Young musicians tune up for Concert Hall show

Athenry Youth Orchestra
Athenry Youth Orchestra

Arts Week with Judy Murphy

Athenry’s young musicians will add another string to their already impressive bow when they join fellow performers from all over Ireland at the National Concert Hall early next year.

The members of Athenry Youth Orchestra are taking part in the of the 22nd Festival of Youth Orchestras, when they’ll share the stage with some of the other most exciting young musicians in the country – a total of eight orchestras are involved.

Presented by The Irish Association of Youth Orchestras, this event will take place on Saturday, February 11, with performances at 3pm and 8pm – Athenry are on the bill for the later performance.

They have prepared a wonderful programme including Suite for Strings by Joan Trimble and AthenRag by Katharine Mac Mághnuis, the Director of Athenry Music School and a woman of many talents.

Katharine has a first-class honours degree in Music from NUI Maynooth and she trained for over three years as a Suzuki violin teacher. She started teaching violin and academic music in 1992 and has conducted many ensembles and orchestras since then.

In 2007, she teamed up with Helen Farrell to establish the Athenry Music School. Both women are co-directors.

The school, which has has 27 teachers and more than 400 students will celebrate its tenth birthday in 2017.  It offers lessons in classical, traditional and jazz genres as well as having an academic department.

Katharine also founded the Athenry Youth Orchestra in 2007. The original orchestra had just 16 members – today, there are six regular ensembles with over 140 members.

The Music School thrives on an ethos of a fun, with a positive and inclusive approach to music education, and these values also extend to the orchestra. While the orchestra ensembles are housed in Athenry Music School, membership is open to any young musician.

The ensembles are structured like youth clubs – members have many responsibilities, including librarianship, accounts, fundraising (through busking), press duties and setting up and tearing down before and after performances.

The Youth Orchestra repertoire is chosen to appeal to members, with a special emphasis on contemporary works including commissions from composers Ciaran Hope, Emmet O’Connor, James Ross and Brendan Walshe.

The group travelled to Brussels late this year where they performed in three prestigious concerts, including the Offices of the Northern Ireland Executive in association with the Irish Embassy.

The orchestra recently received workshops from the leader of the Irish Chamber Orchestra  Katharine Hunka and members have performed in Kilkenny, Galway City, Dublin’s National Concert Hall, Gort, Bunratty Castle and at the Sixmilebridge Winter Festival.

They have also shared stages with top-notch musicians from across a range of genres, including Zoe Conway, Ailbhe Mc Donagh, Brendan Walshe, Yuki Nishioka, St Patrick’s Brass Band, The Young Singers from Canada and Austrian rock band The Talisman Collection.  And they give regular local concerts.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.