Dublin Brass Week attracts a host of marvellous musicians

Dublin Brass Week attracts a host of marvellous musicians Sarah Sew Photo: Christopher Dowdall
Pat O’Kelly


Founded in 2013 by enterprising trumpeter David Collins and his violinist wife Sarah Sew, Dublin Brass Week (DBW) brings an intrepid set of musicians to the capital as teachers, performers and participants in its varied programme.

An important part of the biennial festival is its series of master classes given by tutors coming, this year, from Europe and the US.

These classes concluded in a concert by an ensemble drawn from the committed participants and while unable to attend this finale I was fortunate to find many of the talented young players enjoying, like myself, a concert by principals from the Berlin Philharmonic – Gabor Tarkövi, trumpet; Andrej Žust, horn and Jesper Busk Sorensen, trombone – in the NCH’s John Field Room.

DBW, by the way, has had the support of the RIAM since the beginning and, most likely, the week would not have survived without that invaluable assistance. Remarkably DBW does not receive any public funding relying instead on commercial sponsorships.

The running of DBW lies heavily on the shoulders of both David Collins and Sarah Sew, assisted since 2016 by Captain Thomas Kelly, trombonist in the Defence Forces School of Music, who holds the festival post of artistic planner.

Founder David Collins comes from Celbridge where he began his trumpet playing under the guidance of Michael Gaskin. He graduated with a BMus (Hon) from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, before continuing his studies at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and at the RIAM.

Before joining the Ulster Orchestra, David Collins had served among the ranks of both RTÉ orchestras and between 2009 and 2011 was a member of the European Union Youth Orchestra.


He has just returned from a South American tour with the Irish Chamber Orchestra and in September joins the RIAM as Head of Wind, Brass and Percussion. I wish him every success in this demanding venture.

Sarah Sew is also a member of the RIAM staff where she is Professor of Violin and Head of Strings and Chamber Music. Before that she enjoyed an international career being, among many other things, leader of the European Union Youth Orchestra between 2010 and 2012 and making her London solo debut at the Wigmore Hall in 2011.

An experienced orchestral player, she has led the RTÉCO from time to time.

Sarah studied at London’s Royal Academy of Music and at the Franz Liszt High School in Weimar. Like her husband David, she has also received innumerable prestigious awards and has been one of the tutors of the National Youth Orchestra here since 2012.

But to return to the Berlin Philharmonic Brass’ programme where the first half emphasised individual expertise with a trumpet concerto by Johann Neruda, Schumann arrangements for trombone and the Villanelle by Paul Dukas for horn. Part two involved ensemble music through Francis Poulenc, Jean-François Michel and Vaclav Nelhybel.

With individual brilliance and combined virtuosity, the trio revelled in the former’s wit and sophistication; the latter’s snappy clarion calls and Michel’s jazzy delights in between.

These suggested, like Poulenc, that a can-can at the Follies might be just around the corner.