This August, the 41st Kilkenny Arts Festival will take place, and the first amazing highlights have just been announced.

So what cultural gems does the festival have on offer this year? Well, first up there's Beethoven Quest: The Complete String Quartets and Piano Concertos. Beethoven's complete string quartets will be performed by one of Europe's leading young ensembles The Heath Quartet in ten one-hour concerts in the beautiful and intimate St. John's Priory.

As well as that, Barry Douglas and his ensemble will perform the complete piano concertos in the marvellous acoustics of St. Canice's Cathedral.

Also performing at St. Canice's during the Festival will be The Gloaming - one of the most exciting Irish acts to emerge in recent years. Topping off the initial highlights, Shakespeare's Globe returns to the Castle Yard with a brand new production of Much Ado About Nothing.

It's unlikely that you will need convincing but for a visual prompt, take a look at the official video, featuring Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Camerata Ireland and Barry Douglas, The Heath Quartet and The Gloaming.

New Festival Director Eugene Downes said at the announcement, 'Our initial highlights this year include an epic journey through some of the greatest music ever written, the return of one of the world’s leading ensembles to Ireland’s finest courtyard theatre, and the Kilkenny debut of The Gloaming, whose exploration of new musical frontiers has attracted worldwide acclaim. Among our stages are the historic churches, castle, courtyards, houses and gardens of Ireland’s medieval city. When extraordinary artists come together in such intimate conditions, magic can happen.'

The full programme will be revelaved in the coming months but judging from the first highlights, it's a festival that culture fiends and lovers of the arts simply cannot miss. Tickets go on sale today, Monday April 7th. More details can be found at