Irish String Quartet Foundation – Ora Quartet

ORA QUARTET

Outstanding Cork violinist Siun Milne leads a fine new quartet of Siun Milne, Molly O Shea, Ali Comerford and Yseult Cooper Stockdale.

Program

Joseph Haydn – Quartet in A major Op.20 No.6 [1772]
Emma O’Halloran – Dying is a wild night [2019]
Benjamin Britten – Quartet No.2 Op.36 [1945]

The National String Quartet Foundation is delighted to welcome the recently formed Ora quartet to its touring programme. After several years enjoying playing together in various chamber music formations, these four outstanding musicians decided in 2023 to join as a string quartet and made their debut at Fuddlefest in August of that year. Projects in 2024 include a series of collaborative concerts in the Everyman, Cork, as well as this tour. Haydn’s ground-breaking 1772 set of string quartets was written while the 40 year old composer was Kapellmeister at the Eszterháza palace near Vienna. This is the last in the set and it is noticeably bright and optimistic in character, perhaps an antidote to the uncomfortably damp and marshy living conditions at the palace. Emma O’Halloran’s Dying is a wild night is a reflection on mortality inspired by events in the composer’s family. It began to take shape in 2017 as part of the West Cork Chamber Music Festival’s Composition Competition and underwent substantial revision before being premiered in its final form at the 2019 Festival. Written as a tribute to Purcell and premiered on the 250th anniversary of his death, celebrated English composer Benjamin Britten’s second quartet is a work of startling originality, surely one of the most important string quartets of the 20th century (Kai Christiansen, earsense.

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The Foundation gratefully acknowledges funding from the Arts Council and RTE as well as the ongoing support of its founding partner UCC and the support of Cork City and County Councils.

Biog

Siún Milne, violin

Siún studied the violin with Ruxandra Colan-Petcu at CIT Cork School of Music before completing her BMus degree on scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London with Maurice Hasson and Mateja Marinkovic.
Siún is a member of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and has performed with a variety of ensembles
throughout her career including the Irish Chamber Orchestra, The Vanbrugh and Callino String Quartet, Aurora Orchestra, Hebrides Ensemble and Scottish Ensemble. She recently performed Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
Siun has participated in masterclasses with Gerhard Schulz at IMS Prussia Cove, Pavlo Beznosiuk, Sylvia Rosenberg and Rachel Podger. As a part of Ólafur Arnald’s string quartet, Siún performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Cross-Linx Festival, Volksbühne Berlin and has toured the UK with Arnald’s soundtrack for “Broadchurch”. She has performed with a diverse range of artists including Mícheál O’ Suilleabháin, Sam Amidon, Frankie Gavin, singer-songwriter Rumer on BBC’s Later with Jools Holland, Loah at the National Concert Hall and Efterklang.

Molly O’Shea, violin
Molly O’Shea is a violinist, currently based in Dublin. She completed her BMus in the Cork School of Music in June of 2019 under the guidance of Ruxandra Petcu-Colan and Liz Charleson, graduating with First ClassHonours. She had spent the previous 3 years studying under Marc Danel at l’Institut  de la Musique et de Pedagogie in Namur, Belgium and graduated with Distinction from a Violin Performance Masters June of 2018.
During her studies, Molly has been a prizewinner in multiple competitions both locally and nationally. In October 2019 she received 2nd prize in the Irish Freemasons Young Musician of the Year competition and was also the recipient of the Florian Leonhard Fine Instrument Grant and the John Vallery Prize for the Highest Placed String Player. In 2021, Molly was chosen as one of 5 young musicians to take part in the University Concert Hall’s Rising Stars Concert in Limerick. She has been a member of the First Violin section of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland since March 2020 while also maintaining a varied freelance career.
Molly is an avid chamber musician. With the Inis quartet, Molly was invited to participate in the West Cork Chamber Music Festival masterclasses in summer 2023, taking masterclasses with the Armida Quartet, the Pacifica Quarter and the Ardeo Quartet. She was selected to participate in the Chamber Music Gathering 2019 in the National Concert Hall. In November 2018, Molly was selected to perform at the Philharmonie de Liege as part of a Young Chamber Musicians Programme.

Ali Comerford, viola
Ali Comerford is an Irish musician, born and raised in Kilkenny. She completed her Masters in Viola
Performance at the Manhattan School of Music in New York after gaining a full scholarship to study with Patinka Kopec. During her time there, she won the Fuchs Chamber Music Prize, and the Hindemith Viola Competition, and also played as principal violist under the baton of Leonard Slatkin. After graduating in 2017, Ali performed as a freelance musician in New York and played as principal violist with The New York Chamber Music Players, The Handel Festival Orchestra and TENYC, with whom she premiered works at Carnegie Hall, all while holding a Fellowship at the International House NY. Ali then won a position with Lincoln Center Stage and spent time traveling the world as a chamber musician and soloist, most notably to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Alaska. In 2023 Ali was awarded the Resonate Residency for the National Opera House. She performs consistently with the National Symphony Orchestra and enjoys a varied freelance career. Ali also holds a Masters in Violin Performance from the Royal College of Music in London and a Bachelor of Music
from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Yseult Cooper-Stockdale, cello
Yseult enjoys a varied career, performing with every professional orchestra in the ROI, while also specializing in experimental performance. Favouring more intimate ensembles, she is highly regarded as a chamber musician and collaborator. ’22 / ’23 projects included the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (Crash and Kirkos), and tours with Spero Quartet, Vanbrugh, Evlana, Ficino Ensemble, The Quiet Music Ensemble, BellX1, and the Irish Chamber Orchestra. She was also Arts Council funded to co-write and perform a large-scale cross-disciplinary work, and received an Agility Award to expand her knowledge of historically-informed performance. Improvisation collaborators include Lina Andonovska, Nick Roth and Andy Ingamells.

The National String Quartet Foundation is a legacy of the work of the Vanbrugh Quartet. Resident Quartet to RTE from 1986 to 2013 and Artists in Residence at University College, Cork from 1990 until the retirement of violinist Gregory Ellis in 2017, the Vanbrugh Quartet gave nearly two thousand concerts throughout Ireland as well as enjoying a successful international career.

The Foundation creates and sponsors projects which bring live chamber music to audiences throughout Ireland. It is committed to supporting musicians who wish to explore and perform the string quartet repertoire and to helping concert promoters present this rich and rewarding music.

In its first full year of operation, 2018, the Foundation secured Arts Council funding to present a spring season of ten concerts in Cork City and County, followed by an autumn season of twenty seven concerts for fourteen promoters nationwide. The 2019 and subsequent seasons, with a bit of a gap thanks to Covid, built on this, with currently around eighty concerts each year given by a wide variety of string quartets, all of them with Irish connections.

The string quartet masterclass programme at the West Cork Chamber Music Festival was established by the Vanbrugh Quartet in 1999 and is now sponsored and managed by the Foundation. It has given over one hundred and fifty young Irish musicians a powerful and inspiring introduction to the world of professional chamber music. Many of those musicians are now appearing in the Foundation’s concert programmes.

The Foundation gratefully acknowledges funding from the Arts Council and RTE as well as the ongoing support of its founding partner UCC and the support of Cork City and County Councils.

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