Formed in 2003, under the artistic direction or Sarah Cunningham, the East Cork Early Music Festival has developed a reputation as one of the premier small festivals in the Irish music calendar.
Every September the event brings internationally renowned performers of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music to audiences throughout Cork City and County.
Historic local landmarks such as St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Fota House and Cloyne Cathedral, as well as the recently completed Curtis Auditorium in the Cork School of Music have hosted concerts by the worlds leading early music performers.
Emma Kirkby, The Palladian Ensemble, Barthold and Wieland Kuijken, Quintessential, James Bowman, The London Handel Players, Rachel Brown, Irish Baroque Orchestra and Bob van Asperen, to name but a few, have played to enrapt audiences. Eamonn Lawlor of Lyric Fm called the 2005 performance of Monteverdi’s 1606 Vespers (North Cathedral), “magnificent .. one of our musical highlights of the decade..”
With the range of spectacular venues throughout scenic East Cork and city, surrounded by world renowned restaurants and hotels such as Ballymaloe House, the Festival has been a huge success with audiences and performers alike, enjoying not just the music but also the local hospitality, flavours, culture and history.
This year’s festival takes in a new venue, the purpose-built Grain Store at Ballymaloe House, where the Irish Baroque Orchestra Chamber Soloists perform their programme A French Revelation, with music by Rameau, Couperin, Leclair and Marin Marais. This stunning concert of music that could have been heard at the court of King Louis XVI takes place in the ideal surroundings of the beautiful Grain Store. Students attend free of charge at this chance to hear star baroque flautist Lisa Beznosiuk, with violinist Hannah Tibell, viola da gamba player Sarah Groser, and harpsichordist David Adams.
Local favourite Madrigal ’75 return to the Festival this year, performing our opening concert in the CIT Cork School of Music. Their famously perfect sound merges with that of an expert instrumental ensemble, as they blend well-known choral and instrumental masterpieces with undiscovered gems.
The iconic voice of Dame Emma Kirkby is another returning artist, accompanied by the London Handel Players. Their concert ‘Arias for Mrs Arne – an Evening at the Pleasure Gardens’ is presented in association with the Cork Orchestral Society. Performing a programme by composers active in eighteenth century England, this promises to be an unforgettable night.
Malcolm Proud’s Bach Partita concert is already touring the country, and he brings two splendid concerts to us this year. In the CIT Cork School of Music and the fabulous Fota House he will perform all of J. S. Bach’s acclaimed Partitas for keyboard over two days. Dr David Ledbetter, a leading authority on the music of Bach, will give a lecture before the first of these concerts in the CIT Cork School of Music introducing audiences to the historical context behind the Partitas. These concerts are funded by the Arts Council of Ireland’s Touring and Dissemination of Work Award, and presented in association with Cork Orchestral Society.
Sirius Arts Centre hosts Irish soprano Róisín O’Grady on Saturday, accompanied by Sarah Groser (viola da gamba) and James Taylor (harpsichord). This lovely waterside venue right on Cobh harbour will ring with the sound of French cantatas by Clérambault, Montéclair and Rameau, along with solo viol music by Marin Marais in this lunchtime concert.
To close the festival on Sunday we return to Fota House, where festival stalwart Eimear Reidy (baroque cello) is joined by Irish flautist Emma Elkinson and Finnish harpsichordist Anna Savelainen, in an enticing programme entitled The Hibernian Muse, a selection of perennial favourites by composers including Telemann, Froberger and Turlough O’Carolan.