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Julie’s feet on ground as her new opera aims for the stars



Arts Week with Judy Murphy –

Athenry singer-songwriter Julie Feeney is having a busy Monday. She’s just performed live on RTÉ radio’s Pat Kenny Show where she was also discussing her latest projects, including the opera Bird, inspired by Oscar Wilde’s fairy tale, The Happy Prince.

She followed that with two interviews with UK radio stations to mark the release of her latest album, the award-winning Clocks in Britain. Then there’s the Connacht Tribune interview, after which she’s off to the artists’ retreat, Annamakerrig in Co Monaghan to continue working on Bird, which will receive a concert performance net week as part of Galway Arts Festival. She’s also preparing for a concert with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra in the National Concert Hall next month, where songs from her three albums, Clocks, Pages and 13 Songs will be performed, with full orchestral backing. Not to mention appearing in Castletown House, Co Kildare as part of the Music in Big Houses series, for which she is creating a special show about Irish people and The Big House.

But, despite a crazy schedule and the fact that she’s been on the road since 6.30am, she is fully in the moment as she settles down to have brunch and talk again about her work.

First up, Bird which she was commissioned to write by Dublin Theatre Festival, Galway Arts Festival, Kilkenny Arts Festival and Cork Midsummer Festival. It’s different to anything she’s worked on before, explains Dublin-based Julie, who originally hails from Ty Saxon, close to Athenry.

“It’s very different to making an album. I craft and make them in exactly the same way, but opera is such a broad art form and there are so many parts to it that I have to keep recalibrating.”

Julie has written the words as well as the music for Bird, although her original intention was to use Oscar Wilde’s text for the The Happy Prince with her music. She did that and performed a 20-minute segment of it at last year’s Dublin Theatre Festival. That was when she realised she wasn’t going to be able to ‘feel’ the story unless she wrote the libretto herself.

“I loved the story, but what really I loved was the reason behind it.”

Wilde’s account of the statue of the unhappy prince, which is befriended by a swallow appealed to her on three levels. It had flying, which she loved; it explored attachment to an inanimate object, which is something we all experience, whether it’s a piece of art or a car; and it was Irish.

Most of all, it felt right.

“When I found the story first I read it and then I went to sleep and left it open, to see if I was in a nice head space when I woke up and if I wanted to read it again.”

She did, using Wilde’s original text. “But after performing the 20 minutes at the Theatre Festival, I realised I wanted to get deeper.”

So she began imagining the scenario behind what Wilde had written and took it in her own direction.

“Initially I wanted it to be about flying and about the swallow flying, then I wanted them [the characters] all to be birds.”

So there’s a swallow, the prince has been re-imagined as a peacock, there’s a swan, a nightingale and a chorus made up of birds of paradise.

The story is not set in any particular time or place, but it’s most definitely ‘birdland’, she laughs.

What she really wanted to do was explore the prince’s story and why he was in statue form.

“Was he put under a spell, why was he so sad, how did he spend his time in the happy life he had, what role did fantasy play in his life?”

The notion of fantasy and its role in our lives fascinates her.

“I’ve never believed the hills are greener on the other side, so while fantasy and imagination are great, you need to bring them into your own life.”

She points to a flower in a vase on the table to illustrate her point.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.


Folk duo launch What Will Be Will Be



Niall Teague and Pádraic Joyce.

Folk duo Niall Teague and Pádraic Joyce are launching their new album What Will We Be, a  blend of folk, Americana and acoustic music, this Friday, May 19, at 8pm in An Taibhdhearc.

The success of their well-received 2020 release Taobh le Taobh, as well as recent successes at the Pan Celtic and Oireachtas Song Contests, spurred the duo on to record this new album which represents many years of collaboration and musical development.

It features Niall and Pádraic on vocals, harmonies, and acoustic guitars, Maidhc Ó hÉanaigh on double bass and Neil Fitzgibbon on fiddle. The catchy title track, What Will We Be, features contributions from percussionist Jim Higgins (The Stunning, Christy Moore, Paul Brady) and haunting, driving melodies on vocals, guitar, and fiddle.

Themes of love and hope are woven through Come Away with Me which features interplay between piano and fiddle as well as rich vocal harmonies.

People, places, and broken dreams are celebrated and lamented on Martin and Tom, Guitar Gold, Memories of You and Achill Island. The influence of David Henry Thoreau’s novel Walden features on the tracks Simple and Wise and Walden, with the beauty of nature, escape and simple pleasures at their core.

The album moves from minimalistic folk ballads such as Galway Ghost to swirling, string-laden arrangements on the song Neptune, both of which are influenced by maritime tales from Galway. Much of the work on this album was supported by the Arts Council, including work with musical arranger Eoin Corcoran and the string ensemble Treo.

The album will be launched this Friday, May 19, at 8pm in an Taibhdhearc. Tickets €22, plus booking fee at

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All roads lead to Dunmore as town tunes up County Fleadh



Most of the competitions for young musicians will take place this Saturday in Dunmore Community School. All the competitions are open to the public.

Dunmore is the place to be this weekend for lovers of traditional music, as the Galway County Fleadh will take place there from this Friday, May 19, to Sunday, May 23.

It is 10 years since Dunmore last hosted a fleadh and the local Comhaltas branch, which has re-formed since Covid, is looking forward to facilitating this gathering of music, song, dance and craic.

The official Opening Concert will take place in Dunmore Town Hall this Friday at 8pm with the acclaimed Mulcahy family from Limerick. Mick, Louise and Michelle are well known throughout the country, thanks to their live performances, television appearances and numerous CDs. They were the winners of the TG4 Gradam Ceoil Grúpa Ceoil Award for 2023.  Tickets for their concert can be purchased on the door and a great night of music is promised.

Two days of competitions will kick off this Saturday at the town’s Community School, with more than 1,500 competitors taking part. Participants will be hoping to qualify for the Connacht Fleadh 2023, which will be held in Ballina, County Mayo, from June 23 to July 2.

Competitions for those aged Under 10, Under 12 and Under 15 will be held in a large variety of instruments on Saturday, as well as in singing and Comhrá Gaeilge. Sunday’s competitions will be for the Under 18 and Over 18 ages groups, as well as in dancing.

On both days a large entry is expected for Grúpaí Cheoil and Céilí Band competitions across all age groups.

Seventeen Comhaltas branches from across Galway will have participants in this weekend’s competitions, which will result in a large number of visitors to the Dunmore area.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the competitions, which offer a great opportunity to hear and see the talent on display. There will be sessions in local pubs over the weekend as well and everybody is welcome to attend these.

For more information on the County Fleadh, go to


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Piano concert rescheduled for Tuesday



Pianist Cédric Pescia.

Music for Galway’s concert with renowned Swiss pianist Cédric Pescia which had been due to take place on April 27 but which had to be deferred, will now take place next Tuesday, May 23, at 8pm, in the Emily Anderson Concert Hall at the University of Galway.

This concert of German classics with Bach at its core, will brings the Bach element of Music for Galway’s 41st season to an end.

This world-class pianist who won the famous Gina Bachauer International Artists Piano Competition, has a repertoire that spans many eras from baroque to contemporary and he is widely known for his elaborate programmes. Cédric Pescia describes music as  ‘language and movement at the same time’.

Audiences will have a chance to experience his soft, clear touch as he performs a programme for solo piano that will include classics such as Schumann’s popular Waldszenen (Forest Scenes), a suite of nine short pieces, and the penultimate of Beethoven’s piano sonatas, No. 31.  These pieces will be interspersed with French Suites by Bach.

■ Ticket for Cédric Pescia’s concert are available at, or by phone 091 705962 and on the door on the night. They cost €20/€18. The price for fulltime students of all ages is €6 while MfG Friends can avail of the friends’ rate of €16.

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