Walled City Music Festival Launches

Classical heavyweights prepare to play Derry~Londonderry

The third Walled City Music Festival (officially launched in Derry~Londonderry on July 1) has its Belfast launch in the Harty Room of Queen’s University, where festival co-director Cathal Breslin works as a tutor.

Several students who are no doubt involved in the festival (either performing or in workshops) gather to learn more about this year's programme, while Breslin addresses the assembled media and festival partners alongside his wife and fellow festival director, Sabrina Hu, before playing a composition by French composer Maurice Ravel (listen in the attached podcast).

The artists that Breslin and Hu have persuaded to perform at this year’s festival are sure to attract headlines in cities across the classical world. In fact, they already have. ‘We’ve had newspapers write about us in America and even China,’ said Breslin, seemingly surprised with the reaction.

The Walled City Music Festival has not yet enjoyed the longevity of other classical music festivals in Northern Ireland, like the Clandeboye Festival, but as an emerging force it is remarkable that it continues to programme some of the biggest names in the current classical oeuvre.

This year sees the return to Northern Ireland of the Kronos Quartet, for instance, who both Breslin and Hammond (also present at the launch) refer to in whistful whispers.

‘They choose their performances very carefully,’ explained Breslin, flicking through the festival programme. ‘And they get many offers. So it’s amazing that they’ve decided to perform as part of the festival, that they’ll be performing in Derry.’

Another star attraction is Belfast's own classical son, flautist James Galway, who agreed to take part in this year's festival on the condition that Hammond – former stalwart of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and who celebrates his 60th birthday this year – composed a new piece for him to perform.

‘It’s fantastic that Jimmy is coming over for the festival,’ Hammond added. ‘I'm very pleased and proud that he will be playing one of my compositions. It's a big attraction for audiences.'

And, at the end of the day that is what the Walled City Music Festival is all about – attracting new audiences. Breslin hopes that lovers of the genre attend educational workshops during the festival ‘just to look on and enjoy the music’, and cites the recent success of Opera NI’s sell out production of Tosca as evidence that the demand for classical concerts in Derry~Londonderry is small but growing.

The Walled City Music Festival takes place in various venues throughout Derry~Londonderry from July 29 to August 7. For full programme information, or to book tickets, visit the festival website via the link below.