The Irish Association of Youth Orchestras’ Special Achievement Award has been presented to Donegal Youth Orchestra at the 18th Festival of Youth Orchestras in the National Concert Hall in Dublin.
A spokesperson for the Irish Association of Youth Orchestras said: “We have never had such a high turnout for applications for this year’s Youth Orchestra Achievement Awards, and the quality of the applications received was truly exceptional. These factors meant that the judging process was a lengthy and a difficult one. Although it was tough to arrive at a conclusion the judging panel eventually agreed on them, with Donegal Youth Orchestra and Julianstown winning the Orchestra Achievement Award and the Orchestra Development Award respectively.”
Donegal County Council Cultural Services set a commission in 2011 for a new adaptation of the Oscar Wilde story “The Happy Prince” in a way that made best use of creative strengths of the Donegal Youth Orchestra, which include music, storytelling and performance. The resulting work, composed and conducted by Vincent Kennedy, is an exquisite and beautiful piece of music theatre that was especially written to be performed by the Donegal Youth Orchestra and Youth Choir with narration by Little John Nee. While rehearsals started in late 2011, the bulk of the rehearsal period was during the spring of 2012 up to and including the Easter break.
The orchestra had to endure a few stumbling blocks along the way - due to the intensity of the rehearsal schedule, some of their more experienced and older players couldn’t participate as it was interfering with their leaving cert studies. However, all those involved rose to the challenge and a wonderful opportunity was created for individual members to shine during these solos that included the clarinet, piccolo and piano.
The original stage performances took place in An Grianán Theatre, Letterkenny and The Abbey Centre, Ballyshannon. There were four performances in all, and all to a packed family audience, performing a score especially written for them that beautifully illustrates the adaptation of story.
Following on from the success of these performances, the Donegal Youth Orchestra was then invited to the RTÉ Radio Centre, Dublin, in May to perform The Happy Prince before an invited audience that was broadcast live on RTÉjr Radio.
The Agnes O’Kane Award went to conductor John O’Brian, recently retired from the Dublin Youth Orchestras. John also chaired the IAYO Executive Council for several years.