August 2013 will see the 40th Kilkenny Arts Festival bring an exciting mix of Irish and International music, theatre, dance, craft, visual arts, literature and more to the medieval city located in the South-East of  Ireland.  Ireland’s oldest multi-disciplinary festival  is celebrating an unrivalled legacy which has seen some of the biggest names and most exciting newcomers in the arts from around the world flock to Kilkenny. 

It all began in 1974, almost forty years ago when a young, tousle-haired Seamus Heaney took to the stage in the back room of Kyteler’s Inn for a reading at the very first Kilkenny Arts Festival. The poet was virtually unknown, but he held the audience spellbound, and artists have been doing just that every year in Kilkenny since.  

That first year participants included Bernadette Greevy, Robert Ballagh, Louis Le Brocquy and Norah McGuinness and since 1974 the Festival has welcomed an illustrious list of guests across the art forms. 

Many artists have chosen to return again and again, such as Seamus Heaney and Colm Tóibín building a very special relationship with the Festival and with Kilkenny.   

Such is the reputation the Festival has built up over the past decades that Kilkenny now welcomes over 28,000 to the city annually. 

Over the years the Festival team has continued to support and commission many new works, leaving its own a unique legacy of art and creativity. Due to demand booking is already open for some highlights of the 2013 Festival which will run from 9 – 18 August.

Speaking at the announcement of the first festival highlights to be go on sale Rosemary Collier, Festival Director said, “For 40 years, Kilkenny Arts Festival – or arts week as it was formerly known – has played such an important role in the cultural life of this country and is an integral part of Irish summers. To mark our 40th Festival we hope to celebrate the legacy of eclectic programming that has been presented at Kilkenny down through the years.

"We are delighted that a number of artists who have been part of Kilkenny Festival story in the past will return this year including Colm Tóibín, Irish pianist Barry Douglas and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre Company (UK).

"We are equally excited to be presenting four times Grammy Award winning Dawn Upshaw who will perform her first solo recital in Ireland. New works are always a key part of the Festival and we delighted to announce Festival commissions for 2013 include a piece by leading American composer Michael Gordon to be performed by The Crash Ensemble, and a brand new dance show called Dusk Ahead from Junk Ensemble.”
Following on from their highly successful Irish debut at the Festival in 2012, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is set to return to Kilkenny in August.  This year, director Joe Murphy will bring another of the Bard’s great comedies to the medieval splendor of the Castle Yard: The Taming of the Shrew – with an all-female cast. Two wealthy sisters in Padua must be married off. The modest, demure Bianca has no shortage of suitors, but who on earth will take the wild, ungovernable, ‘shrewish’ Katherina? Perhaps the gold-digging Petruchio – as maddeningly strong willed and perverse as Katherina herself – will be equal to the task...

Performed on a recreated Elizabethan ‘Booth stage’, and featuring one of theatre’s great double-acts, The Taming of the Shrew is a frenetic and linguistically gymnastic screwball comedy tailor-made for this beautiful space.
Dawn Upshaw is one of classical music’s most magnetic and groundbreaking stars and August 2013 will see her perform for the very first time in St Canice’s Cathedral Kilkenny. Few singers can boast, alongside four Grammy awards, a “genius” Fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation for “enriching the landscape of contemporary music”, but Dawn Upshaw is no ordinary soprano. Even before she appeared on Henryk Górecki’s million-selling Symphony No. 3 in the early 1990s, Upshaw was feted both for the quality of her voice and for her rare ability to cut to the heart of the music. She might have been forgiven for resting on her laurels and yet, over a career spanning more than two decades, she has developed a reputation as a tireless innovator, embracing everything from Bach to Broadway show tunes while working with cutting-edge contemporary composers like Kaija Saariaho and Donnacha Dennehy. For her first ever solo recital in Ireland Upshaw will perform an intriguing programme of songs by Charles Ives, Bela Bartok, Maurice Ravel, Franz Schubert and Bolcom and will accompanied by her long-time collaborator Gilbert Kalish.

Kilkenny Arts Festival continues to nurture and support new Irish and international work through its festival commissions.  As part of the 2013 Festival the critically acclaimed Junk Ensemble will perform a powerful new dance show, Dusk Ahead, specially commissioned and co-produced by Kilkenny Arts Festival and the Project Arts Centre.

A multi-award-winning company who often stage works in unusual locations, Junk Ensemble’s innovative productions stretch the boundaries of dance theatre, creating a rich sensory mix that challenges the relationship between audience and performer. Dusk Ahead explores that mysterious time of day when it is difficult to distinguish what is real from what is imagined. With a high-calibre cast of international and Irish performers (who also act as the band, playing live music throughout the piece), Dusk Ahead is a captivating new work from one of Ireland’s most dynamic dance companies.
A second Festival commission which will premiere at the Festival is a new work by American composer Michael Gordon to be performed by Crash Ensemble as part of a very special performance in St Canice’s Cathedral. Founded in 1997, the Crash Ensemble has established itself as a “a powerhouse of new music” (The Irish Times) celebrated for commissioning, producing and performing the most adventurous and exciting works both from established international composers like Steve Reich and Kevin Volans and up-and-coming fresh talent. The recording of Grá agus Bás, featuring works by Donnacha Dennehy and performed by Iarla Ó Lionáird and Dawn Upshaw, was released in 2011 to international acclaim. As part of this special performance Dawn Upshaw will perform That The Night Come the highly acclaimed song cycle written for Upshaw by Donnacha Dennehy featuring poems by WB Yeats. The concert will also feature another work ‘Drones, Variations, Ornaments’ especially written for Crash by THE young American composer of the moment, NICO MUHLY.
Fresh from a European tour celebrating Ireland’s presidency of the EU and appearance at the BBC Proms the day before, Barry Douglas and Camerata Ireland will travel to Kilkenny to perform a special programme to mark the Benjamin Britten centenary. Camerata Ireland brings together the finest Irish musicians – both young and established – to create a unique and world-class chamber orchestra. Since pianist and conductor Barry Douglas founded the ensemble in 1999, it has toured all over the world gaining an international reputation for excellence. Douglas himself is no stranger to Kilkenny’s festival audience having performed at the festival many times as a soloist and with chamber ensembles. The festival is delighted to be welcoming Barry back to the festival with his orchestra to perform a programme of works by Benjamin Britten, Lennox Berkley, Dmitri Shostakovich and Edward Elgar and to be marking the anniversary of one of the twentieth centuries most influential classical music composers.

In the past three year the Kilkenny Arts Festival Choir and Orchestra has established itself as one of the must-see events of the programme.  This year as part of The Gathering Ireland 2013, the Festival has made a global call for international choral singers to participate in an ambitious choral event which will be a major highlight of the 40th festival celebrations. Under the baton of the prolific Irish conductor Fergus Sheil (who has garnered much attention for his recent work on Wagner’s Tristan Und Isolde at the Board Gáis Energy Theatre and last weekend’s Irish tour with the BBC Singers) Kilkenny Arts Festival hopes to bring together 100 Irish and international singers from more than 20 countries for a very special performance one of the masterpieces of twentieth-century music: Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.  Based on the eponymous collection of medieval poems celebrating the transience of life, the fickleness of fortune, and the joys and sorrows of drinking, gluttony, gambling and lust, Orff’s cantata will find an acoustically perfect setting in the 13th century cathedral of St Canice’s.

40 years ago Kilkenny Arts Festival was founded by a group of classical music enthusiasts. Since its humble beginnings the Festival has grown in size and reputation and is now a key event on the international Festival calendar.

For 10 days each August, Kilkenny comes alive with a feast of artistic entertainment for all across a range of artforms including theatre, dance, many genres of music, street and family, literature, visual arts and Craft.  The Festival continues to give audiences a unique opportunity to see both talented up and coming artists as well as world renowned names.  
The list of those who have been part of the Festival over the past 40 years is an extensive one but includes: Louis Le Brocquy, Teatro Do Mar, Seamus Heaney, The Gabrieli Consort, Victoria de los Angeles, Julian Lloyd Webber, The Tallis Scholars, Joshua Bell, Steven Isserlis, The European Baroque Orchestra,David Hockney, John Williams, Peter Brook,  Robert Fisk, Misha Glenny, Rodrigo y Gabriella,  Andreas Scholl, Amiina, Tindersticks, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Polina Leschenko, Cillian Murphy, Rodrigo y Gabriella and Andreas Scholl.
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