Gems in the shadow of the Blackstairs
PICK OF THE WEEK
BARROW RIVER ARTS FESTIVAL
The Barrow River Arts Festival in Borris House, Co Carlow, is a hidden gem of the spring music calendar, a quietly august gathering of musicians, lured into the Blackstairs mountains by Swiss baroque violinist Maya Homburger and legendary UK free jazz bassist Barry Guy. The husband-and-wife team are frequent visitors to the southeast, and their boutique festival, in the stately surroundings of Borris House – ancestral home of the MacMurrough Kavanghs, who are still in residence – is a defiantly personal and eclectic three days of musical openmindedness, presenting early music, contemporary classical, spoken word and free jazz cheek by jowl.
The festival opens with Songs from the Mediterranean (Friday, 8pm), featuring the renowned Greek vocalist and ECM artist Savina Yannatou, whose daring approach fuses eastern and western influences, covering everything from early Greek folk songs to the international avant garde. She is joined by Dublinbased multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi, who also covers the early music-meets- improv waterfront, along with the vastly experienced Barry Guy on bass.
The SAI Trio (Saturday, 3pm) explores the terrain linking traditional dance and free improv, with innovative Flamenco dancer Sònia Sánchez, Catalan pianist Augustí Fernández and jazz percussionist Ivo Sans. Irish guitarist and composer Benjamin Dwyer and soprano Sylvia O’Brien (Saturday, 5pm) present the world premiere of the guitarist’s new work, Sobre los Ángeles, based on the words of Spanish poet Rafael Alberti, while Guy’s own Beyond trio (Saturday, 8pm) is the closest the festival comes to pure jazz, featuring compositions by Swiss saxophonist Jürg Wickihalder.
Camerata Kilkenny (Sunday, 3pm), the chamber group founded by Homburger and Kilkenny harpsichordist Malcolm Proud, open the last day of the festival with a concert that matches select Arias from Bach Cantatas to Swedish folk songs, performed by Swedish Baroque specialist soprano Maria Keohane. Celebrated Beckett specialist Barry McGovern gives a reading from the great writer’s plays and poems (Sunday, 5pm) and the festival closes with a performance of Mozart, Schnittke and Schumann from English violinist Priya Mitchell with pianist Polina Leschenko (Sunday, 7pm).
With art and crafts exhibitions, a Swiss Sausage supper on Saturday evening, and informal opportunities to meet the performers, not to mention to considerable charms of Borris town, the Barrow valley and the Blackstairs mountains, there are many, infinitely worse ways to spend a Spring weekend. For more, see barrowriverartsfestival.com.
A defiantly personal and eclectic three days of musical open-mindedness, presenting early music, contemporary classical, spoken word and free jazz
East meets west