2023 LEMF Artists
Ancór Choir, Siobhán Armstrong, Peter Barley, Cormac Breatnach, Stephen Cooney, Michał Gondko, Asako Hirabayashi, Rachel Factor, Yonit Kosovske, LEMF Orchestra, LNME, Fiona Linnane, Cecilia Madden, Corina Marti, Edwin McLean, Kevin Neville, Sagittarius Hiberniensis, Enrica Savigni, Vlad Smishkewych, Eamon Sweeney, Yovanna Torres Blanco
Ancór Chamber Choir was founded in 2005 by conductor Cecilia Madden and has become one of the most exciting musical ensembles to emerge from the Mid-West region. Today, the choir consists of thirty singers who come from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities but who love singing together. They perform at concerts, weddings, charitable and corporate events on a regular basis. Ancór embraces a wide repertoire, incorporating music from the Renaissance to the 21st century, both sacred and secular. The choir has won numerous awards at festivals around Ireland and currently holds the title of Best Limerick Choir 2020 (Limerick Choral Festival). Recent tours have included Slovenia (2017), Italy (2014) and France (2012).
Siobhán Armstrong is one of Europe’s foremost harpists playing historical repertory on reconstructions of medieval to baroque harps. She performs and records with many of Europe’s most prestigious early-music soloists, orchestras and opera companies, and also collaborates with some of Ireland’s best-known traditional-music performers. Siobhán is the founding director of The Historical Harp Society of Ireland, spearheading the international rediscovery of Ireland’s ancient harp, strung in brass wires. In 2015, she located a lost, historic Irish harp, and in 2016 she commissioned the first ever 3D-laser scan of a musical instrument at The National Museum. Her PhD thesis (Middlesex, London) has unlocked new information about eighteenth-century, Irish-harp performance practice. Sharing her discoveries is now at the heart of her artistic, academic, and educational work. Siobhán is an Occasional Lecturer at the School of Music, University College Dublin. With her ensemble, The Irish Consort, she recently released a recording Music, Ireland and the Sixteenth Century on Destino Classics, UK, shedding light on a neglected century in Irish music. This was one of The Irish Times’ top five international Classical Music picks of 2021.
Peter Barley is Organist and Choirmaster of St Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick. He is also a member of the teaching staff at the Limerick School of Music, where he teaches piano and organ and is a staff accompanist. Peter was previously Organist at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, from where he holds the title of Organist Emeritus. Peter began his career in London, where he was Director of Music at St Marylebone Church, as well as regularly accompanying such choirs as the Corydon Singers, the London Concert Choir and Canticum. The foundations for his interest in choral, organ and sacred music were laid through studies at King’s College, Cambridge (where he was an organ scholar) and as a postgraduate student at the Royal Academy of Music, London. His organ teachers during this time were Nicolas Kynaston, the late Peter Hurford and the late Nicholas Danby. As an organist, Peter has performed at many UK venues including St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and Bridgewater Hall. He has also played at most of the main Irish recital venues, and whilst living and working in Canada he played in all the regular ‘noon-hour’ organ recital series in Toronto. Having studied on the church music course with Patrick Russill whilst a student at the Royal Academy of Music, Peter has also retained a strong interest in music in the church during his career. A former Director of the Edington Festival of Music within the Liturgy, Peter also spent six years as Chair of RSCM Ireland. He is now closely involved in the Limerick Pipe Organ Festival. In January 2020 he was pleased to be able to form a new vocal ensemble, Sagittarius Hiberniensis, based at St Mary’s Cathedral.
Cormac Breatnach’s playing can be heard on more than 50 albums including Riverdance and his own solo albums, Musical Journey and Éalú and on Film soundtracks The Secret of Roan Inish, The War of the Buttons, Horse + Moondance as well as Award-Winning TV programmes: Bringing It All Back Home, A River of Sound, Súlt and The Session. Cormac also featured on and presented TV programmes with Geanntraí in Greystones Co. Wicklow and with Ceolchuairt in the Basque Country.
Stephen Cooney is one of the most sought-after producer-arrangers in traditional music. He was born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, where he learned to play the didgeridoo, and from the age of seventeen he played in a number of rock bands. He moved to Ireland in the early 1980s, and since then he played on over 60 albums with Irish artists, such as Altan, The Chieftains, Clannad. He also composes his own material. He received his PhD from the National College of Arts & Design: ‘Visual Tools for Comprehension of Music: An Intuitive Model Originating in Artistic Practice.’ His recent acclaimed CD of Early Irish Harp music – CEOL ÁRSA CLÁIRSÍ– was released in 2019 & can be purchased online.
Rachel Factor concertizes on harpsichord as a soloist and chamber artist. She has performed with many of Ireland’s leading ensembles at prestigious festivals throughout Ireland and has participated in concerts recorded for and broadcast by RTÉ lyric fm. Rachel has performed multiple times at The Handel-Hendrix House Museum in London. She has a keen interest in Irish Baroque music and contemporary music, of which she has premiered works by many emerging composers in Ireland, and has performed with Irish Composers’ Collective and Crash Ensemble. With the group Sonamus (Irish and Baroque fusion group) Rachel has recorded a successful CD Music of Ireland. Rachel is also the harpsichord professor at The Conservatory of Music and Drama at TU Dublin and an examiner for the Royal Irish Academy of Music. Rachel co-directed the Alchemy Music Concert Series with Eamon Sweeney. Rachel’s initial studies were with Gillian Smith and later with Dr. David Adams. Rachel also received tutelage from Carole Cerasi, Laurence Cummings, Malcolm Proud, and Christophe Rousset. Rachel was the recipient of a 2022 Arts Council Agility Award, a 2017 Arts Council Artist Bursary Award, and two awards from the Arts Council Music Network Capital Scheme. Rachel gratefully acknowledges the support of Music Network and The Arts Council.
Michał Gondko graduated from the acclaimed Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, where he studied lute with Hopkinson Smith. In Michał’s “deft and fluid” (Early Music Today) lute playing “phrases come across like extempore thoughts chasing each other across the imagination, an effect many try for but very few succeed” (Lute News). He is founder and, together with Corina Marti, artistic director of La Morra, an ensemble for Late Medieval and Early Renaissance music. Under their leadership La Morra has earned Diapason d’Or, the Jahrespreis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik, the American Musicological Society’s Noah Greenberg Award, as well as Gramophone and International Classical Music Award nominations. He won high critical acclaim for his debut solo album Polonica. On his most recent solo album (Mortua dulce cano), he explores the sound of a unique historical instrument: the so-called “Presbyter” lute (built c1595). Concert tours have taken him to the most European countries, as well as to the USA, the countries of the Middle East, China and Japan.
Asako Hirabayashi is a harpsichordist and composer. Her recording Music for Harpsichord (Albany Records) features her compositions and performances as both a soloist and collaborative keyboardist. The album was selected as one of the 5 best classical CDs of the year 2010 by Minneapolis Star Tribune, one of the top 10 albums of the year 2018, the Gold Medal Award by the Global Music Awards, and it received 7 favourable international reviews. She has won numerous grants and awards as both a soloist and composer, including two McKnight Fellowships, Jerome Fund for New Music by American Composers Forum, Schubert Club Composer Award, Opera America’s Discovery Grant, MNiatures – Tiny Operas, Big Ideas by MN Opera, and several first prizes in the Aliénor International Harpsichord Composition Competition. She has composed 30 chamber pieces and 4 operas, and her compositions have been performed in more than 14 different countries. She has appeared as a featured guest soloist in international festivals and concert series worldwide since her New York debut recital at Carnegie Hall. She holds a Doctoral degree from the Juilliard School.
Yonit Kosovske performs on harpsichord and piano as a soloist, chamber musician, and interdisciplinary artist. She is dedicated to both sacred and secular music and is at home with a wide array of repertoire from the Renaissance through New Music. Yonit is co-director of H.I.P.S.T.E.R. (Historically Informed Performance Series, Teaching, Education and Research) and co-producer of the Limerick Early Music Festival, as well as artistic director of WAVE~LINKS—a video series exploring music and artisanry. She is a Lecturer of Music at the University of Limerick, Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. Highlights among her most recent Yonit’s awards include an Arts Council Music Bursary Award (2022) to explore contemporary harpsichord music, an Arts Council Music Commissions Award (2020) for her new song cycle Watershed by composer Ailís Ní Ríain, and an Arts Council Agility Award for her project ROCKING, an interdisciplinary collaboration and film featuring early music and contemporary dance.
LEMF Festival Orchestra
LEMF Festival Orchestra has a project-based roster made up of leading musicians from Limerick and throughout Ireland. What makes this group especially unique is the fluidity of its freelance musicians coming from diverse backgrounds on both modern and period instruments, as well as hybrid combinations of modern instruments using baroque bows.
Limerick New Music Ensemble are a group of like-minded musicians and composers performing and promoting new music in Limerick city and county, directed by Fiona Linnane. Originally formed as CoMA Limerick in 2008 as the first International ensemble of the award winning UK based network CoMA (Contemporary Music for All), the group have enjoyed residencies at the Belltable Arts Centre, Limerick and The Hunt Museum, Limerick. The ensemble have performed concerts both locally and nationally, well attended by a diverse audience helping to contribute to the cultural fabric of Limerick city and county. They have attracted funding on both a local and national level and have become regular performers at Limerick City Culture Night.
Fiona Linnane is a composer specialising in Opera and vocal music. In 2022 she was awarded an Arts Council of Ireland Music Bursary to explore creating new work for choirs. This project will also take in a collaboration with violinist Larissa O’Grady inspired by the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History. Linnane was awarded an Agility Award by the Arts Council of Ireland in 2021 to work with mentor Sinead Hayes on a study of conducting contemporary repertoire. This led to the launch of Limerick New Music Ensemble (formerly CoMA Limerick), an instrumental ensemble and composers collective specialising in music by living composers, founded and directed by Linnane. In 2021 Linnane worked on several projects exploring sound art, creative audio and installation, supported by an Arts Council of Ireland Music Bursary Award. This included a reflective piece on the pandemic based on the poem Covid-1 by Mary Coll and the soundtrack for the short film From the Wellfeaturing electronics and spoken word, with imagery by Claire O’Rorke.
Cecilia Madden is a native of Limerick where she directs Ancór Chamber Choir and is the Principal of Limerick School of Music. Cecilia read Music and History at Trinity College Dublin to MPhil level where she was awarded a double exhibition for her studies. In parallel with her academic studies she sang as a Choral Scholar and later conducted the Chapel Choir and University Orchestra at Trinity while she also studied Oboe Performance at DIT Conservatory of Music. Further focus in Choral Conducting at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik followed where she also sang with the three choirs of Berlin Cathedral. Since returning to Ireland, Cecilia has conducted several other choirs and continued her studies at postgraduate level in Music Education and Educational Leadership & Management at the University of Limerick and NUI Maynooth respectively. As well as conducting and performing regularly as a recorder player, oboist and pianist, Cecilia also sings as an ensemble singer, recently becoming a founding member of Sagittarius Hiberniensis under the direction of Peter Barley at St Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.
Corina Marti is internationally recognised for her ‘strikingly superior’ and ‘expressive’ (Toccata) interpretations, and ‘infallible’ (Diapason) technique. Her extensive discography of repertoire ranges from the fourteenth-century istanpitte and intabulations of (and beyond) the chamber music and solo concertos of the High Baroque and reflects the breadth of her musical interests and technical skills. She leads a full life as a soloist, chamber musician and teacher, travelling regularly across Europe, both Americas, and the Middle and Far East. She has appeared with numerous early music ensembles and orchestras (including Hespèrion XXI, Coro della Radiotelevisione Svizzera Italiana and Helsinki Baroque Orchestra) and is artistic co-director and founding member of La Morra, an award-winning Late Medieval and Early Renaissance music ensemble which ‘never fails to keep the listener’s attention alive’ (Gramophone). Her ongoing research into aspects of the repertoire and reconstruction of late-medieval and early-renaissance keyboard instruments and recorders has contributed substantially to the present-day revival of these instruments. She teaches the next generation of early music performers at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland, and in masterclasses worldwide.
Edwin McLean is a composer living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in the United States. He is a graduate of the Yale School of Music, where he studied with Krzysztof Penderecki and Jacob Druckman. He also holds a master’s degree in music theory and a bachelor’s degree in piano performance from the University of Colorado. Mr. McLean has authored over 200 publications for The FJH Music Company, ranging from The FJH Classic Music Dictionary to original works for pianists from beginner to advanced. His highly-acclaimed works for harpsichord have been performed internationally and are available on the Miami Bach Society recording, Edwin McLean: Sonatas for 1, 2, and 3 Harpsichords. His 2011 solo jazz piano album Don’t Say Goodbye includes many of his advanced works for piano published by FJH. Mr. McLean began his career as a professional arranger. Currently, he divides his time between editing, composing, and painting.
Kevin Neville is a bass from Limerick. He completed his BA in Music and English Literature at Trinity College Dublin and his MMus with First Class Honours at the Conservatory of Music and Drama D.I.T. Kevin is a recipient of the Christopher Lynch Singing Bursary, the Capuchin Bursary and the Feis Ceoil Lieder Prize. As a member of the Northern Ireland Opera Studio he performed three tours including a condensed performance of Così fan Tutte as Don Alfonso. Kevin made his début with Irish National Opera as Schlemihl in Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann in 2018 and went on to play the Official Registrar in Madama Butterfly in 2019. In 2023, he will play Boots in INO’s Der Rosenkavalier. He made his debut at Blackwater Valley Opera Festival as The Regent in Balfe’s The Sleeping Queen and at the Mananan International Festival of Music & the Arts in 2019. He recently created the role of George de la Hare in a site specific opera called No. 2 Pery Square by Fiona Linnane and performed Dr. George in another contemporary opera in development called The Hive by Harvey Brough at Hoxton Hall London. He made his debut at the Tête-à-Tête festival in 1936: Fishing by Robert Ely creating the role of Old Philip at The Cockpit Theatre London. He has performed as a soloist at many major venues including the National Concert Hall, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, University Concert Hall and Ulster Hall.
Sagittarius Hiberniensis, a new vocal ensemble whose spiritual and musical home is St Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, was formed in the autumn of 2019 and gave its debut concert at Epiphany in 2020. The idea for the group sprang from a desire amongst a number of like-minded musicians to get together to sing and perform sacred music. Alongside this is the wish, on the part of the group’s Director, Peter Barley and some of the more experienced musicians in the choir, to unfold these musical treasures not just for audiences but also for the younger student-aged musicians within the group who may not have all that many opportunities to encounter and sing this repertoire. A further benefit of the ensemble is that it provides an opportunity for some of these students born and bred in Limerick to retain musical links with their native city. The choir is made up of some of the singers in the cathedral choir and members of the teaching staff of Limerick School of Music, together with former students from the School of Music and a few guest singers and friends.
Enrica Savigni is a classical guitarist who has been deeply interested in historical instruments since 2012. She graduated in 19th century-guitar at Civica Scuola di Musica in Milan in 2013, and in 2021 she obtained her Master of Arts in music performance in the Early Music department of the Koninklijk Conservatorium of Brussels. She plays in a duo with her sister, fortepianist Laura Savigni, performing the original repertoire written in the nineteenth century for piano and guitar and exploring the duo formation through transcription and contemporary compositions. In addition, she collaborates with luthier Gabriele Lodi and guitarist Marco Ramelli in the organisation TouchTheSound Project, a project that shares research in performance practice, ancient instruments, and historical repertoire. She is currently a first-year DMus research student at the TU Dublin Conservatoire, a freelance performer and a guitar tutor at Maynooth University.
Vlad Smishkewych enjoys a career as a tenor vocalist specialising in early and contemporary music, sharing the stage with some of the main names in early music and folk, including Carlos Nuñez, Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI, Sequentia, Theatre of Voices, and The Harp Consort. He has recorded for Sony/BMG, Harmonia Mundi, and Naxos Records. No stranger to the academic realm, he holds a doctorate from Indiana University, and is the former director of the MA programme in Chant at the University of Limerick, Ireland, where he taught until 2014. However, his passion for writing and creating media about music and culture goes back to 2006, when he was a Fulbright Fellow to Spain, after which he began writing programmes for National Public Radio (USA). After his time in academia, Vlad returned to performing and the world of broadcasting, joining Ireland’s RTÉ lyric fm as well as the European Early Music Network, as radio announcer and producer. He is best known to Irish radio listeners as the host and researcher of Vox Nostra, RTÉ lyric fm’s Sunday morning Early Music show. Vlad is co-director of the Limerick Early Music Festival and the H.I.P.S.T.E.R. series. Vlad gratefully acknowledges the support of Arts Council Ireland through the Artist’s Agility Award.
Bogdan Sofei is a founding member of ConTempo Quartet, a celebrated String Quartet that has become RTÉ’s Quartet in Residence in 2014 and is Galway’s Ensemble in Residence since 2003. As Leader of ConTempo, Bogdan has won 14 International Prizes in Chamber Music Competitions. Bogdan has performed over 2000 concerts and in major concert halls around the world, including Carnegie Hall and Wigmore Hall. Bogdan graduated from The University of Music in Bucharest where he studied with Stefan Gheorghiu and Ladislau Csendes. He continued his studies at various residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada, Royal Academy of Music in London, Accademia Chigiana in Siena, European Academy of Music in Aixen-Province, Britten – Pierce School for Advanced Music Studies in Aldeburgh and Escuela Superior de Musica Reina Sofia in Madrid with Rainer Schmidt, Siegmund Nissel, Norbert Brainin, Gunter Pichler, Philip Setzer, Stephanie Gonley, Heime Muller, Christoph Poppen, Howard Davis and Hugh Maguire. Bogdan received his Master of Arts in Music with First Class Honours at Cork School of Music, in 2005. In June 2016, Bogdan has been awarded an Honorary Degree Doctor Honoris Causa by the University of Galway.
Eamon Sweeney teaches and performs extensively on modern and historical guitars and lutes, including giving broadcasts, lectures and seminars in Ireland and abroad and works with the RIAM & CDETB. He is a member of ensembles: Sonamus, Tonos and The Gregory Walkers. Eamon gratefully acknowledges the support of The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, The Arts Council and Music Network through the Music Capital Scheme & The Artist Bursary Award.
Yovanna Torres Blanco
Yovanna Torres Blanco specialises in Irish traditional dance, Flamenco, and Mexican folk dance. She maintains an active career throughout Ireland, Mexico, and the United States. Originally from Mexico City, Yovanna currently lives in Ireland, from where she received an MA in Irish Traditional Dance Performance at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. Yovanna taught Irish dance for many years in Guadalajara, Mexico where she was the founder of the first Irish dance academy in Western Mexico, which was certified by the An Coimisiun Le Rinci Gaelacha. She is also the founder of Luna Celta Dance Company, which, among its many activities, was invited by the Irish Embassy to perform at the Municipal Palace of Jalisco for Global Greening 2017, a worldwide initiative by Tourism Ireland. In 2019 she was co-director of Viva la Vida Festival, the first Latin American festival in the City of Limerick. Yovanna describes dance as an international language: “Through dance we tell stories, unite people, practice rituals, challenge stereotypes, break archaic social conventions, and even protest against injustice. I am a firm believer in social change through dance, music, and art.”