael McHale. 
The festival welcomes back Quatuor Mosaïques for a fresh trio of concerts focusing on some of Beethoven’s greatest string quartets, complemented with works by Mozart and Haydn and Malcolm Proud, offering a programme of Bach at St Canice’s Cathedral.
After its sold-out, late-night concerts exploring choral works through the ages, Chamber Choir Ireland returns to the Festival with a radical new approach. Led by celebrated Norwegian conductor Grete Pedersen, the choir performs a suite of contemporary pieces by a wealth of European composers, Louis Andriessen’s gorgeous Un Beau Baiser, and recent works by leading Irish composers Rhona Clarke and Deirdre McKay.
A special screening of the 1931 Dracula with a bone-tingling live score composed and performed by Sean MacErlaine leading a quartet of outstanding musicians and singer Sharon Phelan. 
The visual arts programme will celebrate and explore both what is different and what is shared.

The Butler Gallery, in association with the Festival, is delighted to present the first exhibition in Ireland of New York-based artist Amy Cutler whose pairings and pencil on paper words are whimsical allegories illustrating the destructive efforts of the unrealistic expectations that cultures impose on women. In a special event Blaise Smith, Amy Cutler, Eamon Colman will discuss their radically different approaches to their work. 
Bringing together two radically different locally-based artists, Eamon Colman and Blaise Smith’s ‘Double Vision’ of the county in their own inimitable styles.
At the National Design and Craft Gallery, a thought-provoking exhibition Crowded Thresholds, generating a fascinating visual interplay between authentic storytelling and artistic expression. The artists share a common preoccupation with making the invisible visible and a fundamental interest in traditional processes and materials. Curated by Fiona Mulholland, exhibitors, Max Brosi, Julie Connellan, Hazel Kenny, Daithi Magner, Paul McClure, Caoimhe McGuckin, John Rainey, Niall Sweeney @ Pony Ltd. & Brigitta Varadi, while Joe Caslin will take over a city centre site for a new piece, especially made for this Festival exhibition. This will be accompanied by a series of talks and workshops. 
The Encounter that never Was, a group exhibition at the Kilkenny Arts Office Gallery, explores how we interpret and inhabit space through a series of subtle sculptural interventions. 
A programme of spoken word, will see readings from poet in residence, Don Peterson, and the young artist Mícheál ‘Moley’ O’Súilleabháin while Belfast poet Cherry Smyth, along with composer Ed Bennett and singer Lauren Kinsella, brings her Famished project to the Parade Tower.

Hear Niamh Boyce discuss and read from her acclaimed new novel Her Kind a gripping account of the Kilkenny witch trial;
Celebrated theatre and opera director Patrick Mason interviews the writer Thomas Kilroy on the publication of his memoir Over the Backyard Wall;
A regular and always popular visitor to the festival, Fintan O’Toole discusses the ongoing Brexit dramatics through the prism of his widely acclaimed book Heroic Failure;
And the annual Hubert Butler Lecture this year entitled: Behind Enemy Lies: Reporting on Conflict in the Age of Fake News, is delivered by esteemed journalist and writer Patrick Cockburn
A varied and exciting music programme will see new interpretations of old favourites, the return of familiar faces and the chance to discover new work.

Wooden Elephant perform their own interpretation of two iconic and instantly classic albums, Bjork’s Homogenic and Radiohead’s Masterpiece Kid A.
Global star Carlou D blends Senegalses instruments with western pop influences in an evening of bluesy and impassioned songs.
Sun Collective take many disparate genres and meld them into a seamless blend of gorgeous three part harmonies and lush string arrangements.
Mark & Marichka Marczyk (Counting Sheep / Lemon Bucket Orchestra in 2017) return with a brand new show Balaklava Blues, mixing vocals and electronic dance beats against a backdrop of footage from the front lines of Ukraine’s Maidan revolution, transporting the audience into the war-torn Ukraine.
The fruit of seven year’s research of the forgotten stories of the Irish famine, Famished, is a lyrical lament performed by Cherry Smyth in collaboration with composer Ed Bennett and leading jazz vocalist Lauren Kinsella.
The renowned and mighty Crash Ensemble returns to Kilkenny for the Irish premiere of a major new work by Northern Irish composer Ed Bennett, Song of the Book and take over the atmospheric courtyard of Rothe House while artist Blaise Smith sketches the stunning city garden for a special afternoon.
Immerse yourself in The Quiet Music Ensemble’s entrancing soundscapes, renowned for their innovative performances of experimental music.
Experience the Rollercoaster sessions where audiences can discover two up-and-coming bands from the thriving music scenes in Kilkenny and Dublin in a double bill from four piece The Wha and Sick Love,  the soulful David Keenan backed by a full band, one of rock’s most singular performers Cathal Coughlan, Arborist fronted by singer-songwriter Mark McCambridge with the Arco String Quartet and, returning to the festival after 7 years, Seamus Fogarty. 
Canadian dancer Sandy Silva, described as a pioneer of ‘body percussion’ weaves intriguing tapestries of sound, accompanied by acclaimed guitarist Steve Cooney and others, skilfully combining film and live performance.
The Marble City Sessions will see artists across musical genres collaborate to  create unforgettable musical moments across the Festival. Sessions will include,the bringing together of two celebrated pairs of siblings from very different parts of the Irish tradition Louise & Michelle Mulcahy / Maighread and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill and the Martin Hayes Quartet in an eagerly awaited return to St Canice’s with his latest groundbreaking ensemble, featuring Dennis Cahill, Liz Knowles and Doug Wieselman.

Other highlights include folk legend Richard Thompson, a musical celebration of the struggle for civil rights in Ireland and America featuring Karan Casey, Melvin Gibbs, JT Lewis, Úna Monaghan, Aidan O’Rourke, Brandon Ross and Niall Vallely, Canadian dancer Sandy Silva, described as a pioneer of ‘body percussion’ weaves intriguing tapestries of sound, accompanied by acclaimed guitarist Steve Cooney and others, skilfully combining film and live performance and a concert of Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, one of traditional music’s most enduring and fruitful partnerships, with guests Síle Denver, Steve Cooney, Cormac Begley and more.
The ever surprising mini pop-up performances by Festival artists in some of Kilkenny’s loveliest spaces - Secret Garden Music also returns. No details of artists taking part are announced in advance so you never know who might turn up.

Family/children events

The partnership between Barnstorm and Kilkenny Arts Festival continues in 2019 with StormFest – a family season of a theatre and storytelling programme in the New Space @ CBS Secondary School, James Street, Kilkenny with theatre from Denmark, Teater Patrasket and the UK, M6 Theatre. Other family events include an enchanting concert for young children from trad musicians Fiona Kelleher and Jim Murray as well as Donal Dineen’s Tiny Dancer for even the youngest of us love to dance!