THE PIPER AND THE FAIRY QUEEN
It is said that when the composer Francesco Geminiani visited Ireland in the first half of the eighteenth century, he met Turlough O’Carolan at the house of an Irish nobleman. Hearing of the harper’s skill as a composer, the Italian arranged for him to be played a Vivaldi concerto on solo violin but with parts of the tune omitted. At its conclusion, O’Carolan commented on the beauty of the piece but added in Irish: ‘Here and there it limps and stumbles.’ He then proceeded to perform the work back to the assembled audience but this time with the musical errors corrected. The astonishment of all present was increased when the blind harper announced that he would compose his own concerto
right there and then and proceeded to create what would henceforth be known as Carolan’s Concerto.
Apocryphal or not, what this story reveals is the connections between continental musicians and Ireland. In the eighteenth century composers and musicians from mainland Europe made regular visits to the country as performers and teachers. As Professor Brian Boydell’s landmark book A Dublin Musical Calendar 1700-1760 shows, Dublin’s cultural reputation was second only to London in these islands. Hence the performance of Handel’s Messiah in Dublin in 1742 was a result of years of musical excellence rather than an isolated incident. Key to the performance of both styles of music is ornamentation - the use of grace notes, runs and trills - which brings the written notes alive, giving the music a feeling of improvisation. Indeed, as a renowned violinist as well as a composer Geminiani wrote several instruction manuals for advanced players on bow-hold, the use of vibrato and ornamentation using Irish, English and Scottish folk melodies as examples. The Piper and the Fairy Queen explores these congruencies and their common roots in dance music, bringing together the traditional music skills of uilleann piper David Power with acclaimed early music group Camerata Kilkenny
Founded by Malcolm Proud and Maya Homburger, Camerata Kilkenny is a period instrument group specialising in the performance of Baroque music although many of its programmes combine 17th and 18th century music with the works of contemporary composers. Since its début recital at the Kilkenny Arts Festival in August 1999 the ensemble has performed in Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Italy, The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Estonia, Latvia and at all of Ireland’s major music festivals. It has been ensemble in residence at the CC Maasmechelen Festival in Belgium (2010) and the Kilkenny Arts Festival (2014) and has worked with many guest artists including tenor Mark Padmore, sopranos Lenneke Ruiten and Maria Keohane, baroque flautist Wilbert Hazelzet, cellist Thomas Demenga, violinist Bojan Cicic and the Calmus Ensemble of Leipzig.
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