'We’re very much looking forward to a full year': Drogheda Classical Music Celebrates 10 Years
This Friday 4 February, Drogheda Classical Music will host a concert by Hungarian pianist Dénes Várjon. The concert marks the beginning of the spring part of the promoter’s 10th season, and hopefully the beginning of a full year of concerts after the pandemic.
Várjon is a widely respected pianist with a broad recording catalogue, including four albums on the ECM label, an album of cello sonatas with Stephen Isserlis, and the complete Beethoven Piano Concertos with the Concerto Budapest. He also teaches piano at the Franz Liszt Academy in the Hungarian capital and has received press praise for his interpretations and technique. Pauline Ashwood, founder and Artistic Director of Drogheda Classical Music, first heard him at the West Cork Chamber Music Festival. Várjon will perform a programme of Bach, Mozart and Chopin this Friday and the concert takes place at 7.30pm at St Peter’s Church of Ireland in Drogheda.
‘It’s hard to believe that Drogheda Classical Music is in its tenth season,’ said Ashwood speaking to the Journal of Music. From Blackrock, Co. Louth, she previously worked for Opera Theatre Company and RTÉ Performing Groups, and founded the series in 2002 when she was at home with her first child and wasn’t ready to go back to work full-time. The concerts provided her with a new creative and social outlet. She initially looked into re-establishing the music series run by Drogheda Borough Council that had finished three years earlier, but ended up starting her own promoter. The first concert featured Finghin Collins and Marc Coppey in September 2012, which means the beginning of the next season this autumn will mark exactly ten years.
During the first two years, Irish and international artists performed to relatively small audience numbers… a local businessman suggested that to attract a large audience in Drogheda, something big and bold was needed.
The result, in September 2014, was Barry Douglas and Camerata Ireland performing Beethoven’s third and fifth Piano Concertos to a full St Peter’s Church. ‘We haven’t looked back since,’ she says.
Drogheda Classical Music has since featured many renowned Irish artists and groups such as Collins, Tara Erraught and the Irish Chamber Orchestra as well as international musicians including pianists Angela Hewitt and Gabriela Montero, cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, and clarinettist Emma Johnson.
On top of running the series, Ashwood was also Project Manager for the Irish Language Art Song project, which commissioned 50 songs by 17 composers and presented concerts at the NCH just before the pandemic. Also just before Covid-19 struck, she presented ‘A Celebration of the Voice’ in January 2020, a weekend of voice masterclasses, concerts and talks with Tara Erraught and which featured eight emerging singers. Ashwood has also worked as Project Administrator for Opera Collective Ireland, which presented the premiere of Raymond Deane’s Vagabones in September 2019.
The pandemic was challenging, but Drogheda Classical Music still managed to put on a number of concerts, including ConTempo Quartet performing Haydn, and tenor Gavan Ring with pianist Gary Beecher. Ashwood says:
Initially online concerts drew a reasonable audience and helped the series remain connected to audiences, but as time went on and the desire for online waned, and a return to live audiences was welcomed. Having had three concerts from October to December 2021, we’re very much looking forward to a full year with plenty of top-class Irish and international artists.
Following Várjon this Friday, Musici Ireland will present a unique concert of works on 25 March for four voices and four hands featuring pianists Lance Coburn and Soo Jung Ann, Rachel Croash (soprano), Sharon Carty (mezzo soprano), Gavan Ring (tenor) and Rory Musgrave (baritone). On 7 April, pianist Julius Drake will be joined by mezzo-soprano Beth Taylor and violist Timothy Ridout for a concert of Brahms and Schumann, and, on 14 May, cellist Johannes Moser will be joined by violinist Vadim Gluzman and pianist Yevgeny Sudbin to perform Shostakovich’s two piano trios along with Schubert’s first piano trio and Arvo Pärt’s Mozart Adagio. All concerts take place in St Peter’s Church of Ireland, Drogheda.
For full details and booking, visit www.droghedaclassicalmusic.com.