A weekend of online performances, lectures, demos, and more to coincide with Early Music Day
www.limerickearlymusic.com 20–21 MARCH 2021
What happens in Ireland in the days following the St. Patrick’s Day festivities? Under normal circumstances, post-St. Paddy’s cleanup crews might be seen tidying up after the revelry, children may or may not be heading back to school, and the country prepares for the home stretch before the next national holiday, Easter. But in Limerick, two EMA members who transplanted from the USA a decade ago are bringing early music to this medieval city nestled in the Irish Midwest at the mouth of the Shannon River estuary. This weekend, in conjunction with the annual celebration of Early Music Day, Yonit Kosovske and Vlad Smishkewych will launch the first Limerick Early Music Festival (LEMF) through their organization H.I.P.S.T.E.R., an acronym for Historically Informed Performance Series, Teaching, Education and Research.
Yonit and Vlad both hold Doctor of Music degrees from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where they met over 20 years ago in the Early Music Institute (EMI), now called the Historical Performance Institute (HPI). Vlad was a graduate student in voice performance, and Yonit was studying historical keyboard performance with Elisabeth Wright. In 2011 they moved to Ireland when they were both hired to be on the music faculty of the University of Limerick’s Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. Yonit still teaches at UL, but Vlad switched tracks in 2014, heading over to Ireland’s classical radio station RTÉ lyric fm, where he is the voice and brains behind the Sunday morning early music show Vox Nostra. (You might also remember Vlad’s EMAg article on the Irish Early Music scene from 2015.)
Back in March 2020, Yonit and Vlad were busy with what they hoped was going to be an exciting live launch event for H.I.P.S.T.E.R. at the People’s Museum of Limerick, a renovated Georgian house in the city’s historical quarter (around the corner, in fact, from Frank McCourt’s now-shuttered ‘Angela’s Ashes’ Museum), and at other historical venues across the city. When lockdown number one happened, the pair scrambled within days to put online a number of recorded performances and conferences with Irish and international early music notables. Their hope was that by early autumn 2020, things would be returning to “normal,” but as the pandemic carried on longer than expected, they organized a marathon-sized online event for their official H.I.P.S.T.E.R. launch on the 7th of November. It featured over 50 videos of performances, instrument demos, and a new series curated by Yonit called WAVE~LINKS, exploring connections between music and artisanry.
LEMF 2021 promises a fantastic lineup of 15 musical and interdisciplinary events taking place online. Over the course of the weekend, audiences will enjoy lunchtime performances with soprano Aisling Kenny and harpsichordist Rachel Factor, along with instrument presentations by Ben Bagby and Andrew Lawrence-King, among other renowned artists living on both sides of the Atlantic. The festival will premiere the latest WAVE~LINKS video exploring connections between Baroque violin and glass art with Nina Falk, followed by a short art film called Shades, Shapes, and Shadows: J.S. Bach’s “Allemande” in Monochrome with traverso player and photographer Teddie Hwang. Vlad’s new documentary series Hidden Soundscapes will debut a short film about the restoration of a local Klop harpsichord. The festival includes a fabulous educational & performance video titled Grounded! The Passacaille in ‘Lockdown’ with historical dance specialists Mary Collins and Steve Player, and, to start it all off, a welcome video from LEMF’s ambassador, Limerick native, and recorder virtuosa Caoimhe de Paor, followed by performances of her fantastic recorder quartet Palisander.
All events are free, except for the festival’s mainstage Sunday night final concert I Baci, The Kisses, in a program of music by Barbara Strozzi, Tarquinio Merula, Claudio Monteverdi, Girolamo Frescobaldi, and Francesco Corbetta. Artists include vocalists Rhiannon Giddens, Laura Howes, Cecilia Madden, Mícheál P Ó Súilleabháin, Vlad Smishkewych, Eve Stafford, and Zoë Stedje, with instrumentalists Peter Barley, Yonit Kosovske (artistic director), and Eamon Sweeney. Just before the broadcast, Dr. Antonio Cascelli (head of music at Maynooth University in Ireland) will present a pre-concert lecture about sacred and secular love in the music, text, and art of 16th–17th century Italy.
EXPANDING EARLY MUSIC’S SCOPE, MEANING, AND REACH
Vlad and Yonit are not just festival promoters—their mainstay has been performance, and they’ve been in the early music scene for over two decades now, concertizing with some of the top national and international ensembles and gracing stages at festivals around the globe. They also think quite a lot about the music they make, and about how it intersects with life, art, poetry, society, science, nature…and from these experiences, they spin out new projects that help expand the scope and meaning of early music. They also want to see the future of this genre include early music from a multitude of nations and traditions. Not all of them are Western, some of them are European but often carried through other national permutations (such as European violin music and fiddle traditions that landed in the Americas and became vernacular music, to name one phenomenon). Yonit and Vlad also care about the impact of what they do in the community, and their future endeavors with H.I.P.S.T.E.R. include making sure that this gorgeous millennium of pre-Modernist music finds its way to as many diverse and varied listeners as wish to enjoy it. “After all,” says Vlad, “the younger the listeners are when they get hooked, the better a chance that they will become the early music performers of tomorrow. This will make sure that diversity of audiences and of performers is a reality based in response to the music, and not just a tokenized, band-aid-on-the-wound answer to the deep-rooted problems of social inequity.”
EARLY MUSIC ACROSS IRELAND, UNIFIED
The Limerick Early Music Festival is also part of a new national initiative to bring together the country’s early music festivals and series under an organizational umbrella for mutual benefit and assistance in producing and distributing performance and educational media for early music. The Irish Early Music Network was just formed this year by the directors of the early music festivals in Galway, East Cork, and Limerick, and was recently awarded Capacity Building funding by Arts Council Ireland in order to expand the reach of their presence online, grow their outreach efforts, and build early music audiences in Ireland.
WHAT’S ON, AND WHEN
The inaugural Limerick Early Music Festival goes online the weekend of 20-21 March 2021, and you can find out more at:
Yonit Kosovske and Vlad Smishkewych’s organization H.I.P.S.T.E.R. is on social media and also can be found online at www.hipsterireland.com
H.I.P.S.T.E.R. and the Limerick Early Music Festival gratefully acknowledge generous support from Arts Council Ireland and Limerick City and County Council Arts Office, as well as partnership support from Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick School of Music/LCETB, European Expo 2020, and Absolute Hotel.
H.I.P.S.T.E.R./Limerick Early Music Festival are founding members of IEMN, the Irish Early Music Network. Twitter: @IEMN_ie