Cahal Masterson was born into a musical family – a family which includes four siblings who are all professional or aspiring violinists.
He was brought up in a little village in Co Armagh – Poyntzpass – but he took his own musical education at the piano very seriously and was early on a student at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin with the renowned and arguably the best teacher in Ireland – Dr John O’Conor.
John told me that “Cahal plays with great intensity, has a wonderful technique and can cast new light on the most standard works with the breadth of his interpretation”. That is praise indeed from one of John’s international calibre and it is borne out by the evidence of his initial career to date.
Still in his 20s, Cahal has already performed throughout Europe and North America, and as far away as Suzhou, China. Following his own star, as it were, he finished his Bachelor degree in Music Performance at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin, completed an Artist Diploma at The Glenn Gould School in Toronto, Canada, and then he graduated with a Masters in Music Performance from Shenandoah Conservatory in Virginia, as one of a select number of full scholarship students.
In April 2018, he recorded his inaugural album “Transition” at Sono Luminous Studios in Boyce, Virginia.
That CD is typical of the wide repertoire in which Cahal is most at home. At his forthcoming recital in Belfast’s historic Rosemary Street First Presbyterian Church on Wednesday August 7, beginning at 1.15 pm, he will be playing Beethoven’s Bagatelles Op. 126, Rakhmaninov’s Preludes Op. 23 Nos V & X, and Prokofiev’s Sonata No.7. Cahal will repeat that programme a few days later at St Patrick’s Church, Coleraine on August 15 at 12.30 pm.
Later on in the year, Cahal can be heard in Armagh’s Market Place Theatre and then in the Strule Arts Centre in Omagh. It is a good way to consolidate a career back home in Northern Ireland, touring around the Province, meeting people and getting yourself known even in such a small part of the world.
But I think it will not be long before he sets off again for the wider horizons which will open to him as he establishes his pianistic reputation. It is great to see such a promising young musician from Belfast learning his musical trade, being aware of his musical roots and, hopefully, receiving the support of his home audience.
More power to his elbow (…wrists, hands, fingers…!).
l Dr Philip Hammond is an accomplished Belfast-born composer and a former director of the Arts Council