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Stars out to play for classical music festival

The hills around north Down are set to come alive with the sound of music from tonight, as one of Northern Ireland's top classical music festivals kicks off a week-long programme of events.

The Clandeboye Festival of Music begins a six-night run of concerts this evening with a special performance by festival founder and renowned Belfast pianist Barry Douglas at the helm.

The star will also be welcoming his own chamber orchestra, Camerata Ireland, to the historic Clandeboye estate on the outskirts of Bangor for a special closing night gala finale on Saturday.

Among the highlights of this year's concert will be an appearance by Oscar-nominated actor Stephen Rea.

The star of films such as The Crying Game and V for Vendetta will be giving a poetry reading on Thursday in the chapel at the estate.

And some of the top classical music instrumentalists in the world will be joining the line-up, not only to perform but also to offer masterclasses to the next generation of young Irish stars ahead of the Young Musicians showcase on Thursday evening.

"We have a marvellous mix of international guest soloists, students taking part in the Young Musician Programme and a whole host of events in the daytime and in the evening," said Douglas of this year's line-up.

"We always like to offer something new and this year we have the wonderful actor Stephen Rea joining us for the first time."

Mr Douglas, who founded Camerata Ireland in 1999 to bring together the best classical musicians from across Ireland, said this year's programme also appealed to those who wished to discover classical music for the first time.

"We hope people who are familiar with classical music and those who just want to try something different, will come and join us in this beautiful part of North Down that provides the perfect backdrop for a wonderful week of music," he said.

Among the musicians taking part in the programme will be Ukrainian-born violinist Graf Mourja, who has become a festival favourite since joining the line-up two years ago, and young Dublin pianist Sophie Cashell, who was the winner of the BBC Classical Star competition in 2007.

For further details of this year's programme and to book tickets, visit www.camerata-ireland.com or tel: 0800 977 6074 or 028 9039 4234.

Belfast Telegraph