Killaloe Chamber Festival’s storytelling through music

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Maestro of the live concert broadcast, Paul Herriot
Maestro of the live concert broadcast, Paul Herriot

FROM  presenting ‘The Blue of the Night’ on RTE Lyric fm nightly, to being responsible for the station’s live broadcast of concerts and festivals, Paul Herriot has advocated fine music on the airwaves for nigh on 20 years.

The Belfast man was a founding member of Lyric in 1999 and his is a non-stop schedule. When not traversing from the National Concert Hall to Prague to Iceland on the trail of clefs and crotchets, Herriot helps to steer Killaloe’s Chamber Music Festival.

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Killaloe’s fifth festival since the Irish Chamber Orchestra let it go opens this Friday May 26 in St Flannan’s Cathedral for three days, www.killaloemusicfestival.com

This weighty gig revived under the impetus of chairperson Daphne Henderson, John Horgan of West Cork International Chamber Festival and artistic director Joachim Roewer in 2011. The appeal is across generations and formats, from classical to fun to late schmoozing. Local support is serious.

Festival events pivot between two venues, Wood & Sons Café and the 12th century cathedral for gigs variously at 11am, 3pm, 8pm plus the nightly club for hub-a-dub at Wood’s.

A man of refined, deft energy, Paul Herriot recorded every concert – six or so – there last year for Lyric fm. This year, that mission is up in the air as yet but this small festival’s big momentum is something on which he is categoric.

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“There are two things about Killaloe. One is that beautiful setting which is one of the key things of a successful festival – if you look at West Cork’s, it’s a beautiful place to be in, to come to. The other thing that Killaloe has going for it is that the Irish Chamber Orchestra set up in the UL campus and that brought in a very talented influx of musicians to the area”.

Based in the twin towns himself, so is Roewer and his missus, Katherine Hunka who leads the ICO on violin. There’s her multi-instrumental brother Boris Hunka of Music Generation and his ICO violinist wife Diane Daly and their music school. Add several more professionals to the pot.

Herriot downplays his input, saying his years on ‘The Blue of the Night’ gave him “the constitution of a bat. I was working most of the night and not that involved in the community”.

His own highlights for May 26 to 28? “The year the theme is storytelling and every kind of artistic expression involves that at one level or another… My love for Prokofiev brings me to ‘Peter and the Wolf’ on the morning Saturday 27 11am at Wood & Sons. This is the platform for Emerging Artists [Westlands Wind Quintet, UK in this instance].

“Then ‘Transfigured Night’  on Sunday [8pm in St Flannan’s]. Arnold Shonberg was a composer of the early Viennese school and ‘Transfigured Night’ tells through the music, in the most extraordinary way through strings, the story of two lovers who are discovered together walking through the forest on a very, very cold night under the full moon….”. Shonberg’s String Sextet serves the spectral emotionality and foreboding with sweet due.

Then Paul Herriot tips his hat to the quality of soloists drawn in to this village rock, Hugh Tinney and  Fiachra Garvey, “two of our country’s finest pianists”. Book a pew through glór on 065-684 3103.