Course Reviews

I remember the first day of my first ConCorda like it was only yesterday. I was really excited for the course, but no one could have told me how much I was going to enjoy it as much as I did. The vast number of new friends I made, the amount of amazing music I played and the amount of fun I had at ConCorda was second to none. Best week of the summer. I thought nothing could beat it. Not until I returned for ConCorda 2014. I knew half the people already, as many of them are from Cork, and this made the first day far easier, as I knew the staff and my way around the place. I honesty believe that ConCorda 2014 has been my favourite week of my life so far.

The tutors were so kind, helpful and had respect for our ideas about the music, and they also provided brilliant insights to the music! We were also privileged to have Marc Danel on the course as a tutor. He is an amazing musician, and we benefitted so much from his tutoring. The last two years has seen ConCorda having two amazing composers in residence, Sam Perkin and Elaine Agnew. This year we had a fun workshop with Elaine where we did lots of fun and interesting rhythmic exercises, and sang a brilliant birthday present for one of our members! We encompassed this into our concert in Castalia Hall also. Castalia Hall is one of the most picturesque halls in Ireland. It’s very small, but what it lacks size, it makes up for in beauty. We were very privileged to perform there. My birthday happened to fall on the day of the Castalia Hall concert and it was my best birthday to date!

Of course, I have to mention our unbelievable quartet in residence for two years now, the Acanthus quartet. My quartet have worked with three of its members, and we have each learned so much from each of them. They are also very often the highlights of the fun evening activities. I really hope they come back next year!

In a day, we had the normal music sessions after lunch. Every day we had one music theatre session. At the beginning I was a bit unsure about it, but it became one of my favourite activities as the week went on, and it was wonderful to see our play come together in our final end of course concert in Kilkenny College. Then we would have a break after lunch time where we could partake in the awesome fun daytime activities, organised every day 100% by our amazing team of night staff, who did a lot more than just putting us to bed and getting us up! They spent hours everyday entertaining us and making the course even more enjoyable.

In the evening we had the ConCorda chamber orchestra rehearsal. We played a really beautiful and atmospheric Fantasie by Vaughan Williams. It was made up of the ConCorda chamber orchestra, an octet made up of the staff, and the Acanthus. The octet was positioned behind the audience, and this, incredibly, gave the impression that it was an organ! I think all the music we played was brilliant. In the last course alone, I got to play Schubert’s quintet, Mendelssohn’s octet, Brahms’ second sextet, and quartets by Beethoven, Shostakovich and Haydn.

The best thing about ConCorda, I think, is that everyone shares the same love for music, and that everyone is friends with everyone. I can’t wait for ConCorda 2015!

Kevin Jansson (2014)



I arrived at ConCorda on the 15th of August, and since it was my first time attending, I can honestly say, I was really excited. I have played in a few chamber ensembles before, but never in any like ConCorda. I had barely walked in the door and I could already see that everyone was buzzing with excitement and enthusiasm. It was great to be surrounded by people who were genuinely delighted to be playing music. To make things even better, I already knew some people from home, but I was also given the chance to make loads of new friends, because I was placed in some sessions where I wasn’t familiar with as many people. When we went to our sessions, I was truly inspired by the teachers, as they were all so encouraging and helpful. I was so lucky to be given the chance to work with some members of the Acanthus String Quartet, and I really learned so much from them. As for the repertoire, there was a great variety so it was pretty much impossible to be bored!

I got to play a Boccherini Quartet, a Canon by Britten, Hungarian Dance No. 5 by Brahms, and even play through a Mendelssohn Octet! In every session we practised the pieces in earnest, and anything we didn’t get finished in the session, we had time to practise during the breaks. We also had the opportunity to perform the debut of composer Sam Perkins work Inspirit, dedicated to Hugh and Tricia Maguire, which was especially commissioned for ConCordas 20th anniversary. I thought this was an amazing experience, as Sam really seemed to infuse the piece with exciting melodies and percussion, making it thoroughly enjoyable to play and listen to. It was brilliant to be able to talk to Sam about composition, as this was a whole new aspect of music that I didn’t know much about. But what really appealed to me was that it was such a non-competitive environment. Everyone supported everybody else, making the atmosphere pleasant and comfortable.

The afternoons and evenings were great, as we had different activities on every night. The first night we just got to know each other, but from then on, every night there was something different, whether it was ConCorda’s Got Talent, or a play through of a Mendelssohn Octet, or even a Zombie Apocalypse/ Harry Potter/ Wild West/ Circus – themed fashion show! Since ConCorda, my playing has really improved – I find playing in a group much easier, and my sight reading is much better. We also took part in Musical Theatre, which was extremely enjoyable. We did improvisation on our instruments and then made up a show by combining our groups and coming up with unique and interesting ideas and new ways of creating music. We made costumes and signs, and then performed the show at the end of the week. It was so much fun to come up with.

But I have to say the highlight of my week was the concert in Castalia Hall. The venue was absolutely picturesque, and we received such an amazing reaction after performing Inspirit. We then took our seats as various ensembles from the course performed their pieces, and finally we were lucky enough to hear the entire ‘American Suite’ by Dvorak performed by three members of the Acanthus Quartet with Keith Pascoe on 2nd violin. It was an absolute treat for everyone involved. At ConCorda, I made so many new friends and was able to work with really talented and inspiring musicians, and I really hope I get the chance to return.

Thank you ConCorda

Zoe Nagle (2013)

ConCorda 2013 Photo

This year was ConCorda’s the twentieth anniversary, for which a new piece was composed. This was the job of Sam Perkin, who visited the course to see the rehearsals and performances of his new work ‘Inspirit’. A very inventive work it was, being asked to write for a chamber music course, it cleverly included several chamber groups alongside chamber orchestra. Not only this, but we had the chance to use voice, percussion and droplet sounds among others! Learning this new work was a great experience, also we had the opportunity to perform it’s World Premiere! Most importantly, this was dedicated to the founders of the course, Hugh and Tricia Maguire.

As well as this, we enjoyed three sessions of chamber groups in which we had the chance to work through many great works such as those of Prokofiev, Mendelsshon and Mozart among many others. These three different groups could consist of quartets, quintets, sextets or octets. We all had the chance to work with teachers from the Irish Chamber Orchestra, The Vanbrugh, Acanthus and Danel Quartets to name a few.

All of this takes place in a completely non-competitive atmosphere, where everybody’s playing improves immensely over the week. It’s a great chance to play chamber music and if you haven’t played in a chamber group before, it’s the best place to learn to do so!

The quartet in residence this year was The Acanthus quartet. They inspired the whole course to sing snippets from Dvorak’s American Quartet by the end of the week. They did not hesitate to get involved in all of the activities throughout the course.

One of the all important events is the talent show. It was varied as always, with a mixture of entries from staff and students providing fantastic entertainment. Other extra-curricular activities include sports, sight-reading sessions, fashion show and the ConCorda quiz. These activities especially help you to get to know staff as people not just teachers, which is a great aspect to the course.

Music theatre is a session in which students come up with their own show during the course. It allows you to improvise and be completely creative with music. This is an important and original aspect to the course, like no other, especially since we as classical musicians often do not improvise so it provides a relaxed atmosphere to do so.

Nearing the end of the week, we visited the beautiful Castalia hall, where the orchestra premiered Sam’s piece ‘Inspirit’. This was the venue for the much anticipated performance of the Acanthus quartet also, one that was enjoyed by all.

The family atmosphere of the course is one that is never forgotten, whether new at ConCorda, or experienced at the course, everybody is welcomed to this great week. The friends that are made here are ones that stay with you and often go back year after year for the experience. Following my third course, I can safely say if you haven’t applied before don’t hesitate, you will have an exciting and inspiring musical week!

Tara McCarthy (2013)


ConCorda 2013 Photo

This year, I attended my first ConCorda course. From the very start of the course, we were all made to feel very welcome. The first day flew through our first quartet session, orchestra and of course, the name games where we got to know each other.

It was great to have the opportunity to work with the quartet in residence, the Acanthus Quartet from Holland. All of the tutors were very kind, helpful and open with us. I thought that the range of repertoire which we played was well balanced and varied across different musical styles and eras.

One of the activities that I enjoyed most of all was the talent show. The majority of the groups performing were hilarious while some of the others showed off the amazing talents of the performers.

I felt that we were very privileged to be able to perform the world premiere of Sam Perkin’s piece ‘Inspirit’ which was dedicated to the founders of ConCorda, Hugh and Tricia Maguire. Very few students of our age would get such a chance to do this. I found the piece was very moving and emotional, while at the same time being exciting and energetic.

Another activity that I enjoyed thoroughly was the musical theatre. I hadn’t been looking forward to it at the start of the course, but by the end I thought it was one of the best activities. It was great to be able to express words through my instrument, and also to see the finished product of the drama we were performing on a story about the violin.

Overall, the best thing about ConCorda was the friends that I made from all over Ireland. I loved every minute of the course and can’t wait to go again next year.

Seamus Hickey (2013)



As a first-timer in Concorda, I was apprehensive, not knowing anyone, and having no clue what to expect.

Nothing could have prepared me for what lay ahead.

Three different chamber music groups made it easy to make friends quickly, as well as get a feel for the direction of the course. It was great to play in a variety of groups – an octet, a quartet and a quintet, in my case. The music challenged my ability, but the standard of the other players really helped me to rise to that challenge. Playing with such a talented group was a great experience, together with the encouragement of our teachers, who were just fantastic.

Orchestra gave us an amazing opportunity to premiere a piece specially written for the course. Sam Perkin’s Inspirit was innovative, challenging, unconventional and seriously cool to play. All sorts of popping, clapping, plucking, slapping and vocals blended with our playing to create a fantastic tribute to the founders of Concorda. Trying to get it all in time certainly made rehearsals less than ordinary! When we got all glammed up in our black concert gear to play in Castalia Hall, it met with a triumphant reception. It’s not every day you get to play a piece that no-one else has ever performed.

Another key part of the course was Musical Theatre, a completely new endeavour for me, totally outside my comfort zone. It was a creative way to explore different methods of using our instruments, improvising and thinking outside the musical box, a real confidence booster. More importantly, we put on a really great show at the end of it, and had loads of fun! Pretending to be angry lions instead of practising hemidemisemiquavers? Of course! Neglecting our duties as serious musicians, and instead having a great time creating something really special? Obviously! Am I making it all sound very silly? It was!

Aside from all the practising and performing, Concorda also gave us plenty of free time to hang out with friends, go to the shop, play soccer and Ultimate Frisbee, head into Kilkenny for an afternoon, do yoga, make props, have a fashion show and a quiz involving marshmallow-and-spaghetti towers, …I could go on.

Another highlight was the masterclass given by Marc Danel to Acanthus, the quartet-in-residence from Amsterdam. Hearing them play and having them teach us was hugely beneficial. Aside from that, we had great fun transforming them into a zombie king, clown, witch and cowgirl (respectively) for the fashion show! They were hilarious in Concorda’s Got Talent, and took it in good heart when they were mercilessly mimicked!

Overall, the atmosphere in Concorda was brilliant. I remember looking around as we sat outside one evening, eating pizza and singing pop songs as our composer-in-residence played guitar, and thinking there was nowhere else I’d rather be. A challenging, inspiring course that was ultimately very beneficial to me as a player, Concorda managed to find the perfect balance between the hard work of playing, and making it one of the best weeks of the summer.

See you guys next year, can’t wait!

 Julie Leenane (2013)


ConCorda 2013 Photo

ConCorda- with strings. In my opinion, just the name of the course sums up perfectly the whole nature of it. Everyday is filled with the magical sounds of strings being bowed, plucked and played in every way you can imagine, from piano to forte, grave to con brio. We all know during the summer, our instruments tend to take the back seat and we would rather go to the beach or chatwith friends however, ConCorda manages to reawaken the pure love and joy one feels only when playing his or her instrument and it inspires us to practise harder and reach our goals in the world of music. Essentially, ConCorda can keep a group of over fifty teenagers occupied playing music, for over six hours per day- quite some feat! There are four sessions per day and three of which are group sessions in which we are, for example, put into quartets, quintets, or sextets. Through the sessions we are shown new styles and composers. I play the cello and this year, in one of my sessions, I was given the opportunity to play with three other cellos for the first time. In this session, the beautiful sounds of the cello brought to life two pieces, one of which is written by the Russian composer, Prokofiev. Before the course, I had never heard of Prokofiev however now, he is up there with my other favourite composer, Chopin.

Not only do we realise once again the enjoyment of producing music but we also are given a chance to discover new ways in which to use our instruments. Through the unconventional use of instruments to produce weird and wonderful sounds, the students of concorda put together a drama that tells an intricate and often comical original story without the use of words.

This year, as it was the twentieth year that concorda has been in place, we were given the amazing opportunity premiere of piece written by a young Irish composer, Sam Perkin, especially for the the event. In the piece, the two of the courses founders, Hugh and Tricia Maguire, who have sadly passed away, are remembered to ensure that their hard work and dedication in setting up a course in which young string players can come and share their love of music with one another, will never be forgotten. The other great thing was that we were actually able to go and spend some time with the composer himself as he stayed on site during the course to help put together the piece. Sam also gave the whole student and teacher body an insight on what it is like to be a composer in twenty-first century Ireland. I love to compose myself so hearing his talk really showed me that if you go after your dreams, what you can achieve.

Another inspiring aspect of the course in the quartet in residence, who this year were from Holland. They were able to show me and the rest of the students what it is like to be a professional quartet. We were also treated to a master class given by Marc Danel from Belgium to the quartet. That was a real eye-opener.

This is my second year attending concorda and what yet again I was shown true care and attention by the ConCorda staff. The level of interest in each and every one of the students welfare by them is unparalleled and is seconded only by our own parents. They genuinely care about how we feel and if something is not quite right are always ready to find the best solution. Most of all, they are the kind of people that you are able to talk to without feeling intimidated in any way.

All in all, ConCorda 2013 was amazing, and an inspirational experience to all the string players that attended. We not only inspired by the teachers, but also by the talent and skills of each other and I think that is what makes ConCorda a special place to be.

Claire McNamara (2013)



Breathing music: ConCorda 2013

‘MmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmAH!’ This was the phrase spontaneously shouted by Concordians throughout the course of ConCorda 2013. It was often followed by calls of ‘BOOM!’ or ‘t-k-t-k’ or even ‘ts, ts, ts’ along with foot stamps and hand rubbing. We Concordians didn’t leave the music we learnt within our classrooms or rehearsal halls, we lived and breathed it. Sam Perkins’ composition truly lived up to its name ‘Inspirit’, instilling passion in all of us and encouraging each of us to express it, even when musical instruments were safely packed away, through voice or use of the human body, which formed part of this innovative and fascinating work. This was a piece of music which required focus and full concentration from every member of the orchestra. A modern piece during which we whispered, loudly exhaled, stood up and sat down again, and for which we practised our co-ordination and ability to act as one, when using body or voice, by clapping our hands down on the other as though swatting a fly, in synch with Tom’s baton. ‘Inspirit’ was truly a meaningful piece, for while it not only amplified our own passions for music making, it embodied the passions of Hugh and Tricia McGuire, the founders of the course, with performers sounding the spelling of both names as part of the piece, in what can only be described as incredible innovation on the part of the composer, and as a memorable expression of human spirit and energy on the part of the performers. ‘Inspirit’ has ensured that both their passion and their spirits live on, echoing through this music.

While the orchestra was wonderful, in bringing everyone on the course together, to unanimously engage in one activity, chamber music allowed us to communicate and bond as individuals, as we toss melodies around, and second violin and viola try to make the most of their scattered two bar tunes for which they shine. With the extraordinary ‘Acanthus’ as ‘Quartet in residence’, one could learn about chamber music from them when they tutored individual groups, from watching them and their vibrant playing as they performed, and during their memorable masterclass with Marc Danel.

Coming to ConCorda for the first time this year, I was a bit apprehensive. One is always a little unsure of what to expect, but nonetheless I was excited, and ready to embrace whatever was to come my way. I attended ConCorda with the aims of expanding my musical horizons and learning something new, and with the sociological goal of making many new friends.

Being a member of a Baroque chamber music trio where I play harpsichord and thus basso continuo, quartet playing was a completely new experience for me. And what an introduction I had into string chamber music, with delightfully varied repertoire performed by all groups, ranging from Haydn to Prokoviev to Brahms. And the universally loved “American Suite’ by Dvorak, performed by ‘Acanthus’ and which I was lucky enough to study two movements of with my own Concorda quartets. Spending at least 5 hours each day playing music with friends was an utter joy, and I know that I far surpassed my own expectations and goals in growing both musically and personally. Concorda provided me with a challenge, one which I truly enjoyed rising to, and I think Concorda has left a mark on each and every person who attended, not least in the form of a small bruise on the neck of every violin and viola player, as a memento of all the playing. I hope we may be proud of our ‘battle scars’.

Cut Aina Hannisa (2013)



These limits are really tested by the course’s intense programme of chamber music, orchestral music and musical theatre, as well as daily sports and activities. The musical theatre aspect encourages the kids to improvise with their instruments and with their imaginations, and the result (in the form of one 30 minute ‘show’ on the final day) was really beautiful. Each student’s personalities and skills were encouraged and celebrated.

The staff do a great job here. No evening is left unorganised and, thanks to the enthusiasm of the teachers, the kids throw themselves into everything with visible (and audible) gusto – talent show, quiz night, costume night, movie night, prop-making night, and the evening that we organised: string quartet night. Even our 90 minute talk/demonstration about how to work in a professional string quartet held the attention of the youngest students. This is certainly down to the general atmosphere created on the course – where kids embrace learning wholeheartedly because it’s challenging and fun.

This is a wonderful course. A lot of hard work is put into it, and a lot of invaluable experiences are created. The students here don’t only learn music, they learn what it is to be a musician.

Rowena Kennally, Evropska Quartet (Quartet-in-residence 2012)



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