MOUNTSHANNON Arts Festival is getting set to celebrate its 24th year, with an exciting programme for 2020. While the main festival take place from May 23 to June 1, organisers aim to have events running over the course of the year. Next month, for the first time ever, one of the key performances will take place later this month (March) at Glór in Ennis, as renowned pianist Alexander Ardakov makes a welcome return to Clare.
Mr Ardakov, who lives in London, hails for the Volga region of Russia and as well as being an acclaimed musician is a Professor of Piano at a leading conservatoire.
He played to a capacity audience in Mountshannon in 2019. The hope is that, by collaborating with Glór for a performance on March 28 – which is World Piano Day – people from across the region will get to hear him play.
Roxanne Leonard who is a member of the Arts Festival committee had known Mr Ardakov when she lived, for a time, in London:
“I was working with the Camphill Community of people with special needs, “ she explained. “We had a hall and a great piano and we would occasionally get calls from the agents of really top class pianists, asking if we would like a concert – usually at very short notice. Alexander came to us there and that’s how I got to know him. Before we moved to Ireland, we had dinner with him and he said he would like to add Ireland to his map of places he had played, and that maybe I would organise that for him.”
The response to last year’s performance was so positive that Roxanne and the committee anticipate that the virtuoso musician will be warmly welcomed to Ennis in March, when he is set to perform works by Chopin and Rachmaninov. Mr Ardakov, who has performed in some of the world’s largest and most prestigious venues, is the winner of the Kabalevsky Piano Competition in Russia and the Viotti International Music Competition in Vercelli, Italy. One reviewer said of him: “Alexander’s audiences are never left indifferent, they are swept up in the sensitivity, intensity and passion of his playing that takes them on a journey from the most tender and intimate perceptions to the dramatic peaks of life’s greatest moments.”
The Glór performance could be considered to be Mr Ardakov’s third in Clare. He gave impromptu one, when Roxanne took him for dinner Killaloe last year: “We went to the Piper’s Inn and Alexander immediately spotted the piano. He asked for the key and he played it. There were a few guys at the bar and their jaws just dropped when they heard him.”
For this year’s festival events, securing backing of a major cultural centre is something Roxanne believes is a great endorsement: “To feel that a venue as large and as well known as Glór is willing to support a community event for us and the Arts Festival is wonderful. This is just one event and we’re really happy to be able to share it with a wider public. We hope too that it will encourage people to come to Mountshannon from May 23 to June 1, where our main Festival events will be held.”
The programme for the summer festival is to be unveiled in the coming weeks. Its theme, this year, is ‘Identity’, a celebration of what organisers describe as “the beauty of individual uniqueness”.