The RDS Rising Stars Concerts showcase new talent in Irish classical music. Ahead of her appearance on November 28th in the RDS Concert Hall with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, flautist and 2017 RDS Jago Award winner Miriam Kaczor writes for Culture about her musical journey from Poland to Ireland.
When my parents first told me we were moving to Dublin, back in 2007, never did I imagine that 11 years later I would call it my home, hold an Irish passport and be standing up to play in front of the incredibly warm-hearted Irish audiences!
Watch: RDS Rising Stars - Introducing Miriam Kaczor
To be fair though, my logistical imagination as an 11-year-old probably didn’t go far beyond what my homework for next week was. Embarrassingly enough, I didn’t know much about Ireland at the time. I heard that it was very beautiful, had seen Irish dancing at some show once and found an old Enya cassette - please don’t judge, I was a big Lord of the Rings fan, okay?
It was all so exciting though. I remember being chuffed with my new school uniform (I had only seen them in movies before!) and absolutely fascinated by the coastal landscapes around Dublin - it was my first time seeing cliffs in real life, too!. We came from a large city, but my parents struggled financially as they both used to be secondary school teachers, which wasn’t the most optimistic of professions in Poland at the time. We shared a tiny old apartment with my grandparents, two people in each room, so it was such a luxury to even have a living room in our new place.
Listen: Miriam Kaczor plays J. S. Bach - Sarabande from Flute Partita in A minor
The beginnings weren’t easy. I had no English when I came, so schoolwork and making friends were really difficult. My parents were renting, so we moved from house to house every year or two as accommodation prices kept going up. Because of that, I feel like we learned to always carry home with us, rather than tying ourselves to particular places, material objects.
I can’t recall a particular moment when I suddenly realised that I had adapted... It was all very gradual. I think half-way through secondary school, the novelty wore off, but not in the dull negative sense - I just finally had trust and comfort in my surroundings, people, and I was able to express myself. Visits back to Poland became less and less frequent, and although I still longed for it, I had also developed such a strong bond with Dublin.
It’s kind of difficult to explain, but when you spend your formative adolescent years in a different country, you inevitably develop this unique mixed identity; one which makes you love and embrace both cultures while still experiencing moments, every now and then, when you feel like a complete stranger in both!
I was very fortunate to receive a full scholarship to study part-time at the Royal Irish Academy of Music with Bill Dowdall, and that was where I found my little asylum. I had gone to music lessons from the age of 6, so I was able to join their junior ensembles, and 4 years on I decided to continue my studies at RIAM on their undergraduate programme.
Listen: Miriam Kaczor plays J. Ibert's Flute Concerto - I: Allegro
Looking back over my musical development to date, I am absolutely amazed and so so grateful for the inclusion, support and opportunities I got from Ireland. With the help I got from organisations like the Music Network, Arts Council, RIAM, the Irish Freemasons’ Competiton, ESB Feis Ceoil and the RDS, amongst others, as well as my insanely supportive teacher, I was able to afford education and obtain my own high-quality instruments. I got involved in the Irish contemporary music scene quite early on, which I believe, in combination with the cultural influences from both countries, had somewhat of an impact on my development as a musician.
Opportunities like the RDS Jago Award have been invaluable. Last year I was going through a really hard time personally, and winning the bursary felt like a plot-twisting moment in my life. It not only gave me the chance to go to London to further my studies with some incredibly inspiring teachers, but also afforded me the treat of getting to perform with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. It’s a huge honour for me, and I feel like I have so much to learn from each and every musician in the orchestra.
I cannot wait to get together with them to perform the Liebermann Flute Concerto on November 28th at the RDS - it’s honestly one of the most exciting pieces I’ve ever played. It evokes so many images in my head, with its cinematic orchestration and magical harmonies. I’d tell you all about them, but I think I ought not to spoil it and leave the fun of that up to the listeners!
Miriam Kaczor performs with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra in the RDS Concert Hall on Wednesday 28th November, 7.30pm, as part of the RDS Rising Stars series. The hour-long concert features Lowell Liebermann’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra, Schubert’s Symphony No. 3 in D major and Beethoven’s Overture to Prometheus. Gavin Maloney conducts the RTÉ CO, and Liz Nolan of RTÉ lyric fm is the presenter. See here for more details.