BY JACKIE KEOGH
THE artistic director of the renowned Wigmore Hall in London, John Gilhooly, was lavish in his praise of the West Cork Chamber Music Festival when he performed the official opening.
The 20th West Cork Chamber Music Festival, which offered nine days of world-class music making, was also of interest to a group from Holland who are hoping to emulate its success. Yasmin Hilberdink and Leana Furman travelled to Bantry from Amsterdam to see first hand how the festival has become such a success with most of the concerts selling out.
Limerick-born Gilhooly described how, 22 years ago, Francis Humphrys and the Vanbrugh Quartet ‘took up the torch and shone it over the world of chamber music.’ The results, he said, have been as ‘breathtaking’ as the views from Bantry House.
‘It makes me very proud to be Irish when I travel and musicians tell me about this truly wonderful festival. The international impact of it is huge and it is now central to the chamber music world.’
Festival director Francis Humphrys said he was pleased that ticket sales this year, like last year, were phenomenal and that RTÉ and Lyric had recorded all of the concerts including five that went out live to 11 counties, a potential audience of 40 million.
Francis expressed his gratitude, and the gratitude of West Cork Music, the festival promoters, to the Arts Council for their €240,000 sponsorship, and to Failte Ireland for their increased support, all of which helps to make West Cork Music’s three festivals – including the upcoming West Cork Literary Festival and the Masters of Tradition – worth an estimated €2 million to the local economy.
‘The Chamber Music Festival depends on a large and regular number of subscribers and thankfully those numbers are increasing because people realise now that they need to subscribe early if they are to secure good seats,’ said Francis.
Francis Humphrys thanked everyone in the locality who contributed to the success of the festival: The countless volunteers, and local businesses – such as The Maritime Hotel, Jim O’Keeffe of Super Valu and Stephen O’Donovan who provided them with two town centre locations for events.
Since its foundation in 1996, the West Cork Chamber Music Festival continues to present adventurous and much-admired programmes and continues to attract visitors from throughout the world. John Gilhooly said he wanted to lend his voice to the case being made to create a purpose-built venue for the festival in Bantry.