Art Gifts 2021 - meet the artists!
From an original concept by Helsinki Festival, 20 Cork artists delivered hundreds of free Art Gifts around specific areas of Cork city as part of Cork Midsummer Festival 2021. Thanks to Helsinki Festival for the original Art Gifts code and concept: helsinkifestival.fi/artgifts
Presented as part of Brightening Air | Coiscéim Coiligh, a nationwide, ten day season of arts experiences brought to you by the Arts Council.
John Blek is Cork City born and bred, currently residing only a mile or two from his childhood home but listening to his music you can hear the influence of travel and experience. His parents, both of whom were primary school teachers, had to bribe him to stay in school after his 16th birthday with the promise of a new guitar on the completion of his final exams. Such was John’s belief in his ability and chosen path in life that he was willing to forgo the more traditional education sought by his peers. This conviction carries through to his art. His music is written from such a personal place that it creates the sense that he grew up with these songs, that they are in his blood – and in a way he did, they are his thoughts, his words, his sounds and his stories. Though not all autobiographical, like many of the great painters, an element of the artist exists in every portrait.
Majella Cullagh is one of Ireland’s foremost international opera singers. Her repertoire spans baroque to bel canto, verismo to contemporary music. Engagements include Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda (The Liceu, Barcelona & Royal Swedish Opera), Rossini’s La Gazza Ladra (Opera di Verona), Handel’s Amadigi (Covent Garden Festival), Massenet’s Manon (Opera New Zealand), Mozart’s Don Giovanni (Opera North), Verdi’s La Traviata (Glyndebourne On Tour), Puccini’s La Boheme (Royal Albert Hall) and Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg at the Teatro San Carlo, Naples. Oratorio performances include Verdi’s Messa di Requiem in Milan and Amsterdam, Handel’s Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall and Rossini’s Stabat Mater at the Rossini Festival in Bad Wildbad.
Majella has an impressive discography of over forty recordings including Rossini’s Le Siege de Corinthe (Naxos), Mercadante’s Zaira (Opera Rara) and Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (Chandos). Majella joined the vocal faculty of the MTU Cork School of Music in 2020 and has adjudicated at competitions and conservatoires in the UK and Ireland. She is a member of the board of directors at Cork Opera House.
Although at home in a variety of musical styles, Cork Trombonist/Composer/Arranger, Paul Dunlea concentrates primarily on Jazz and Improvisation. This has furthered his reputation as one of Irelands most in demand musicians. Dunlea has performed/toured/recorded with the likes of Michael Bublé, Cassandra Wilson, Frankie Valli, Liam O'Maonlaoi, Mick Flannery, Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire), Bryce Dressner (The National), Lewis Nash, Peter Washington, Billy Drummond, David O' Rourke's O' Rourkestra, Sachal Vadsandani, John Clayton, RTE Concert Orchestra, The Dublin City Jazz Orchestra, The New Irish Jazz Orchestra, The Syd Lawrence Orchestra, Hot House Big Band, Freezeroom & Brian Deady.
Dunlea is a graduate of the CIT Cork School of music holding both a bathelors degree in trombone performance and a masters degree in composition. He has held the chair of principle trombone with the Band 1 Brigade - Irish Defence Forces since 2001.
2011 saw the released his debut album ‘Bi-polAr’ to critical acclaim - reaching #1 in the iTunes chart. 2016 saw the release of his second album 'Fraternal' recorded at the renowned Bunker Studios, Brooklyn, NY featuring bassist Peter Washington, drummer Billy Drummond, guitarist David O’ Rourke (co-leader) & Cork’s Cormac McCarthy. Paul's third album is due out in early 2019. In 2013 Dunlea established his own big band as a creative outlet for his own compositions. To date, the band has performed sell out shows across the country.
Marja Gaynor was born in Finland but has been based in Cork since 2005. She was awarded a 1st class honours MA at Cork School of Music, and continued her Baroque violin studies at The Royal Conservatoire of The Hague with Pavlo Beznosiuk. Marja is a member of the Irish Baroque Orchestra and Camerata Kilkenny. Both ensembles have released much-acclaimed recordings and toured nationally and internationally. Marja is also a founder member of Giordani Quartet, Ireland’s only chamber group specialising in early Classical repertoire using period instruments.
Outside Ireland Marja works with the Helsinki Baroque Orchestra and other leading European period orchestras, and is increasingly in demand as a leader, soloist and workshop facilitator. She was the Artistic Director of East Cork Early Music Festival 2013-2015, and has also been invited to act as guest curator for the Kaleidoscope Night concert series. With her various areas of interest and expertise (Baroque, traditional music, and improvisation) Marja is much sought after as an arranger, studio musician and collaborator in all genres. Her proudest project to date was her critically acclaimed arrangement of Purcell’s ‘Dido and Aeneas’ (Cork Opera House), and she also arranged and played the strings of ‘Falling Slowly’ for the movie ‘Once’, Oscar winner for best song in 2008.
The Kabin Studio in Hollyhill, supported by Music Generation Cork City, is a non-profit community space that has grown out of a love for hip hop, original music, and more recently, horticulture - believing in a holistic approach that includes the facilitation of music workshops, the recording and production of original songs, and the nurturing of a community vegetable garden in a neglected urban setting surrounded by social housing.
In 2013, Garry from GMCBeats Workshops re-purposed an idle MasterKabin in partnership with Cork ETB and Music Generation Cork City to run workshops and recording projects for local young people. Annually, they provide weekly and intensive courses in hip hop and music production, creating experiences for musical, personal and social meaning-making for young people from the northside area. The aim is to nurture confidence in young people, build skills, and allow them to take ownership of a safe creative zone, to enhance confidence for progression to employment and/or further education.
Cormac Lally is one of Ireland's top spoken word artists. Originally from Tullamore, he moved to Skibbereen in 2015 with his family and put roots down. His work has been featured on RTE and he is a familiar face at the country’s top festivals. He has performed with Mick Flannery, Blindboy, Linton Kwesi Jonson, Luca Bloom, Ronan O Snodaigh, Liam O Maoilai, and Stephen James Smith. In 2016, himself and his poetry wife, Julie Goo, wrote a show called Me, Myself and Ireland, a look back at Ireland, her history and culture, which toured the country.
His work is a mix of utter lies, hard truths, politics and family life, dropped on the listener with a cutting humour with deep emotional levels, delivered in a flowing rhythm.
Ruti Lachs is an experienced and versatile performer, music educationist, and composer, who moved to Cork in 2017, after living in County Kerry for 28 years, though from Liverpool originally. She plays piano accordion, piano, and trombone, and sings. She also plays violin, guitar, ukulele, and tin whistle. At present she is touring her second one-woman show, A Different Kettle. Ruti’s shows are theatrical, musical, and funny.
Lords of Strut
Lords of Strut are Cian Kinsella and Cormac Mohally; together they created the company in 2009 and had immediate success with their street theatre show which has been touring ever since.The company strive to make engaging, funny and accessible work with elements of various circus disciplines but mostly clown and acrobatics for both adult and family audiences and has a unique quality that can crossover age demographics and have a universal appeal. From the 10 years of touring and their TV work the company has built up a wide recognition and fan base.The company is continually learning and experimenting, and has now a wide level of skills and expertise in both performance and technical knowledge which ranges from street theatre, site specific, theatre and TV.
The shows are driven by the characters of two spandex wearing brothers who have delusions of celebrity and talent. Within the shows there are comedic, acrobatic and dance numbers with awesome levels of skill and timing. These characters have been shaped and honed through thousands of live performances, in 18 countries, on four continents, and with varying amounts of clothing.
Claire J Loy is an Irish stage, film and television actress. She was born in Co. Louth, Ireland and was raised in Cork. Claire plays Louise O’Neill in the indie feature CROSSHAIR (dir. Tom McKenna) which is due for release in Summer 2020. Her award winning performance in the critically acclaimed short film IN ORBIT (dir.Katie McNeice) was described as ‘intense and intelligent’. Her television work includes CASUALTY (BBC) TRIVIA (RTE) THE GIRL AT THE END OF THE GARDEN (RTE).
Known for her portrayal of determined women often with an edge of defiance she enjoys the challenge of fleshing out the idea of a person to create a real human being, flaws and all. Claire says ‘the flaws are the humanising element of any character, the element that is recognisable in all of us’. Having trained at Bow Street Academy Dublin, the Gaiety School of Acting Cork, Claire also works with New Modern Realist practitioner and pioneer Tom Kibbe. Tom is a former casting director at Warner Brothers and has worked very closely with Michael Douglas.
Shaunna Lee Lynch
Shaunna Lee Lynch is a Cork-native writer, performer and director. She has performed her poetry at many events around Ireland and abroad including Cork City Culture Night, Electric Picnic and First Fortnight. In 2019 she won the All-Ireland Slam Poetry Competition. A graduate of Ireland’s Conservatory of Music and Drama (TU Dublin), she has been involved in many theatre and film projects over the past decade. She wrote, co-produced and acted in the play Wishful Thinking which ran as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival 2019. Her work is a humorous pop culture parade that challenges the mundane and examines the sacred. Find more info at https://shaunnaleelynch.com/&n...;
Elaine Malone (Mantua, HEX) is an Irish psychedelic-folk musician. Her folk-tinged debut EP Land was released in 2018, spawning the singles 'You' and 'Mindless'. In 2019 she released 'My Baby's Dead' revealing a heavier psychedelic sound. Malone's first Mantua album was released by Sunshine Cult Records in 2019, a folk-horror drone project. Malone also performs with punk band Land Crabs, kosmische group Soft Focus and improvised music project Numberwitch.
Mary Lou McCarthy
Mary-Lou McCarthy is an actor, writer and theatre-maker working across multiple disciplines including theatre, film, television and radio. She grew up in Cork city and is a fluent English and Irish speaker creating work in both languages. As an actor, Mary-Lou has toured nationally and internationally with her stage work in Ireland, Europe, Russia and the U.S. Stage credits include Me, Mollser (Abbey Theatre); BigKidLittleKid (Anna Newell/The Civic), The Heiress (The Gate); The Blue Boy (Brokentalkers), Lovers, Winners; The Factory Girls (The Everyman) and Conversations Across Time (Dumbworld). Recent screen credits include Wolf (FelineFilms), Fair City (RTÉ) and An Klondike (TG4). As a writer she was commissioned by The Civic Theatre in 2020 to develop her play The Dead Letter Office. In 2021, she was artist in residence at the Linenhall Arts Centre writing an interactive audio story for the classroom entitled Squawker, as well as writing and performing a new digital project for Big Telly Theatre Company exploring folklore, foraging and cooking for young audiences.
Kate is a professional circus artist (focusing on hula hoops and aerial arts) who began her career as a circus enthusiast in 2014. She is passionate about sharing circus and has been developing outreach programs for Circus Factory for the last 3 years. Kate wrote, directed, produced and performed in her first show ‘Malice in Underland’ in May 2016. She has been involved in group productions, Suspended Quays and Firestorm, as part of the Pitch’d Circus Festival. Kate's first long form show is due to be filmed as a site specific performance later this year. Follow her work on Instagram: @circus.cake
Described as “a remarkable stage presence” (Jo Kerrigan, Irish Examiner) and “a sweet tenor” (Donal O’Riordan, Sunday Business Post), Ryan Morgan has been delighting audiences throughout Ireland with his thrilling voice and engaging performances. Born in Wales, but now living in Cork, Ryan was brought up in the rich musical culture of South Wales, and was involved in several major choirs in his teens, touring Canada and America, and singing at the Royal Albert Hall.
After completing a Ph.D. in law and a career as a law lecturer, Ryan became a professional singer in 2008. Since then he has studied with Veronica Dunne at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, and holds a Masters in Music degree in the Conservatory of Music and Drama, DIT, under Stephen Wallace. He is also a Licentiate of RockSchool London.
Raphael Olympio, AKA Olympio, is an Irish based rapper and spoken word artist from Cork with Togolese heritage. Olympio started out performing pieces in the church before branching out and experimenting with alternative rap and hip-hop. His work as a youth leader has motivated him and inspired his artistry. He uses songwriting to highlight social injustice. He started writing songs with his brother Zeik Olympio AKA BOYSTELLLIES (available on YouTube) with a Karaoke machine that their mother bought for them. Olympio is currently part of a collective called Outsiders Ent which he set up with his best friend Outsider YP. His next big project ‘ABCD’, A Black Child’s Dilemma, is an album exploring racism and discrimination within Ireland.
Eoin Ó Riabhaigh
Piper and pipemaker Eoin began his piping career at the tender age of 9 under his father's watchful eye, and continues to play regularly.
Eoin has enjoyed a very varied career as a piper, having performed and recorded with, among others, Dolores Keane, Mary Black, Iris Demente (US), Tom Russell (US), Matt Cranitch, Frankie Gavin, The Xenia Ensemble (Turin), Tim O Brien etc.. He has played and taught throughout Europe and the U.S. He currently plays a regular gig in Cork's premier traditional music venue, The Corner House, on Coburg Street along with Johnny McCarthy (Four Star Trio), Aidan Coffey (ex De Danann) and several friends who drop in regularly.
Originally from England but now long-term based in Cork, George has been the singer and front man for THE ROARING FORTIES, a jump jive swing band who have played festivals all over the world, for over ten years.
Playing guitar and writing songs since the age of fifteen, well worn through years in rock and roll bands his solo material takes a more considered approach. Caoilian Sherlock released his debut EP 'The Faraway' under the moniker Saint Caoilian in 2017, on the back of a year of prestigious support shows with Roy Harper, Ryley Walker, Sean O'Hagan, and a tour around Ireland with Joan Shelley and Nathan Salsburg.
With a tangible sonic landscape now unfolding within his songwriting, he began to record with producer Brendan Fennessy, and his band now called The Big Children. Featuring Leah Hearne (guitar & vocals), Rory McCarthy (keys & vocals), Ruairi Dale (bass guitar) and Paul Leonard (drums) the recording process was nearly finished in March 2020 when the covid-19 pandemic put an abrupt end to affairs. The collaboration had fortunately by then generated three singles ‘Shades Of You’, ‘Don’t Let Me Forget About Her’ and ‘Sucker For Love’ released in 2019.
During the lockdown he recorded a cover of Saint Sister’s ‘Causing Trouble’ for London based radio show The Irish Jam as well as performing at the Hot Press Lockdown Sessions: Y&E Series all the while finishing off his EP 'Big Child' which was released on September 1st.
John Spillane is a musician, songwriter, performer, recording artist, storyteller, poet and dreamer. Rooted in people, place and story, his music transports the listener and his live performances captivate audiences around the world.
As an artist his music appeals to listeners across many genres and generations. His vocal style has a unique almost sean-nós like quality and his performances shimmer with the magic realism that permeates many of his songs as he effortlessly flits between beautiful poetry tinged with melancholy to roguish, irreverent humour. John has the ability to charm, mesmerise and entertain in equal measure.
A native of Cork, the County he lovingly describes as “the centre of the universe” and a source of huge creative influence throughout his career. John’s music is inspired by and encapsulates Irish traditional music in its contemporary form – a reflection of Ireland today.