Belfast Telegraph

Ailish Tynan is tuning up for the Clandeboye Festival challenge

Acclaimed soprano Ailish Tynan may have performed on the world's biggest stages, but tells Andrew Johnston why she always looks forward to returning to the Clandeboye Festival in Bangor.

With all the doom and gloom in the world right now, Bangor's Clandeboye Festival offers some much-needed light relief for those hoping to enjoy the last few weeks of summer. Indeed, one of the stars of the show, soprano Ailish Tynan, is adamant that visitors to the festival will have a good time.

"I defy anybody to go and not come out on cloud nine," says the acclaimed opera star, who will perform at the week-long classical music gala in the Clandeboye Estate. "It's heavenly, feel-good music."

Mullingar-born Ailish looks forward to returning to the feast of refined sounds each year. "You walk in and it's Lady Dufferin's beautiful estate, but from the minute you step on as a performer or as a person going to view it all, you're just made to feel at home," she enthuses. "I think that's part of the success."

Presided over as it is by Northern Ireland's homegrown piano virtuoso Barry Douglas, Ailish relishes the welcoming atmosphere of the festival.

"Barry's got a big heart – he's a really lovely, generous person – and you've got a great guy running the festival as well in Gavin O'Sullivan," she says.

"Everybody's made to feel welcome. One year, I had the two stepchildren over, and I even bring my little two-and-a-half-year-old Jack Russell, Jack. It's one of the few places where you feel you can say, 'Look, when you're getting me a place to stay, could you get me somewhere that takes dogs?"

Ailish's association with Clandeboye dates back several years, though she struggles to pinpoint the exact moment she first met Douglas.

"It was maybe a BBC concert, where both of us were performing," she laughs.

"But Barry's the sort of person that once you've met him, you feel like you've known him your whole life."

And over the years performing at Clandeboye, Ailish has forged close personal and professional links with Douglas, as well as with the festival's wealth of other regular artists. Many of the same musicians – such as Chilean-born cellist Andres Diaz and French clarinet maestro Michel Lethiec – grace the stage year after year, and Ailish loves being part of the close-knit community of players.

"A lot of festivals like to ring the changes and get different people in every year to keep audiences interested," she says.

"But Barry actually uses a lot of the same people all the time, which I think gives a great sense of continuity to the thing. He's clever about the people he picks. Everyone gets along. There are no terrible divas! It means that you can be a little bit more creative.

"There's more scope, programming-wise."

Indeed, the 2014 bill offers everything from lunchtime recitals in the estate's chapel to a fashion show featuring young design graduates parading their creations to live classical music. There will also be a special performance of Five Fables, translated by the late Seamus Heaney, with a screening of the animations and narration by guest stars.

Another aspect of the festival is its focus on new musicians. Ailish and co may be old pros – she trained at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, andhas graced some of the world's greatest stages, such as La Scala and the Royal Opera House – but giving Ireland's young talent a platform to perform is an integral part of the Clandeboye experience.

"I've lived in London for 15 years, and I see so many good Irish musicians having to come over to London to make it," Ailish says.

"So, to have something like Clandeboye on your doorstep for a week is a huge opportunity for young musicians in Ireland."

  • The Clandeboye Festival 2014 runs from Monday-Saturday, August 18-23, at Bangor's Clandeboye Estate. For details, visit www.camerata-ireland.com/clandeboye

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