Kaleidoscope | Interview

Karen Dervan and Lioba Petrie sit down with GoldenPlec to discuss one of Ireland's most innovative and exciting regular music nights; Kaleidoscope.

Held on the first Wednesday of every month, Kaleidoscope aims to showcase the highest standard of music that Ireland has to offer,  taking classical music  away from the concert hall; shaking away a little bit of that formality  by bringing it into the lush surroundings of the Odessa club. 

Kaleidoscope is currently in its sixth year, having grown out of a wish to give artists an opportunity to perform chamber music in an unusual setting, with founder Cliodhna Ryan wanting to  create a space for classical music to exist outside the concert hall, or the church venue  and working with Kate Ellis to set the goal of each night being 'A Journey of Beautiful Music through the Centuries'.

Rare performances in a casual setting, given by top-class musicians in unexpected combinations: this is the make-up of Kaleidoscope, but less describable is the atmosphere as you cosy up in a leather couch for the evening.  You can sit there with a glass of wine, on a leather couch, listening to the most epic performance of some great piece of music. It’s how close-up you are; you can be sitting a foot from the performer. There is no stage; it’s like being in someone’s living room.

This setting doesn't come without its challenges. Thankfully Karen and Lioba are teamed up with a  long-serving, heroic sound engineer  who can make any combination of instruments sound at home in the Odessa. The performers involved are a mix of classical musicians from across Ireland, with the occasional international name gracing the room. The curators admit to being very strict on standards, aiming to bring only the best to the discerning audience.  The last thing we want is an open-mike night, so professional standards are very important. Exclusive is the last thing we want to be; we know people want to hear music given its absolute best possible rendition that can be.  Each Kaleidoscope night is an eclectic mix of genres, creativity and ingenuity, which starts out as a  wish list  that gets built upon; a  title and a shape. You might get a core element, then build around it.

Each night has its own themes and, as promised, features music from a variety of styles and eras. The last piece of the night is almost a throw-away, and always worth hanging around for.  We want novelty, but it has to be someone at the top of their game, experimenting in something not necessarily their field... I think it comes back to facilitating other people’s creativity.  Events are themed, and the monthly email gives a sense of things to come, title often accompanied by a poem or image. 

The level of work that goes into each night is testament to the curators, with the night continuing through boom and bust. As funding opportunities come and go, and new audiences become harder to find, it is commitment to the ideology of bringing the  highest standard of music that Ireland has to offer  that keeps Karen and Lioba motivated to keep going.  There’s still something infinitely special about what happens here every month. Something has shifted, and we just think ‘isn’t the music enough?’  Innovative approaches to funding have kept Kaleidoscope afloat, alongside the goodwill of their longterm supporters.

Despite these financial challenges, Kaleisoscope has continued to grow. In addition to the monthly Odessa night, there is the annual birthday celebration, summer tours and recently, an additional outing for the monthly performance.  Doing the night again was such a treat; so much work goes into each night.  In 2016, we’ve got a nice batch of dates where we’re hoping to bring it to 5/6 different locations, so fingers crossed there. We wonder if Dublin is saturated, but of course outside Dublin is not saturated at all and the reception is so energising. That energy propels you through.

With Kaleidoscope growing each season, there are sure to be some amazing performances coming up. Keep up to date with programmes at http://www.kaleidoscopenight.com/ and view the Kaleidocam, with excerpts of performances in advance of the nights, here.

Kaleidoscope’s upcoming concerts:


June will be the last Kaleidoscope concert in the Odessa for the summer.

What we’re really excited about is Dominic Dudley, a double bass player from the RTE National Symphony Orchestra, his new piece The Last Contrabass in Las Vegas, which is a piece for double bass and narrator. In fact, singing and playing double bass, and the narrator is pianist Theresa Fahy, Dominic’s wife.

We’re remembering John Lynch in the programme as well. He was a viola player in the NSO who very tragically passed away last year. In June 2014, John performed in our programme. It was maybe his fourth or fifth time with us, but was most significantly his last. So we want to remember him in June of this year for that reason. His colleagues that he would have performed in the quartet with him had come to us with a number of ideas, which never came to pass. So they have agreed to join us for one of those.

Osvaldo Golijov | "Tenebrae" for string quartet

Elaine Clarke, Emily Thyne (violins), Karen Dervan (viola), Polly Ballard (cello)

Michael Haydn | "Divertimento in C Major" MH179 

Matthew Manning (oboe), Karen Dervan (viola), Dominic Dudley (bass)


Eugene Kurtz | "The Last Contrabass of Las Vegas"

Dominic Dudley (bass), Therese Fahy (narrator)


Astor Piazzolla | selections from "Histoire du Tango"

Redbrick Duo: Jessica Lipstone (flute) Damien Kelly (guitar)


Bully's Acre: Irish/fusionTrio 

Peter Browne (button accordion), Lucas Gonzalez (guitar), Robbie Harris (percussion)


Brass Tacks Two!!

An unbelievable line up in the Grand Social. I mean - Dave Collins, how does he do it? He’s brought some serious musicians together. July 3rd, a Friday night - we’re abandoning Wednesdays, we’re abandoning the Odessa, we’re abandoning all reason for this one!

It’ll be a proper blow-out!