Farming classical pianist busy planning West Wicklow Festival

Farming classical pianist Fiachra Garvey is currently busy planning the West Wicklow Festival which will take place from May 15 to 19, while giving a helping hand on the family farm.

The farm at the foot of the Moanbane mountains on the Blessington Lakes in Co. Wicklow provides respite from the hectic nature of his London base and international travel.

Fiachra, who is the festival founder, said: “Our farm is located at Ballyknockan. We farm 70ac including commonage, and at the moment have: Suffolk, Cheviot; and Texel sheep; suckler cows; two ponies; and hens; as well as Luas and Blaithin, our lovely rough collies.

We are about eight weeks away from lambing now so are getting the ewes prepared. The cows are inside too, with a few due to calve in the coming weeks.

Recent highlights musically for the classical pianist include a live broadcast on RTE with the RTE concert orchestra, playing a Tchaikovsky piano concerto last Friday, and being awarded an associate of the Royal Academy of Music London (ARAM).

Forthcoming events include a Bach to Beethoven series at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, with concerts running until March.

Fiachra has always helped out on the family farm, run by his dad, Vincent. “One of my earliest memories is of helping my dad and grandad build the cow sheds and stables,” he said.

“My favourite job was feeding the cows in the sheds during winter.”

Farming, the classical pianist said, is therapeutic for him. “I guess that’s because it’s so different to playing the piano; I find the complete change of environment refreshing and relaxing.

“After practising piano some days for six or seven hours, the best way to unwind, I find, is a walk up the mountains or down the lakes, or rounding up the sheep for a dose.”

Before completing a Bachelor’s degree in music, Fiachra studied veterinary medicine in University College Dublin (UCD.)

“I absolutely loved veterinary but in my second year realised that if I didn’t give music a proper go, then I would always regret that, so I went back to full-time music. I would love to finish my veterinary degree some day.”

Meanwhile, Fiachra said he will always make time for farming. “I fly home every summer for the sheep dipping and for some other big jobs like the hay,” he said.

Tickets for the West Wicklow Festival which will take place at Russborough House, Blessington, and St. Mary’s Church, Blessington, are now on sale.

Having doubled in size last year, the festival this year will feature 15 artists, including Fiachra who is artistic director of the event, over five days.

This year’s programme marks two important events: the 200th anniversary of Clara Schumann’s birth; and the centenary of the outbreak of the Irish War of Independence, said Fiachra.

“We join in celebrating the music of Clara Schumann this year as well as music by other female composers and we have commissioned two new works in memory of the War of Independence.

“I look forward to welcoming everyone to the stunning Russborough House in May to enjoy this fantastic programme in a uniquely intimate setting,” said the award-winning pianist.

The festival box office is on: 01-417-0000. Further information is on: www.westwicklowfestival.com.