ConCorda is the highlight of my year. When I’m there, there’s inspiration and kindness everywhere I turn—I’m surrounded by an all-star cast of tutors and staff and, of course, my own talented peers. They create such a supportive atmosphere! I was encouraged to leave my comfort zone by playing new repertoire, improvising and even tearing up the dancefloor with some killer moves. I loved the challenges and everyone else had my back the whole time. Anyone who goes to ConCorda will quickly realise there’s no need to feel embarrassed or shy. We all leave our judgment at the door so that we can be our best selves.
One of my favourite parts of the course is getting to work with some absolutely stellar musicians. The guest stars this year—Alice Zawadzki, the Ophelia Quartet and the Heath Quartet—coached us in singing and chamber music respectively, and also gave spellbinding performances in the evening concerts. It was truly an amazing opportunity and an aspect of ConCorda that has thrilled me year after year!
Tania Stokes (2019)
On my first day on the ConCorda course, I was a little apprehensive and unsure as to what to expect. I didn’t know of anyone else doing the course so I couldn’t ask to find out. I wondered what the staff might be like and how strict it was going to be. I shouldn’t have worried at all because the staff and everyone else on the course were all fantastic and really friendly, super kind and welcoming. They always made sure we were ok and most of all, that we were having fun.
When I arrived at my room, it was a little intimidating at first as I didn’t know who I was going to be sharing with but I made fantastic friends very quickly with my room mates and we stay in touch on Snapchat.
As the music sessions began, I wondered how I would cope with the sight-reading and how difficult it might be but I needn’t have worried, as all the staff were really patient, understanding as well as really good musicians. One of the highlights of the course for me was the improvisation and creative activities. This was my first attempt at doing something like this and even though I found it challenging, I got a real kick out of doing it. It got me to really listen and focus and try and be a little more creative with my playing.
All of the other activities such as orchestra, quartet rehearsals, and drama were just as much fun. The best thing for me on the course was playing the viola for the first time and I’ve really taken to it and I know I’m going to have to listen to a lot of jokes about it for a really long time!
The activities were amazing if you wanted to get involved, but there was no pressure and it was a really good way of meeting up with the rest of the course and making new friends.
I learned a huge amount and still had so much fun!
The only advice I can offer to anyone who is thinking or considering applying for the course is:
1.) Apply now!!
2.) Be yourself
3.) Be confident and open and prepared to try new things
4.) It’s fun
Conor Galvin (2019)
We were hesitant about playing late Beethoven for a room of teenagers, but I think we may have stumbled upon our most attentive audience yet!
Gary Pomeroy, The Heath Quartet (Quartet-in-residence 2019)
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 honestly 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 have 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)
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)