Bet you thought all the best Irish festivals happen during the summer.
And bet you thought live Irish music was mostly Céilís and Bodhráns, with the odd sell-out U2 stadium affair or screaming-tweens Westlife gig.
Well have we got an October for you.
The tuxedos and sparkling gowned-ticket-holders tottering around town will be your first clue that something big is happening. Next will be the excited hum in the streets; a combination of anticipated chatter behind pre-theatre menus in restaurants, sweet soprano voices wafting from the new modern Opera House, and boisterous laughs and applause from the Fringe events in the pubs and community halls.
From humble beginnings in 1951 to this year’s 60th anniversary, the has become a whirlwind of world-class productions, music and performance that pulls thousands of visitors and locals into its glamorous grasp every October.
Fawning words from guide book giant Frommer’s has sealed the Wexford festival’s fate as “One of the best small festivals in the world”, and one of the “Top 10 Destinations for Opera Lovers.” The simple premise packs an artful punch. Three gorgeous productions, usually rare and neglected operas transformed with fresh talent and direction, anchor the 16 day schedule. The 2012 revivals are ‘L’Arlesiana‘ by Francesco Cilèa, ‘Le Roi Malgré Lui‘ by Emmanuel Chabrier and ‘A Village Romeo and Juliet’ by Frederick Delius.
Also dotting the festivities are popular lunchtime recitals, gala concerts and short daytime opera performances called ‘ShortWorks’.
And the gleaming new gem in this decades-old crown of operatic events is the Festival’s new home since 2008: the internationally award-winning Opera House. In fact the first custom-built opera house in Ireland, the stunning landmark building has gathered huge acclaim, including The Times for its “intimate feel” and “radiant acoustic”.
But wait! Are bellowing baritones and black tie not your thing? And still avoiding Bodhráns and Bono?
The lively south has another option for your October. The has been delighting audiences since its unlikely beginnings in 1978 as a last-minute stand-in for a cancelled bridge tournament.
Being such a friendly city anyway, has naturally become renowned for Europe’s friendliest jazz festival. In four manic days, the festival hosts about 1,000 musicians, from 30 different countries, 40,000 music fans, and we can only imagine quite a few pints of the black stuff. While top acts will be performing in large venues and theatres such as the Everyman, the Cork Opera House and the Triskel, virtually every pub in Cork is taking part, providing live entertainment and creating a music trail to follow around the city.
We do mean top acts by the way, stars who have previously thrilled festival audiences include Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Buddy Rich and Sonny Rollins.
But if all that musical magic still doesn’t appeal, we have even more to offer (don’t ever say we don’t give you options!)
If you find yourself in Wexford and Cork with little concern for the music (ie. dragged by friends or spouses – it happens to us all) the delightful Fringe festivals running alongside both Wexford and Cork will melt any simmering resent you were harbouring for your music-mad loved one.
Wexford’s Fringe Festival starts its 16 fun-filled days appropriately with fireworks, squeezing in 250 eclectic events including dramas, a golf competition, children’s workshops, an antique fair, comedy, trad sessions, exhibitions, the Guinness Singing and Swinging Pubs Competition and much more.
The Big Jazz Fringe runs for a whole week, with poetry festivals, photography exhibitions, samba schools, choirs, and a swing dance workshop.
So you have absolutely no excuse for spending your October watching Mad Men and drinking tea. Ireland has the best sounding festivals to get you off the couch and joining the party.
Whether it’s soprano or saxophone, drama or samba, we’ve got whatever pops your Cork.
The Guinness Cork Jazz Festival takes place from 26-29 October 2012.