Cork's Feis Maitiú has a special place in many people’s hearts

Thousands of people are preparing to step on the stage at Father Mathew Hall over the next eight weeks as Feis Maitiú Corcaigh gets underway, writes Festival Director Timothy McCarthy
Cork's Feis Maitiú has a special place in many people’s hearts
Amelia Sheehan from Saleen giving a Commended performance of Chocolate Heaven' at Fr Mathew Hall, during Feis Maitiú. Picture: Gerard Bonus

EXCITEMENT is building among the performing arts students in Cork city, county and the general Munster region as the curtain prepares to go up on Feis Maitiú, Corcaigh.

The annual celebration of singing, music, speech and drama, now in its 94 th year, gets underway today, Thursday, January 30.

For many students, preparations began last year, as performers have been exploring options and repertoire before they made their final decision on which sections they will participate at.

For many students, especially in Cork, Feis Maitiú is an annual rite of passage. So many from Cork city and county have had a long association with the Feis and we hope have many happy memories of their time at the Father Mathew Hall, the home of the Cork Feis.

Each year, we hear stories from past performers of how the Feis was a pivotal moment in their growing up, an experience they want their own children to have too. In many senses the Feis is like Christmas, it comes around at the same time each year, it brings its own pressures and difficulties, but it also brings much joy and happiness to those involved. Like Christmases of the past, the Feis too has a special place in our memories of a particular time and period in our development.

The Cork Feis was founded in 1927 to provide a platform in the performing arts. While the ethos and focus of the Feis is on performance, it is not our intent just to find the most gifted performer. We wish our participants to learn the art and craft of communication through the performing arts.

Feis Director, Timothy McCarthy.
Feis Director, Timothy McCarthy.

We would like our performers to take a piece of music, a song or poem and work on it in order to share the essential thoughts and idea the composer or author wished to communicate. It is through that study that students will learn performance technique and artistic interpretation so that as they grow up they will be confident, communicate young people, able to express opinions, share thoughts and develop concepts. This is what we learn by participating in the performing arts.

It is, of course, great to hear of past participants who have gone on to do great things in the world of music and drama. We can conjure up a number of names such as Finbar Wright, Cara O’Sullivan, Mary Hegarty, Michael Fassbender, Chris Walley, Fiona Shaw and so on.

Equally, most of the performing arts teachers in the wider Cork region had an involvement at some stage in the Feis.

There is as much joy to be found in the performances of the young as there is in the older and more experienced performer. The challenge for each participant is to go on to the stage in front of an audience, be confident, play, sing or speak in a clear assured manner, communicate the thoughts and ideas of the piece in a flawless coherent way, own the space and material and be dynamic. This is a huge task for anyone. But when it is achieved it is pure magic no matter what the age. This is what the Cork Feis is about. This is the joy of the performing arts and these are the skills that are life changing and enhancing. A colleague of mine, who works at TCD, tells me that she always knows which of her students participated at performance festivals – because they are clear, confident and secure when making presentations as part of their University courses.

Participating numbers at the Feis vary from year to year. Usually they remain generally the same overall, but some years there are peaks and troughs in some subjects.

This year numbers in the very young Violin Class are up dramatically and solo Verse Speaking numbers are up too. Also, the number of Adult Choirs increased this year, including a choir travelling from Dublin.

Children love watching children perform, they also love watching adults perform, and there is nothing better than siblings performing together. At the Cork Feis we have a Family Class and this is open to all age groups in all disciplines. Family members can perform together as siblings, cousins and parents. Often it is so interesting in that it is the children who are in control of the performance and the parents are the ones who are so nervous and shy. Suddenly the child becomes the parent and the parent becomes the child. We have two Family Classes at the Feis this year, on Sunday, March 1 for Music and Friday, March 27 for Speech and Drama.

Feis Maitiú runs for eight weeks, until April 3. The Feis programme is available on the Feis website, https://www.feismaitiu.ie/

You can also follow all the latest news and developments on their various social media pages.

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