Dear friends,

Welcome to East Cork Early Music Festival 2015! For the 13th time, we’re delighted to present Baroque music at its most exciting in Cork City and County. Be it in the big resonant spaces of the Curtis Auditorium in the CIT Cork School of Music, or Devere Hall in UCC, or the historic interiors of St John’s Church in Midleton and Cobh’s Sirius Arts Centre, the rich tones of the 17th and 18th century will resonate throughout the city and county. And sometimes where and when you’d least expect it: in Mother Jones’ Flea Market, or in whatever corner the Flash Mob might suddenly gather! Big orchestral and choral concerts, intimate chamber recitals, outreach events, masterclasses, club nights, the usual mingling of performers, students and audience over coffees and pints, ECEMF is here again for you to enjoy.

If ‘Harmony of Nations’ wasn’t already in use as the name of an orchestra, it would have made a perfect subtitle to this year’s festival. ECEMF 2015 is a truly international affair, with musicians from most European countries (not to mention the US, Australia and South Korea!) joining forces to breathe life into the great legacy of the Baroque Age.

We’re pleased to welcome back the London Handel Players, returning to Cork after a sell-out Carnegie Hall debut. The Players themselves may mainly hail from Britain, but their opening night programme will take us on a grand tour of Europe– featuring major composers from France, Italy, Germany, England. And our tour-guide for the night will be Terpsichore, the Muse of Dance, such an important element in much of the Baroque repertoire. We are thrilled, for the first time, to include Baroque dance performance, in period costume, in our programme. Not only will period dance experts Mary Collins and Steve Player enhance the power of the music on the night of the London Handel Player’s concert, but Mary will also lead an open workshop in the School of Music, and Terpsichore herself might even make an appearance at our late night ‘Baroque Céilí’!

For Friday lunchtime, an Irish-American-Finnish trio will link the curious repertoire of the age of Galileo with visual spectacle, science and astronomy. Harpsichordist and musicologist Linda Burman-Hall’s brainchild, ‘Expanding Vistas – Astronomy and the Birth of the Baroque’, features a custom-made video projection of ‘deep-space progressions’, choreographed to the sounds of Baroque violin, guitar and harpsichord. At 8pm the same day, our own Cork Baroque Orchestra will welcome this year’s guest director, Austrian oboe virtuoso Andreas Helm, for a dazzling selection of German concertos, as well as Handel’s powerful ‘Dixit Dominus’, with award-winning Cork choir Madrigal 75.

On Saturday the action moves to Midleton, and what a ‘harmony of nations’ it will be: with first, our Festival Allstars (English-Austrian-French-Australian-Irish) performing some delectable Telemann, Fasch and Handel, and later, the fantastic young Woodpeckers Recorder Quartet (Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Irish). The Woodpeckers will make their ECEMF debut with a wonderful selection of Vivaldi, Bach et al., together with their own arrangements of Nordic folk music – a treat for the whole family. On Sunday afternoon, the festival will come to a decorous end, with Tonos’ soprano Roisin O’Grady and Baroque guitarist Eamon Sweeney joined by exquisite traditional fiddler Edel Sullivan, in the waterfront setting of the Sirius in Cobh. Tonos may be an all-Irish group, but their programme will again revel in that multi-national cornucopia that is Baroque music, offering the full spectrum of the genre, from Monteverdi to O’Carolan. In addition, we will again host a number of masterclasses, workshops, late night events, and for the first time, a Chamber Music Competition for young ensembles.

As this is my third and final year as Artistic Director, I would like to take this opportunity to give special thanks to all of you, our organisers, patrons and concert-goers, for making this festival possible. Programming is easy, but transforming an idea or proposal into an actual event is hard work. It’s a lesson I won’t easily forget: I will forever have nothing but admiration for everyone working in arts administration! I can’t thank our Board and Committee enough for all their work and support, especially Conor O’Connell and Pauline Mac Sweeney: it’s no exaggeration to say that without them ECEMF would not happen. And céad míle fáilte to this year’s new Friends and Patrons, and all of you who will join us for the first time as audience members – hope you enjoy listening and participating as much as we love performing!

I believe that in these three years we’ve succeeded in demonstrating what a versatile, accessible, inclusive and fun genre Early Music is and can be. No dustiness and inflexible rules – just a treasure chest of repertoire, attractive and varied, and suitable for all, from beginner, to adult amateur, to the world’s best performers, to make it their own, and offer it to the audience. To move, to inspire, to entertain, perhaps all at once…