Classical music enthusiasts from the Midlands region are certain to appreciate the recently confirmed line-up for the seventh annual Birr Festival of Music.
Taking place from Thursday, April 27-Monday, May 1, Birr’s annual classical music festival is expanding to a five-day event this year across the May Bank Holiday weekend.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of The Trench Award and to celebrate this occasion, 10 award recipients from past years are returning to Birr to perform in three exciting concert collaborations, curated by the Dublin pianist/conductor Niall Kinsella who takes up the role of Artistic Curator for the festival this year.
The three concerts include the Opening Night Gala at Birr Theatre & Arts Centre, A Lunchtime of Song at The Chestnut Garden and Music in Birr Castle (this event is exclusive to festival patrons and sponsors as a thank you for their continuing support ).
Performers include Sarah Brady (soprano ), Carolyn Holt (mezzo-soprano ), Martina Rosaria O’Connell (flute ), Ben Gannon (oboe ), Mollie Wrafter (violin ), Philip Keegan (viola ), Aoibhin Keogh Daly (cello ), Aidan Chan (piano ), Peter Regan (piano ), Heather Fogarty (mezzo-soprano ) and Matthew Mannion (baritone ).
Other musical delights over the weekend include the celebrated duo Bruno Caproni baritone and Julian Evans pianist in concert with the special guest soprano Sandra Oman, long considered one of the finest voices of her generation. An Enchanted Evening at Birr Theatre & Arts Centre will feature the music of Rossini, Verdi, Bizet, Liszt, Ravel, Lerner & Loewe, Rodgers & Hammerstein.
The fascinating Musical Time Travellers will move through centuries of composers to the present day and includes newly-commissioned music by composer Claire Meehan, inspired by lines from the poem, BIRR, by Rita Kelly and features Arthur Greene on organ and violinist Kevin Meehan.
Exciting this year is the Birr Young Voices’ project, Exploring the Planets & Stars. Inspired by the rich astrological heritage of Birr Castle & Science Centre, children will present songs, art and poetry created over the past fourteen weeks in collaboration with Birr School of Music and visual artist Emma Behan.
The festival is also expanding its outreach to local secondary schools with Music for Life in St Brendan’s Community School, Gallen Community School and Coláiste Naomh Cormac. Senior music students will gain an insight into what it means to be a successful professional musician. Acclaimed baritone Bruno Caproni and concert pianist Julian Evans present music and stories from their international careers. Past Trench Award recipients now developing their careers in concert, opera, orchestra and other ensembles, will also give performances followed by Q&A sessions
The Trench Award 2023, one of the main events on the festival schedule, will showcase young singers and musicians of the future. Six singers/musicians from the Midlands region will each perform a 15-minute programme of their choice. All are pursuing professional careers in performance and were selected by an international panel of music experts. Recipients of The Trench Award, Birr Lions Club Bursary, Canto Al Serchio Prize (for voice ), Audrey Chisholm Award (for instrument ), will be announced. An Audience Choice and Musical Futures Bursary may also be awarded.
There will also be a host of street buskers in various venues around the town and masterclasses in Birr Theatre & Arts Centre.
Director of Birr Festival of Music is Maureen de Forge: “We are looking forward with great anticipation to this year’s Festival when we will welcome back to Birr many of our previous Trench Award singers and musicians from opera companies, orchestras and music conservatoires where they are are now establishing successful careers or following further studies. We will hear them in various collaborations- trios, quartets, duets and solos - with wonderful concert programmes devised by Niall Kinsella, the festival’s 2023 Artistic Curator.”
“Other welcome developments for Birr Festival of Music this year sees our outreach programme expand into neighbouring schools and our partnership with the thriving Birr School of Music continues to grow. We are extremely grateful to our funders, sponsors, patrons and audiences who make all of this possible and we extend a Céad Míle Fáilte to all for a great weekend of music.”
Tickets for this classical music event are now available to purchase on www.birrfestivalofmusic.com