Westport goes classical


Marmen Quartet

Packed schedule for annual event from September 9 to 11

Michael Gallagher

Magical music, wonderful workshops, serenades and celebrations will decorate Westport in September when some of the finest classical musicians in the world make their way to the edge of Clew Bay. The Westport Festival of Chamber Music is taking place from September 9 to 11 and it promises to be an enthralling celebration in beautiful surroundings.
Performers will travel from Europe, America and various corners of Ireland to deliver concerts and workshops in Westport House, The Town Hall Theatre and Holy Trinity Church.
This year the festival also has a number of new dimensions, which will add greatly to the entertainment on offer. Among the new dimensions will be two lectures, a workshop in Matt Molloy’s Yard Bar and a workshop especially for schoolchildren.
The organisers are also working in collaboration with a number of groups in the community to bring more events to the area. There will be a preview concert in Westport House on Friday, August 26, and the Irish Chamber Orchestra will perform in St Patrick’s Church Newport on Thursday, September 8 as part of the Newport 300 celebrations. The Newport performance will take place on the eve of the main festival which will open with a concert in Westport House.
That exciting event will feature an evening of Beethoven, Wagner, Schubert and Tchaikovsky performed by Nicholas Daniel (oboe), Nikolaas Kende (piano) and Jolente de Maeyer (violin) and Sitkovetsky Trio.

Distinguished soloist
Nicholas Daniel’s long and distinguished career began when, at the age of 18, he won the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition and went on to win further competitions in Europe. As one of the UK’s most distinguished soloists as well as a highly successful conductor, he has become an important ambassador for music in many different fields. In recognition of this, he was recently awarded the prestigious Queen’s Medal for Music.
Nicholas has been heard on every continent and has been a concerto soloist with many of the world’s leading orchestras and conductors, working under conductors such as Sakari Oramo, Sir Roger Norrington, Oliver Knussen, Richard Hickox, Jiri Belohlavek, David Robertson, Sir Mark Elder and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. In addition to his extensive experience in baroque and 19th-century music, he is an important force in the creation and performance of new repertoire for oboe and has premiered works by composers including Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Henri Dutilleux, Thea Musgrave, Nigel Osborne, John Tavener, James MacMillan and Sir Michael Tippett.

Sensational trio
The Sitkovetsky Trio have produced sensational performances in the foremost concert halls around the world. Alexander Sitkovetsky (violin) and Wu Qian (piano) were joined recently by German-Korean cellist Isang Enders to continue their journey of successful appearances. Their thoughtful and committed approach have brought the ensemble critical acclaim and invitations to renowned concert halls around the world, such as the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Frankfurt Alte Oper, Palais des Beaux Arts, Musée du Louvre, l’Auditori Barcelona, Wigmore Hall and Lincoln Center New York to name but a few. The 2021/22 season will see the trio return to the Netherlands (Concertgebouw Amsterdam, TivoliVredenburg, Haarlem) and Italy (Trieste, Milan and Rimini) and tour through the UK, Ireland and Latin America. They will also make appearances at various spring and summer festivals in Europe.
Among the new features this year will be an intriguing lecture on Sunday, September 11 in The Sean Staunton Suite in Westport Town Hall. In this talk, Gary Leahy will outline the history of violin bow-making, and the techniques and exotic materials that go into the making of a bow.
An interesting and exciting schools’ workshop from Marmen Quartet, will be held at 11am, on Friday, September 9 in The Town Hall Theatre. There is already great interest in this event and other workshops will take place in selected national schools in the Westport area during the academic year.

Irish violin star
Another exciting musician who will feature at the festival is Dubliner Pheobe White. Born in 1997, Phoebe has been playing violin since the age of three. In her teens, she studied with Fionnuala Hunt at the Royal Irish Academy of Music. She studied under the tutelage of Mauricio Fuks at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, earning her Bachelor of Music Performance in 2019. In 2020, she moved to Berlin, where she now studies at the Berlin University of Arts with Professor Latica Honda-Rosenberg.
In recent years Phoebe has established herself as one of Ireland’s rising stars in classical music. In 2021 she was awarded the RDS Music Bursary, the Collins Memorial Award, and the Aileen Gore Cup at the Feis Ceoil. Previous awards include the National Concert Hall Young Musicians’ Award, the Dublin Philharmonic Award, the Maura Dowdall Award, and the Flax Trust Bursary.
As a soloist, Phoebe has performed with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, National Youth Orchestra of Ireland, and the Midlands Youth Orchestra. Phoebe is a passionate chamber musician, and has appeared at such festivals as the West Cork Chamber Music Festival, Encuentro Santander in Spain, the West Wicklow Chamber Music Festival, the Clandeboye Festival, the National Concert Hall Chamber Music Gathering, and Ortús Chamber Music Festival. Phoebe has been concertmaster of the Symphony Orchestra of the Encuentro Santander, and the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland. Since 2022, she is an academist of the Konzerthaus Orchestra Berlin.
Upcoming performances include solo engagements with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, RTÉ Concert Orchestra, and Esker Festival Orchestra. Phoebe currently plays a Joseph Galiagno violin on loan to her from the Berlin University of Arts.

Details of all aspects of the festival are available on the website www.westportchambermusic.ie. The organisers have also asked anyone interested in becoming a friend of the festival, to do so through the website. They say contributions made by festival friends are crucial to the annual event’s survival as ticket sales only cover a part of the budget. Brochures are available from the Town Hall Theatre as well as other venues around Westport.