Santa promises Killorglin a high quality show

With as many awards as there are keys on her piano, Santa Ignace talks to Fergus Dennehy about her upcoming show in the ISK Killorglin, how she got involved in music, her first ever concert in Kerry and everything else in between

Santa Ignace
Santa Ignace
Santa Ignace
Santa Ignace

Fergus Dennehy

Researching talented pianist and classical musician, Santa Ignace, one is immediately struck by the sheer success she achieved at a relatively young age.

Winner of the Mabel Swainson Pianoforte Award, ESB Feis Ceoil 114th Music Festival in Dublin, a semi-finalist in the 'Giorgos Thymis' International Piano Competition in Thessaloniki, Greece, Santa also collected The Capuchin Order Perpetual Cup and Bursary, Feis Maitiu Corcaigh, 83rd Music and Drama Festival in Cork. These are just a few of the feathers in her cap and she's by no means finished yet.

Santa is speaking ahead of her upcoming concert in the Intermediate School in Killorglin (ISK) and she's looking forward to playing locally again, having previously played there in 2016 when she helped open the Classical Music section of Killorglin's K-Fest, something that she was "honoured" to do.

"I've played in Killorglin several times; I opened up the Classical Music side of K-Fest in 2016 and it was just really good and something I really enjoyed. It was a very successful concert to be involved in and it was great to be part of the introduction of classical music to the K-Fest schedule," said Santa.

"In fact I was really honoured to be a part of it," she continued.

Santa's first influence in her musical life was her father, himself a fantastic jazz pianist, clarinettist and saxophonist. He was a strict, yet gentle teacher and he taught her to face challenges head on, including musical styles.

"Till this day I cannot decide what I love more - jazz or classical music," says Santa.

Since these first forays into the classical world, this talented concert pianist continued her studies and carefully and intentionally has combined her early jazz influences with over 25 years of intense study and competition in the field of classical and romantic music.

She has presented these works with great success in recitals and performances at various venues in Latvia, Ireland, France, England and The Netherlands.

"As with any art form, it is important for a musician to be able to express freedom and artistry at the same time. It is my aim to share the passion, intensity and addiction in my performance, where it is a continuous relationship between tragedy and over excitement which comes from specific sources of inspiration and experiences.

"In fact, many great composers wrote such magical and surreal music because of the tragedies in their personal lives. Creativity, innovation and fantasy are the keys for a piece to become alive. It is about daring to show your desires, longing, vulnerability and despair - all of the things that make us suffer and succeed."

For Santa, 2017 has been full of surprises and opportunities. She was welcomed back to lecture at CIT, Cork School of Music and also, for the first time, at The Royal Conservatory of Scotland, Glasgow, which is rated as the third best music conservatory in Europe.

Besides teaching and performing, this year Santa was selected to take part in a very special Female Conducting Programme at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, to study with some of the top conductors in Europe, including Alice Farnham and David Brophy.

Speaking about what inspires her, Santa says that she feels that inspiration, based on lived experience, is possibly the most important ingredient in making the process of performing challenging, classical pieces exciting and provocative.

"A positive or negative experience can both equally give you a powerful tool for inspiration - in fact, it is a fuel best used in a performance above all else, as it transforms into adrenaline. When one is endeavouring to channel music, often composed on the borders of sanity - it is pure enjoyment and satisfaction to perform it, especially if you can infuse your interpretation with the composer's lived experience, historical context and your own innermost emotions and feelings.

"To me, classical music is for those who love to put their wounds and rage into the spotlight, as well as their joy," she continued.

No stranger to Kerry or its people, Santa has ingrained herself deep into the local community over the past few years, even going so far as to pass on her musical gifts to the next generation through teaching stints at both the Kerry School of Music (2007-2008) and the Killarney School of Music (2010 - 2015).

It's almost 10 years since she performed one of her first ever shows in the county, a concert in The Brandon Hotel in Tralee and she recalls it well.

"It was probably one of the first ones that I ever played here and it is one of my favourites. It was almost 10 years ago now, wow! I remember it was in The Brandon Hotel and I remember there was a standing ovation on the night," she continued.

"But it's funny that I remember this concert because the piece that I played that time in The Brandon Hotel, I will also be playing in the ISK in Killorglin next month. It will be like a 10 year anniversary," she added with a smile.

After the ISK concert, it is set to be another busy year for Santa and her skills, with concerts in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Kenmare, Cork and Dublin planned.

Apart from teaching, performing and conducting, Santa is also extremely excited to be collaborating with two film directors, over the next three months - Rudolfs Mikelsons, based in London but from her native Latvia, and Sinéad Keogh from Dublin, who Santa met at K-Fest earlier this year.

So just what can we expect at the ISK on Friday December 1?

"Well, for one, they can expect a top class performance on the night, a world class level that I hope that people will really enjoy," she said, with a smile.

Billed as 'a passionate and powerful performance of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata', Santa Ignace is planning an evening that will help to ring in the celebratory spirit of Christmas.

Tickets for the ISK show are available from a number of locations around Kerry, including Hugh Culloty's in Tralee, Variety Sounds in Killarney and from the ISK office.

The show is set to start from 7.30pm with tickets priced between €12 to €15.