Life in Cork... the happiest and most carefree days

In our weekly column, My Weekend, Switzerland based Kathleen Dineen, founding member of White Raven tells us how she is back home in Cork for an album launch and tour. 
Life in Cork... the happiest and most carefree days
Singer Kathleen Dineen.

TELL us a little bit about yourself:

I have been living in Switzerland for over 30 years. In 1987, with the help of the Arts Council Bursary prize I went to study singing at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (SCB) Basel. Since 1992 I have been teaching on the voice faculty.

The SCB is a unique college specialising in all aspects of early music, from medieval to baroque. I teach singing to young talented students from all over the world. It is a fantastic job and after 25 years I have never grown tired of it. I work part-time and this allows me to continue my own career as a singer and as director of White Raven. I am very fortunate to have the best of both worlds.

I have three sons who were all born here. They are between the ages of 20 and 27 and are now at various stages of leaving the nest.

I grew up in the countryside about two miles from Macroom. My father was a bus driver with CIE. Both parents were native Irish speakers, so Irish was spoken at home in my early years.

My dad had a small farm on our acre of land where he grew everything we needed for the family. We had a cow for milk, hens and pigs. I used to love helping my father to cut the turf in the summer. It was a wonderful childhood. My mother was a fabulous cook and baker. She made all our clothes, knitted our jumpers, sock, hats etc.

Kathleen Dineen.
Kathleen Dineen.

When I was about seven my parents bought an old piano from the local convent and then my life of music really took off. The musical training I had at school was really extraordinary. In retrospect I realise how unique it was. I have so much gratitude to the sisters of the Convent of Mercy. I wouldn`t be where I am today without that thorough training, and the encouragement from my parents.

My studies at the music department UCC also provided a fabulous training in all aspects of music and composition. It was here that I was introduced to medieval music for the first time. I lived in Cork for seven years in a lovely house up on Richmond Hill. Those were some of the happiest and most carefree days of my life. It’s amazing how your life can take a sudden turn in another direction and leads you to a place you never imagined.

I would never change anything about my life so far. Growing up in the country and learning so many practical skills from my parents keeps me grounded. I wouldn’t mind cutting turf today if I had to!!

What is your ideal way to spend a Friday night?

By Friday night I am usually exhausted after a long working week so I put the feet up in front of the telly, pour a glass of wine and chat with my sisters on Whatsapp. Otherwise it is a typical night for concerts, either giving them or going to the many cultural events here in the city.

Lie ins or up with the lark.. which is it for you?

During the week I am up with the lark getting ready for work. Weekends I love to have a lie in on Sunday morning.

Does work creep into your weekend at all?

As a musician, work almost always creeps in to weekends especially at the moment with preparations for our tour. When I am in CD production I am working all hours of the day and night.

Kathleen Dineen is founding member of a cappella trio White Raven, who release their forth album‘Like a wind o’er the ocean' on March 2. 
Kathleen Dineen is founding member of a cappella trio White Raven, who release their forth album‘Like a wind o’er the ocean' on March 2. 

If money was no object where would you head to on a weekend city break? And who would you bring with you?

I recently went to Venice for the first time. I fell in love with it. I would go back for a winter weekend break with my sisters, get picked up by a private water taxi from the airport and be taken straight to a luxury hotel where a bottle champagne would be waiting for us. Then we would go on a gondola trip after dinner being serenaded by a handsome gondolier. A night at the opera would finish off a perfect weekend. That would be heaven!

Closer to home, is there some place you like to head to recharge the batteries?

Give me the South Lake road Inchigeela for the most peaceful spot on earth. In Basel I walk in the hills just outside the city where you can view the Blackforest and the Voges mountains from the summit.

Do you like to catch up with family/friends at the weekend?

One of my sons has recently bought his first car so we love all pile in and drive to the Alps for the day. Ever since they were small we would take off to our favourite picnic spot at the Grimsel pass. A particular pleasure was eating chips in one of the many high mountain restaurants. Chips with a view!

Do you get to indulge any hobbies? Even as a spectator?

I love cycling and go everywhere on my bike. I like walking as well. But otherwise I am not really active in sports. Recently I have become passionate about watching GAA at our local Irish pub in Basel. We always go together to watch the All Ireland. Great craic altogether.

Entertain or be entertained? If it’s the latter do you have a signature dish?

Both. I love cooking and most of my music friends are brilliant cooks, so it’s the best of both worlds. My favourite meal is Christmas dinner. I do the full traditional turkey meal and my sister sends me the plum pudding every year. I usually have at least 12 people around the table. My boys are great cooks too, so there’s always something tasty being produced in the kitchen. We are great followers of Ottolenghi.

We have so many places to eat out in Cork - where are your go to spots for coffee/ lunch/ special meal?

When I come home to Cork I love to go to the Farmgate for chowder and the coffee dock at the Imperial. For the best curry it has to be Havelis in Douglas.

Sunday night comes around too fast.. how do you normally spend it?

A quiet Sunday night is essential before the busy week starts again. I love to cozy up by the fire and watch a bit of TV and get organised for my teaching week.

What time does your alarm clock go off on Monday morning?

Unfortunately about 7am… Then again at 7.15am, 7.30am with the snooze button on all the time…


Kathleen Dineen is founding member of a cappella trio White Raven, who release their forth album Like a wind o’er the ocean on March 2. They will be perform at CIT School of Music on February 8 and Baile Mhúirne, Ionad Cultúrtha an Dochtúir Ó Loingsigh on February 9.

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