Classic talk: Festival delights to welcome summer
The emergence of Monaco as serious challengers in football's Champions League brought me back to the South of France during the week.
Last time I was there, I took advantage of a spare lunchtime to check out the pretty village of St-Paul de Vence up in the hills behind Nice.
Built to be easily defended, it's perched at the top of a steep climb, with narrow, traffic-free streets offering a mix of cafés and artisan shops and studios. It's just the kind of place an artist would be happy to call home.
St-Paul de Vence will be the perfect setting for the festival of chamber music it's hosting in July, with most of the performances being staged in the open air, in the town square - the Place de la Courtine.
With the southern Alps as a backdrop, and a view down to the Mediterranean, it's a spot where, as they put it themselves, magic happens.
Now in its seventh season, the festival will attract upwards of 3,000 spectators to its six concerts.
Artists include the distinguished cellist Anne Gastinel, who will perform sonatas by Bach and Beethoven, and the Paris-based Modigliani String Quartet, whose programme will include works by Mendelssohn and Debussy.
As far as summer festivals go, we don't do too badly ourselves, with an absolute wealth to choose from.
The Galway Early Music Festival is only two weekends away, then the Mayo International Choral Festival takes place in Castlebar at the end of the month.
The June bank holiday weekend brings music to the northwest and the southeast. The Walled City Music Festival is on in Derry, while Lismore Castle hosts its annual Opera Festival.
This year, in the unique setting in the stable yard, they're staging Donizetti's much-loved comic masterpiece L'Elisir d'Amore ('Una Furtiva Lagrima' is one of its many gems).
June also marks the return of Great Music in Irish Houses. Tickets go on sale next Thursday for a series of nine concerts that promise stellar sound in spectacular settings.
Based in and around Dublin, the programme begins in the Casino in Marino on Tuesday, June 13 with a recital of solo cello works by the French virtuoso Marc Coppey.
The pianist Cédric Tiberghien, who celebrated his 32nd birthday yesterday, will give two performances.
On the Wednesday he'll perform with the violist Antoine Tamestit in the Royal Irish Academy on Dawson Street, then on the Thursday he'll feature together with an Irish wind quartet in the delightful surroundings of The Orangery at Killruddery House just outside Bray.
The concert on the Friday is in the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, and will showcase one of the top British chamber ensembles, The Heath Quartet.
They'll be in action, too, at the Saturday-morning coffee concert, alongside the Dublin pianist Hugh Tinney. That takes place in the atrium of the old Dublin Ice & Cold Storage Co warehouse on Hanover Quay, now the Dublin base of Airbnb.
The Royal College of Physicians in Kildare Street plays host on the Saturday evening, and the festival concludes with three events on Sunday June 18.
There's a free-admission concert in The Hugh Lane Gallery at lunchtime, honouring the contribution to Irish music of the legendary Ronnie Dunne, soon to turn 90, whose inspiration created the Veronica Dunne International Singing Competition.
Last year it brought artists from 22 countries to Dublin to vie for the prestigious prize.
Then it's off to The Coach House in Dublin Castle for two separate concerts at 3pm and at 7pm.
You'll find details of the rich and varied menu on offer here on musicfestivalsireland.ie. And if you're likely to be in the south of France between July 20 and 28, check out their website, festivalsaintpauldevence.com.
George Hamilton presents The Hamilton Scores on RTÉ lyric fm from 10am each Saturday and Sunday