Derry musician, Martin Coyle, and Greek musician, Nikos Petsakos, to honour Seamus Heaney at Irish Wings, Paxos Music Festival, Greece

5th July, 2023

Every summer a different group of Irish artists descends on the beautiful Ionian Island of Paxos Greece. They come for Irish Wings, a musical event dedicated to cultural dialogue between Ireland and Greece which is an integral part of the annual Paxos Music Festival. This year it will feature Hellas Ensemble, a stellar cast of musicians from Northern Ireland, Greece and America, who are presenting a suite of new compositions celebrating the Nobel prize-winning Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, in this, the tenth anniversary of his death.

Nikos Petsakos stood in a gallery space holding a Greek Tri-chordo Bouzouki beside Jo Wright from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Martin Coyle who is holding a Irish flat-back Bouzouki.
Pictured are Hellas Ensemble members, Nikos Petsakos and Martin Coyle, with Jo Wright, Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Watch a film featuring musicians Martin Coyle and Nikos Petsakos below.

Hellas Ensemble was founded in 2022 during a collaboration with the Northern Irish author, journalist and Hellenophile, Bruce Clark, with Irish and Greek bouzouki players and composers, Martin Coyle, from Derry-Londonderry, and Nikos Petsakos. The new compositions are a response to Seamus Heaney’s ‘Sonnets from Hellas’ and reflect the poet’s love of Greece and its influence on his writing. The new music has been composed by Martin Coyle and Nikos Petsakos with input from the wider ensemble and has been developed with support from The National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. It will be performed alongside the poetry readings of Catherine Heaney, the poet’s daughter, in Greece this July.

Musician and composer, Martin Coyle, said, 
“Hellas Ensemble is a group of international musicians, five of which are from Northern Ireland, one from USA and one from Greece, and we are inspired by the works of Seamus Heaney. Over the past two years this project has been in development thanks to The National Lottery and Arts Council of Northern Ireland. The funding has given us the time and resources to be able to get it from an idea with two musicians into a full working ensemble and we are honoured to be taking this new music out to Greece to celebrate Seamus Heaney, thanks to the invitation from festival organizer Kathryn Baird.”

Musician and composer, Nikos Petsakos, added, 

“We are really looking forward to going to Paxos where the Uillean Pipes and the Irish harp will be showcased, both of which have never been played on the island before. This is a unique and special collaboration that brings together something old and something new through this music featuring the Irish and the Greek bouzouki as well as ancient instruments like the Irish harp and Uillean Pipes.”

Jo Wright, Music Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented, 

“This is an exciting project that started during lockdown and saw Martin and Nikos develop six compositions created in response to Heaney’s sonnets. Since then, thanks to The National Lottery players, the works have been expanded in duration and with new instrumentation, leading to a very special 70-minute stage show. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland congratulates the Hellas Ensemble and wish them every success at Irish Wings this July.”

To find out more about funding visit and to find out more about the Paxos Festival visit

About Hellas Ensemble

Hellas Ensemble is composed of a cast of Irish and international musicians combining strings and woodwind. The ensemble musicians include:

Nikos Petsakos - Greek Tri-chordo Bouzouki

Martin Coyle - Irish flat-back Bouzouki

Robert Peoples - Viola and Violin

Lucia McGinnis - Irish Harp

Marc Forbes - Bass

Paul Cutliffe - Uilleann Pipes, Clarinet and Whistle

Amanda Koser - Flute