Sax and the city!

Don O’Mahony hails the Guinness Cork Jazz Fringe Festival... which has dozens of events to complement the main acts.
Sax and the city!
All aboard the Cork Jazz Festival bus!

Don O’Mahony hails the Guinness Cork Jazz Fringe Festival... which has dozens of events to complement the main acts.

With so many events happening in so many different venues and places it’s sometimes difficult to put a finger on what the Guinness Jazz Festival ‘Fringe’ is but contrary to the idea of the fringe being something existing on the margins, the Jazz Festival Fringe occupies a number of different spaces, many of them likely to be happening right under your nose and in public. There are the multitude of free performances happening in the pubs around the town centre and beyond; there are the headline acts performing in venues like the Everyman Theatre, Triskel Christchurch, the Opera House and Cyprus Avenue; and then there are the mostly free events happening on the streets and other venues.

Indeed, for the most casual of observers those so-called fringe events can be the very soul of the festival and they can often be the very first jazz events people encounter when they visit Cork over the October holiday weekend. Recent years have seen an increased emphasis on street events, broadening the festival’s appeal and turning what was once regarded as a Bacchanalian orgy into a family friendly experience that can be enjoyed by all. The key to this was the institution of a stage on Emmett Place, just outside the Opera House and Crawford Gallery and the mushrooming of a food market around it. Before this focus point, jazz on the city streets was more akin to a guerrilla activity. Known as ‘Jazz on the Plaza’, the Super Dome Jazz Stage hosts live music throughout Saturday and Sunday afternoon from 2pm-5pm. The adjacent Monster Food Market serves up delicious eats and snacks from midday to 5pm to accompany the swinging sounds.

The traditional street performances continue. Under the banner of ‘Beat on the Street’ the public can enjoy happy jazz from some of Europe’s best marching bands as they parade the city streets on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at points on Patrick Street and outside the GPO. This year’s entertainment will be provided by such familiar festival faces as OhnO Jazzband and Lamarotte from the Netherlands, and New York Brassband and Hyde Park Brass Band from the UK. Considering you have to pay for the pleasure of experiencing two of those acts - the OhnO! Jazzband and Hyde Park Brass are participating in the Big Brass Band Explosion in the Everyman on Saturday afternoon – it’s something not to be taken for granted.

Last year saw the introduction of another innovation to the festival, the ‘Day of the Dead’ ‘Jazz Funeral’ parade though the streets last year. A memorable and colourful event, the procession passed through a thronged Oliver Plunkett Street. But where that event took place on the Thursday evening, this year’s parade happens at 7pm on the Friday, a move that makes sense as the lack of jazz happening elsewhere made the conclusion of the event seem anticlimactic. Titled the ‘Blaze of Jazz Parade’, this family-friendly parade will feature a mix of red-hot jazz bands with fiery Cork characters in a dramatic musical march full of flaming antics.

Kicking off at 7pm, the sensational fire-breathing, skeleton-led parade, replete with some of Ireland and Europe’s finest marching bands, will lift spirits ahead of Halloween and light fires in the bellies and hearts of locals and visitors alike for the festival weekend ahead, as it’s blaze and burning energy spread through the streets of Cork.

The sizzling theatrical musical march will start at Grand Parade, go down Oliver Plunkett Street, up Maylor Street, cross over St Patrick’s St and will finish at Emmet Place.

All this talk of brass bands should surely make one curious about brass instruments and - lo and behold! - Cork City Library, as part of a series of events called ‘Live at the Library’ host a talk in their music library on Thursday morning titled 'How Brass Instruments Work' presented by Dr. Ian Darrinton MBE. All ages are welcome to go along and hear how sounds are produced on trumpets and trombones at 11am, and one can also have fun in trying out the instruments.

If you enjoyed that, do come back the following day at 2pm to hear the wonderful new young Cork brass band Code Of Behaviour perform, a perfect way to kick off the day!

Earlier in the week at the library there is 'Lets Sing (…a jazz standard)’ presented by Grainne Ryan (featured vocalist at the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival, Kinsale) and Dr Darrington. This practical session is aimed at those wanting to get into singing jazz and will involve learning at least one well-known jazz tune. The presentation will cover topics such as working with a rhythm section, importance of the lyrics, microphone technique and stage presentation and is suitable for any age group.

On Saturday afternoon enjoy a concert of light and popular music played by the award-winning Blarney Concert Band on Daunt’s Square from 3.30pm – 5pm.

And I guess Sunday would not be Sunday without a visit to the church, St. Anne’s of the Shandon bells in this case, for the celebratory and spiritual Harvest Jazz Service at Cork’s iconic church. A morning of jazz joy featuring St. John’s Gospel Choir and the New York Brassband. It’s is a free event but limited, and tickets are required for entry. Tickets are available from St. Anne’s, Shandon, and the service takes place at 10:45am. Sharp!

All good things come to an end, of course, and at Sunday at 5pm the ‘Jazz Jamboree’ sees the visiting European bands bid farewell to Cork on Emmett Place.

There are other events happening around the place, such as at CIT and the River Lee hotel but all info can be found at the Jazz information desk in the Metropole foyer or at

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