A Vision of Ireland this Culture Night

Soprano Eileen Coyle and pianist Frasier Hickland will perform a selection of music inspired by a number of Irish poets including Percy French, WB Yeats and Francis Ledwidge this Culture Night.

The audience can expect the programme to feature songs based on Irish texts by Michael Head, Benjamin Britten, Thomas Dunhill and James Joyce – with a sprinkling of some favourite Percy French numbers in honour of his centenary this year.

Eileen and Frasier will be performing twice in Westmeath this Culture Night, which falls on Friday, September 18.

The first concert is in Athlone Library, between 4pm and 5pm, where numbers are restricted to 10 people maximum. The second performance is in Mullingar Arts Centre, which can hold a larger audience, up to a maximum of 50, starting at 7.30pm. Eileen, a Cavan native who moved to Dublin some 10 years ago, and back again since the lockdown, is looking forward to an audience.

“It’s great to have something to work towards as an artist. It can be hard to keep working on your craft when you can’t see a time when people are going to appreciate it again. We all need an audience of some sort, whether that’s 10 people and a video camera, or a full concert hall,” she says.

As soon as the lockdown ended, Eileen left Dublin and returned to Cavan to live in a thatched cottage, where she has had time to work on her music, as well as reconnect with nature.

“There’s bees in one eave and bats in the other,” she says of the thatched cottage. “I love the peace and quiet and I’m near my family now. I have time to read and do my watercolours without any distraction, because, literally, there is no phone reception or internet here! I do listen to the radio every day though.”

With a background in psychology and music technology, Eileen began to pursue a career in music a decade ago, and trained with Ite O’Donavan of the The Lassus Scholars choir.

“At the same time I met Derby Browne and started working with The Bugle Babes, a 1940s Close Harmony group. I went on to study voice with Imelda Drumm for six years and two years at the Royal Irish Academy of Music Dublin.”

Eileen has built up quite a repertoire in the time since, performing as a member of the choir at Christ Church Cathedral, and singing with a number of professional ensembles including the aforementioned Bugle Babes, Lassus Chamber Choir, as well as the Crux Vocal Ensemble, Tonnta Performance Company, Kirkos Ensemble and Peregryne Vocal Ensemble.

She has performed at multiple festivals, from The Fringe Festival, to the 11:11 Concert Series in The Royal Irish Academy of Music, and sung as a soloist with RTÉ Concert Orchestra, RIAM Baroque Ensemble, Orlando Chamber Orchestra to name but a few.

She has toured Europe with her solo career and performed all over Ireland including the National Concert Hall, Cork Opera House, The American Embassy and Áras an Uachtaráin.

Ahead of Culture Night, Eileen is looking forward to performing her favourite Michael Head set, as well as Come Back Paddy Reilly, which holds a special place in her heart because she remembers her grandfather singing when she was a child.

Frasier Hickland

On the night, Eileen will be accompanied by Dublin-based pianist Frasier Hickland, who studies with Professor Anthony Byrne at the Royal Irish Academy of Music.

Frasier has participated in masterclasses and coaching with renowned artists such as John O’Conor, Aaron Shorr, Kathryn Harries, Ingrid Surgenor, Catherine Wyn-Rogers, Iain Burnside, and Simon Lepper. He has given many performances – most notably on BBC Radio to commemorate the Jane Austen Bicentenary – and has played in some of the most prestigious venues in Ireland, including the National Concert Hall, the Ulster Hall, and Blackwater Valley Opera Festival, Waterford.

He performed with the Ulster Youth Orchestra for their 2019 summer season and has worked in a residency with the distinguished British composer Sally Beamish, giving the Irish première of her piece ‘Wild Swans’.

Frasier was the Peter Rankin Piano Intern for the Northern Ireland Opera Festival of Voice 2018 and 2019 respectively, and since then has worked on various projects and recitals with the company, including being selected to perform in Hillsborough Castle for HRH The Prince of Wales during his visit last year.

Répétiteur roles include Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (FAVA Opera, Salzburg), Offenbach’s Daphnis et Chloé (NI Opera), Offenbach’s L’île de Tulipatan (NI Opera) and Seán Doherty’s The Linen Opera ‘Waking Beauty’ (Linen Biennale Northern Ireland 2018).

To book a place at A Vision of Ireland concert this Culture Night go to culturenight.ie; or call 090 6442157 for Athlone Library; and 044 9347777 for Mullingar Arts Centre.

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