Orchestras must become truly national

The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra marked its 70th birthday last evening by, naturally enough, giving a concert in the National Concert Hall in Dublin. 

Those celebrations were carried out as a review of the orchestras under RTÉ’s stewardship approached an anticipated publication date. 

That review has provoked debate as a degree of streamlining — job losses — is anticipated.

That public debate also considered if a struggling national public service broadcaster is the best guardian of national orchestras. 

However, the review has an objective “to put forward the optimal solution for the effective, efficient and sustainable delivery of high-quality orchestral services by RTÉ”. 

It also intends to “consider how to ... increase RTÉ orchestras’ regional activity and profile”.

Those are worthy questions but they avoid the central issue — should national, State orchestras be adjunct services controlled by a broadcaster, or independent entities secured by exchequer funding and sponsorship?

It’s time to establish independent national orchestras with an obligation to be truly national entities and regularly travel beyond the M50 bubble. 

Free from the constraints of RTÉ’s stretched purse, national orchestras could actually earn that title by playing all around the country. 

Unless they show that kind of commitment they will, no matter who controls them, struggle to get the support they depend on for their survival.

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