Fresh feel to West Cork Chamber Music Festival

July 8th, 2017 2:20 PM

By Southern Star Team

Brigitte Shelswell-White, owner of Bantry House, with Jim Daly TD and festival chairman John Horgan at the opening reception;. (Photos: Andy Gibson & Nicholas O'Donnell)

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THERE is a freshness to the West Cork Chamber Music Festival this year with musicians venturing out into public spaces and engaging directly with the people of Bantry.

It’s all part of the inaugural fringe festival, which, like the literary fringe, clearly has the potential to become an entity all of its own.

‘It has been really successful so far,’ said Deirdre O’Donovan, organiser of the fringe – an event that includes eight free performances in a variety of locations, such as Whiddy and Garinish Islands, the Westlodge and Bantry Bay Hotels, St James Church in Durrus, the National Learning Centre in Donemark, Bantry library and the tourist office.

Although only half-way through the programme, Deirdre spoke to The Southern Star on Tuesday about how joyful some of the events were, such as the percussion workshop at the Bantry Bay Hotel on Monday afternoon.

She said 40 kids who would normally have nothing to do with the West Cork Chamber Music Festival got inspired by the music they were making and will, in time, engage with the main festival.

Meanwhile, local people packed Organico for one of the free lunchtime concerts and, later that day, a couple made their way to the West Cork Music office at Glengarriff Road and, for the first time, bought tickets for one of the main evening concerts at Bantry House.

The message is clear: try it, you might like it because the fringe festival is, if nothing else, confirmation that chamber music is not only beautiful, it is accessible and inspiring too.

It’s an open secret that the hunt is on for a permanent home for the West Cork Chamber Music Festival and, at the official opening on Friday last, the chairman of West Cork Music, John Horgan, said: ‘We are still working on the proposal to develop a permanent music venue here in Bantry.

‘It would offer us the opportunity to attract an even bigger international audience, as well as more world-class musicians, and it would be of significant economic benefit to Bantry.

‘Such a venue,’ he said, ‘would be used for our three festivals, but it would also be available for other activities too, including community events.’

According to Mr Horgan, ‘a project of that magnitude could cost €10 million, but it is a long-term project. It may take years to achieve.’  

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