Kilkenny-born violinist Patrick Rafter is a man with a mission: to bring people together to enjoy live classical music. With a career that has seen him travel far and wide, he returns home to his beloved city of Kilkenny to launch his newest venture, the Marble City Music Festival, on 2-3 December.  We sat down with him to find out more.

GP: What gave you the idea to mount a music festival in Kilkenny?

PR: I'm a very proud Kilkenny man—I'm from Kilkenny, I grew up in Kilkenny, and I've always been extremely well supported by my home city—they've been always extremely good to me. No matter how long I've lived away from Kilkenny, I've always felt I've never left and that's a beautiful feeling to have.

GP: When did you first think about creating a new festival?

PR: The festival has been in the pipeline since I'd say I was the age of 12 or 13. It's always been a dream to create a festival in my home city.

GP: What are you hoping to offer audiences?

PR: I want to welcome them in. I feel that one of my strongest points as a violinist is to communicate with people and to talk to people when I'm on stage. Sometimes I have felt that I've been limited in how I'm able to do that—I've never liked the barrier that has sometimes existed between artists and audience. I believe that we have to connect with our audiences.

GP: So you’ll be performing on both days—who have you invited to join you on stage?

PR: Fiachra Garvey is a regular collaborator of mine: we've just signed to do a major album with Rubicon Classics in London, which is brilliant. We're doing a beautiful programme of Clara Schumann, Guillaume Lekeu and Maurice Ravel, it's going to be really nice. He’s one of our finest pianists and an amazing person, and a person who really communicates beautifully on stage.

Fiachra Garvey

On Sunday we have two concerts, at 1pm and 4pm, with the same programme, centring on Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’. I'm delighted to be joined by the ConTempo String Quartet, an amazing ensemble and brilliant people—they really know how to have fun on stage! They're brilliant communicators, and they’ll be joined by the wonderful harpsichordist Rachel Factor.

GP: And where will you be performing?

PR: All the concerts are in St. John's Priory on John Street. It's a beautiful setting and it's my favourite venue in Kilkenny to perform in, because when it's a full house the sound is amazing. You can hear every single note. It's not too loud, but there's a beautiful resonance, and it's a lovely church.

GP: What are your feelings about this festival, as it all comes together?

PR: This festival is first and foremost about people: bringing people together and inviting people to Kilkenny, which is an incredible place for vibrancy, for the arts, for culture—it's a wonderful city to hold this event in. I feel very honoured to have so many local partnerships with businesses, with the County Council, with the Arts office and, together, I believe we can create something new and lasting.

GP: And are there any plans for the future?

PR: I have a lot of plans. There’s a few angles I’d like to explore, and I really sense it will grow. I’d hope to include a live orchestra in the future, which I'd be conducting as I conduct as well—and I have a lot of international people lined up. It’s all subject to getting the money, so we’re starting small, but fingers crossed!

The Marble City Music Festival takes place in Kilkenny on 2-3 December. For more details (and ticket information), see

Patrick Rafter (image © Marshall Light Studio)