'You really share a moment': an Interview with Mairéad Hickey

'You really share a moment': an Interview with Mairéad Hickey

Ahead of her performance at the Chamber Music Gathering at the NCH and University Church, violinist Mairéad Hickey speaks to The Journal of Music about studying in Germany, playing chamber music and setting up her own festival.

This Saturday 5 January, the third Chamber Music Gathering will take place in Dublin. The Gathering is a day of events devised with the National String Quartet Foundation, with three concerts in two different venues taking place across the day, with quartets and quintets by Mozart, Brahms, Dvořák, Schubert and Nielsen, and a sextet by Schulhoff.

The ensembles performing at the Gathering are created especially for the event with the aim of bringing together players from across generations. Cork-born violinist Mairéad Hickey, who will perform at the Gathering for the second time this year, spoke to The Journal of Music about the event. 

Hickey began playing violin when she was 3 years old, growing up listening to her father and grandmother playing. She has already spent much of her career outside Ireland: by the age of 15 she was studying at the Conservatoire de Nantes, and is now studying with Mihaela Martin at the Kronberg Academy, a school for outstanding string players, in Germany.

I met Mihaela Martin when I was 17 and followed her to Germany to study with her! It’s an intense place to study, but very inspiring. We have a lot of masterclasses – that’s why the school is so good, because we get to meet and play with so many musicians, not just violinists, but cellists, conductors, pianists.

Playing with other musicians is the aspect of chamber music that most excites Hickey, and she enthuses about the opportunity the Chamber Music Gathering provides to perform with other Irish musicians who are also living abroad, calling it a ‘very special day’.

‘A special energy’
Hickey will perform as part of a quintet, only one of whom, violinist Anna Cashell, she has performed with before. The ensemble also features Rosalind Ventris (viola), Jane O’Hara (cello) and Mairéad’s brother, Seamus Hickey (viola) – this will be the first time the siblings play together professionally. As she says, they ‘grew up playing, but not together!’.

The Gathering is celebrating the talent that has come out of Ireland. It’s a day for people to see all of these wonderful Irish musicians in one place together. Chris Marwood [of the National String Quartet Foundation] has done a wonderful job of finding musical personalities that fit together. 

Chamber music is special because of the way you work with other musicians as equals; everyone brings their unique personality, their different ideas into the rehearsal. You really share a moment. 

This performance will also be the first time she has played Dvořák’s String Quartet Op. 97: ‘The first time you play a piece is always very exciting. I’m looking forward to it. In the concert there’s always something extra, with the audience there, a special energy as it comes together. Every concert is different.’

The Chamber Music Gathering begins at 11am in the Kevin Barry Room at the NCH, then at 1pm in The Studio at the NCH, and then 4.30pm at University Church on St Stephen’s Green. Click here to see the full line-up.

Ortús Festival
Hickey’s dedication to playing with others in Ireland extends to her own festival, the Ortús Chamber Music Festival, which she set up with cellist Sinéad O’Halloran. Now in its fourth year, the festival takes place in Cork City and East Cork and focusses on bringing together Irish and international artists. 2019 will feature performances from Hickey and O’Halloran as well as Fergal Breen (uilleann pipes), clarinettist Jessie Grimes, UK violinist Timothy Ridout and Dutch cellist Ella van Poucke. 

The idea behind it was to bring a bit more chamber music to Cork; myself and Sinead O’Halloran both grew up in Cork and are living away, and we wanted another opportunity to come back to where we grew up and play chamber music to our friends and colleagues. 

The Ortús Chamber Music Festival will take place 1–3 March 2019. For further information, visit www.ortusfestival.ie

Published on 3 January 2019

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