A new international cello festival on the edge of Europe.

Galway, Ireland: May 18 – 26, 2024

Stars of the cello and classical world announced for Galway include Eimear Noone (Irish, conductor and composer), Alban Gerhardt (German, cello), Camille Thomas (Franco-Belgian, cello), Nicolas Altstaedt (German-French, cello), Jakob Koranyi (Swedish, cello), Karmit Fadael (Dutch-Israeli, composer), Rachel Croash (Irish, soprano), Daria van den Bercken (Dutch-Russian, piano), Bogdan Sofei (Romanian-Irish, violin), Killian White (Irish, cello), Natalie Clein (British, cello), the National Symphony Orchestra, Irish Chamber Orchestra, Cello Ireland and many more.

Yesterday, February 20, 2024, Music for Galway have announced the full programme for Cellissimo, a new international cello festival on the edge of Europe, running across Galway city and county from Saturday May 18 to Sunday May 26 inclusive. Featuring hundreds of artists, composers, musicians, performers, and speakers, Cellissimo will gather the leading lights of the cello, classical and contemporary scene for nine incredible days and nights of music, song, and story in the West of Ireland. With thousands due to visit Galway over the festival run, Cellissimo will be a dynamic, inclusive, accessible celebration, appealing to both classical aficionados and first timers alike, striking a chord with Irish and international music audiences.

Cellissimo will also be a forum for the exploration of the power of music and the arts to drive understanding and influence behavioural change around the shared global challenges of the climate crisis, migration, and sustainability, with two distinctive programmes deeply embedded in the festival’s DNA: The collaborative community project Galway Bay is Calling, funded by the Creative Climate Action fund, an initiative of Creative Ireland, led by Music for Galway in partnership with Galway Atlantaquaria and Atlantic Technological University; and Songs of Travel, a three year, transnational Creative Europe Cooperation Project, ideated by Music for Galway CEO Anna Lardi, led by Music for Galway, in partnership with Fairplay Chamber Music, Sweden; Valdres Sommersymfoni, Norway; Piano Biënnale, The Netherlands and Austrian game development studio Causa Creations.

Galway Bay is Calling will be the afternoon opening event of Cellissimo on Saturday May 18, with Galway-born, Florence–based cellist, composer, and singer Naomi Berrill and more than one hundred singers, musicians, and performers from Galway Jam Circle, Voice of Galway, and Galway Camerata.

Opening night will see the commencement of the festival-long performance and discussion programme Songs of Travel. The Journey Begins will feature keynote speaker, former President of Ireland, Chair of the Elders and climate justice advocate Mary Robinson and the National Symphony Orchestra with a star-studded cast including cellists Alban Gerhardt and Jakob Koranyi and Cellissimo Artistic Director Finghin Collins on piano. The evening will host the debut of a new work for cello, piano and orchestra by composer Djuro Zivkovic, the first of five world premieres commissioned through Songs of Travel, each of which will be performed for the first time ever at Cellissimo. Other composers, artists, musicians, and speakers taking part in Songs of Travel events throughout the festival include Elaine Agnew, Lasse Thoresen, Hawar Tawfiq, Karmit Fadael, Killian White, Stephanie Dufresne, Rachel Croash, Alex Petcu, Macdara Ó Seireadain, Adedotun Adekeye, Pol Ó Conghaile and many more.

Elsewhere on theCellissimo programme, audiences will enjoy the National Symphony Orchestra in the hometown debut of world acclaimed Galway conductor and composer Eimear Noone, with the incredible Adrian Mantu of the ConTempo Quartet; The Story of a Cello with the Irish Chamber Orchestra and Franco-Belgian cello sensation Camille Thomas; a chamber concert with German–French cellist Nicolas Altstaedt and friends; the Bach Plus series – six newly commissioned cello pieces by six Irish composers to accompany Bach’s six cello suites –  which will be performed at St. Nicholas Collegiate Church in the city during the day, and then at locations across the county in the evening, including Campbell’s Tavern, Ballynahinch Castle, Claregalway Castle and more. 

Also on the bill, Classic Hour at Town Hall Theatre, a three-part series of classic favourites for cello and piano featuring Alban Gerhardt with Hugh Tinney, Killian White with Daria van den Bercken, and Natalie Clein with Music for Galway and Cellissimo Artistic Director Finghin Collins. 

For more than 40 years, nurturing emerging talent has been at the heart of the work of Music for Galway. The Cellissimo Ambassador programme grew out of the Galway Cello project, an instrument commissioned for the first, albeit virtual, edition of Cellissimo in 2020. Mullingar cellist Catherine Cotter has been keeper of the Galway Cello for three years and returns to Galway to lead the Cellissimo Ambassador Evening. During this event, a promising young cellist will be named the new Cellissimo Ambassador and will take charge of the Galway Cello for the next three years. Separately, Cellissimo will welcome eight rising cello stars from across Europe who will take part in a series of exceptional Masterclasses, along with a Student Showcase Concert and pop-up events across Galway.

In a Music for Galway co—production with the award-winning young people’s theatre company Branar, The Song of the Trees will be a firm favourite with families at the Town Hall Theatre. A new and original performance piece, combining live music and storytelling, The Song of the Trees will be narrated by Little John Nee, with Neil Martin on cello, devised and directed by Marc MacLochlainn.

The Cellissimo Spectacular will see Cello Ireland, the eight international cello students and amateur cellists of all ages and abilities take to the Leisureland stage for an incredible programme, with international stars including soprano Claudia Boyle and cellists Nicolas Altstaedt, Adrian Mantu, and Catherine Cotter.

The Inishbofin Cello Trail closes the festival  on Sunday May 26, with gathered revellers travelling by bus from Galway city to Cleggan, with a stop off at Kylemore Abbey, before taking the ferry to the breathtaking Inishbofin Island for a musical journey of discovery and a feast of local food.

The place for all to gather in the evening will be the Festival Club at HYDE, a series of nightly trad sessions curated and led by Galway musician Michael Chang. The floor will be open to visiting cellists, musicians, and performers, and the results will be one-of-a-kind musical moments.

Sustainability is at the heart of Cellissimo, with the festival team working towards achieving sustainable operation. This includes the encouragement and facilitation of artists and participants to sustainably travel to Ireland and Galway by sail and rail where possible, realised through generous partnerships with both Irish Ferries and Irish Rail, Cellissimo Sustainable Travel Partners. Cellissimo calls on all audiences to consider sustainable travel in their festival plans.

Explore the full programme of events and purchase tickets now at cellissimo.ie

Cellissimo is made possible by our Funders Creative Europe Cooperation Project Fund, The Arts Council of Ireland, the Creative Climate Action fund, an initiative from the Creative Ireland , funded by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, in collaboration with the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications and Galway City Council; Sponsored by Dunard Fund USA, AIB Community Fund, Lifes2good Foundation, Optique Opticians, Techrete, Tigh Neachtain, KPMG, MJ Conroy; Sustainable Travel Partners Irish Rail and Irish Ferries; National Media Partners The Irish Times, RTÉ Supporting the Arts, and Lyric FM; Local Media Partners Galway Bay FM, Galway Advertiser, Galway City Tribune, Connacht Tribune; Accommodation and Venue Partners HYDE Hotel, Park House Hotel, The Connacht Hotel, The Hardiman Hotel, University of Galway, Atlantic Technological University, Town Hall Theatre, St. Nicholas Collegiate Church, Galway Arts Centre; Sustainability Partner iSupply; Mental Health Partner Minding Creative Minds; Generous Supporters Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, Diginet and Inishbofin Ferry and the many patrons and friends who support Music for Galway throughout the year.