Kerry orchestra bring classical twist to the National Concert Hall

HOW many musicians can you get through the stage door of the National Concert Hall in a single day? 

Not even the combined forces of the RTE National Symphony Orchestra and Concert Orchestra and their associated choirs, the anchor tenants at the grand auditorium, can reach the tally of 400 or so players that will file through to the platform throughout the Festival of Youth Orchestras at the National Concert Hall in Dublin on Saturday.

This annual event was one of the first activities to be undertaken by the Irish Association of Youth Orchestras, a national support organisation set up in 1994, and has become a firm fixture on the musical calendar.

Eight ensembles have been selected from around the country to perform, but the ensemble with the longest road to the gala occasion, by many miles, will be the Kerry School of Music Orchestra. Leading the Kerry band will be founding director of the school, Aidan O’Carroll.

O’Carroll, a Kerry man himself, set up the school back in 1982, having graduated from UCC under Professor Aloys Fleischmann. Over the last 35 years, it has grown to be one of the largest independent music tuition providers in the country. It has quite a different modus operandi to the traditional conservatoire module with teachers travelling throughout the the county to deliver music tuition to over 1,000 students.

On request, O’Carroll name checks some of the alumni that are currently enjoying successful careers on the international scene. For instance, mezzo soprano Paula Murrihy is preparing to make her debut at New York’s Met Opera.

But for the 50 members of the orchestra, all roads converge on Tralee for Friday night and extra Sunday afternoon practices as members travel from as all parts of the county to prepare for the big occasion.

“The orchestra will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year,” says O’Carroll. “We thought that performing at the National Concert Hall would be a most appropriate way of celebrating. It is a major undertaking but participating in the festival has such a galvanizing influence on the ensemble and everybody is upping their game for the big occasion.”

The orchestra acts as the de facto youth orchestra for the county. But in addition it fulfils a role as a community orchestra. “We have members ranging in age from eight years old up to adults. There is a strong multicultural aspect with players from Malaysia and Japan, America and European countries among the cohort.”

Given that there are two Gaeltacht areas in the school’s catchment area, it is no surprise that traditional music is an intrinsic part of the musical life of the school. “All of our string players are very good traditional players. They see no polarity between the different codes to borrow a sporting analogy. ”

Along with works by European composers, the programme includes a work by Aidan O’Carroll himself. His piece All Aboard was originally commissioned by Radio Kerry as music for a radio play, From Heartache to Hope based on a voyage of the tall ship, the Jeanie Johnston.

  • The Festival of Youth Orchestras takes place on Saturday at the National Concert Hall in Dublin


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