Putting creativity, diversity, community and history, centre stage, the annual MusicTown festival nurtures collaborations between artists and across disciplines - Festival Director Leagues O'Toole introduces this year's virtual edition...

So last year we frantically chased our tails, rescheduling and postponing and cancelling and trying to diagnose the effects a pandemic would have on the arts and its various associated industries. Until we finally slumped into some sort of mode of defeated acceptance that it wasn't leaving us soon and we had to somehow transcend the lethargy and exhaustion of all this to think of new ways to present work online.

Last year, with MusicTown we got away with it and over half our original programme was transferable to online platforms thanks to the adaptability and determination of the producers we worked with. Initially we bemoaned the absence of kinetic energy that a physical audience brings to an event.

Cathy Davey

Naturally, we were missing that spontaneous magic and tangible atmosphere of a real live event but gradually we began to think about the positives. We had an opportunity to produce work that is enduring, archivable, filmed documents that would record this interesting period of disruption.

This year, we were more prepared and entered into MusicTown knowing our events would happen online. We invited people to apply. We asked them to consider adaptability, diversity, gender, and of course the themes and ideals we’ve working on for several years, location, architecture, collaboration, cross-discipline.

We received a great response. As a producer / promoter myself, I know how draining this process has been to constantly try to tweak formats, generate ideas in a limited space, and let’s be honest, be creative in a situation that frequently provokes depression, fatigue and despair. Not only that, we are not just asking producers and artists to think outside the box, we are asking them to make something which, for the most part, requires cameras, editing, sets, lighting, not the typical costs of a live gig, but something which is often far more expensive to produce.

Therefore, it was inspiring – dare I saying, moving – to watch the ideas roll in.

Kevin Barry

And so, we have a programme full of brilliant people making new work. David Kitt’s fascinating collaboration with acclaimed writer Kevin Barry comes to life via inter-linked performances recorded around the country, collaborating with video artist Claireban Coffey, filmmakers Frank Sweeney and Cóilín O’Connell and contributions from some incredible musicians and composers such as Katie Kim and Jennifer Walshe. In ordinary times an event like this would be highly ambitious, threading together so many different creative personalities, but in current times, with the artists inhabiting different parts of the country, it displays unbelievable determination.

Also on this programme we have Fears showcasing her debut album Oíche. She can’t perform real concerts, but that won’t stop Fears transmitting both her brilliant music and visual ideas direct from London. Adrian Crowley is teaming up again documentary-maker Niall McCann for a one-man show. They already have an incredible chemistry as seen in 2018’s The Science of Ghosts film. Paul Noonan of Bell X1 is teaming up with his favourite new collaborators, his kids Sam and Aislinn for a special children’s event. The mysterious Weldon Kane is making a show about the great Dublin singer Joe Heaney. We’ve nine thoughtful new works performed by Crash Ensemble duos, each with a different composer. We have Junior Brother performing in uniquely intimate setting (no spoilers). We will broadcast performances from two iconic Dublin churches, the Pepper Canister with Cathy Davey and the Pro Cathedral with Ardú & The Palestrina. Our finest young spoken word artists will tackle Ulysses. We’ll have a Glasshouse concert film featuring composers Rachael Lavelle and Aran O’Grady live from Dublin city yoga centre, The Space Between. The ever-inspiring Music Together group featuring many musicians performing with disabilities have written a reflective new piece entitled The Sea and Me. The Big Mistake will be a unique event, projecting music performances from the Totally Made-Up Orchestra across iconic Dublin buildings, in association with the New Music Dublin festival.

Brigid Mae Power

Elsewhere, Aiteach: From Cu Chulainn to the Quare Fellow is an intriguing billed event from the genius mind of Bob Gallagher, exploring sexual identity in Irish music and literary traditions. Streams of Consciousness by ChoiceCuts will address important questions of Dublin city club culture with a round table of key DJs and promoters and unique selector journeys through their record collections. And finally, Sofft Productions will take to the rooftops of the city with some of best new young musical talent such Faye O’Rourke, Monjola and Brigid Mae Power. It’s all here.

Do tune in and keep supporting arts in Ireland because somehow, remarkably, in the face of all this, the level of creativity and the constant flow of brilliant new work is completely off the chart.

MusicTown runs online from April 15th - 25th - find out more about the programme here.