When classical guitarist Susie Butler moved from Limerick city to rural north Cork she discovered, apart from the GAA, there were few activities available for children so she founded an orchestra.
“If you weren’t in the GAA, there wasn’t much for children in the area, and none of my children played GAA”, says the singer, musician and mother-of-three who relocated to the townland of Granagh with her family in 2008.
It took her a few years but, in September 2015, Susie founded a music school and orchestra in the nearby town of Charleville.
Just over two years later, the Musica Fusion Community Orchestra which now has 80 members between the ages of four and 18 and is run on a voluntarily basis is one of just eight orchestras invited to perform at a festival in the National Concert Hall.
“The orchestra is our team sport. Most of the members of the orchestra don’t play sports so this is our team sport — and the National Concert Hall is our Croke Park,” says Susie, whose children all play music.
Susie, who taught music from her house in Granagh for many years, also runs the Musica Fusion School of Music and plays the double bass with the University of Limerick orchestra.
Her eldest daughter Sophie, 23, who also plays double bass, was conductor and orchestrator with the orchestra until she left for Glasgow last September to study for a Master’s Degree in Double Bass Performance.
The young members of the Musica Fusion orchestra, who come from all over north Cork, are feverishly practising for their performance at the NCH during the Festival of Youth Orchestras on February 10.
The orchestra will present an ambitious five-piece programme which ranges from the theme from the children’s TV programme Sesame Street to the Slavonic March by Tchaikovsky.
“This is our very first time appearing in the National Concert Hall,” says Susie.
She says the orchestra whose members play violin, cello, double bass, flute, clarinet, trumpet and trombone depends on fundraising to keep going.
“Without the support of parents we couldn’t do this. This is a rural orchestra and we survive through fundraising,” she says.
The group recently raised about €3,000 to buy two double basses.
The Irish Association of Youth Orchestras also provided a range of crucial supports she said, from loaning instruments to offering advice and running concerts to showcase the talent in Ireland’s young orchestras.
The festival offers a unique opportunity to see more than 400 talented young musicians from around the country perform classical works and arrangements for youth orchestra in a variety of styles.
The event was one of the first activities organised by the Irish Association of Youth Orchestras on its formation in 1994. To date, more than 7,500 talented, young musicians have performed at the festival.
* The Festival of Youth Orchestras, which is presented by the Irish Association of Youth Orchestras , takes place at the National Concert Hall, Dublin on February 10 at 3pm and 8pm. Tickets priced from €7.50 to €15 are on sale from the National Concert Hall box office or www.nch.ie. See www.iayo.ie for more detail.
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