Events set to outlive year of culture


Cork 2005: Martin Barrett hadn't gone away, you know.

His low profile after the first few weeks of Cork 2005, for which he was retained as special events consultant, was largely motivated by a determination not to add to any sense of negativity as news of programme changes began to break on the heads of the 2005 executive. But he continued with a series of commitments under the remit of "special events" - large-scale performances and civic presentations, including the successful "Lagan to the Lee" initiative.

Another will be next Sunday's concert featuring the European Union Youth Orchestra at the City Hall with guest conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Others have included the Ulster Orchestra's residency, the collaboration between the Northern Ireland Arts Council and the Irish Arts Council in a shared art exhibition at the Glucksman Gallery, and the visit of the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland.

As the year progresses, however, it is the city council which is emerging as an initiator of some programme strands, with Barrett as the facilitator. "I'm not a production company," he says. "Cork is a small place and programming is largely a matter of relationships. My involvement with the city council is both fast-moving and positive, and it's obvious that the council is now getting involved in events of its own, growing in confidence and taking the initiative in a way which means it will be in a strong position to carry on when this year is over.

"It's not all about finance; this is a time in which the city has been establishing deeper cultural relationships with other bodies and cities and that growth is going to be part of the legacy of 2005."

Barrett believes that to be successful the programming process has to take risks. The Cork 2005 programme was full of risks, so it must be a good one.

"Everybody here has to acknowledge that this has been a year of great opportunity, and so far it has produced more pluses than minuses."

Ruefully acknowledging the public quip that his next major engagement for the city council is a matter of "dancing with lunatics", Barrett is currently hunting down a CD of the Kilfenora Céilí Band's version of the Siege of Ennis, a crucial part of the record-breaking "Céilí Mór" dance marathon on September 10th.

Just how well the members of the European Union Youth Orchestra respond to Sir John on Sunday may depend on the outcome of the soccer match which cellist and Cork School of Music activist Gerry Kelly has organised as part of their visit to the European Capital of Culture.

A selected orchestral team will meet Denis Irwin's old Cork club, Everton, at the home pitch near Cork airport at 7pm on Saturday, complete with orchestral cheerleaders and a samba band. Such sporting events are part of the touring excitements for the young musicians, and Gerry Kelly, once combining rugby with his own orchestral aspirations, makes light of the physical risks involved.

If it should happen that one of the string section has to appear with his arm in a sling on Sunday, there will be the consolation that the match is in support of Cork Music Works, an organisation providing performance opportunities for people with learning disability.

Established as a youthful symbol of the European ideal of community, the orchestra's 140 players are selected each year from more than 4,000 candidates aged between 14 and 24, throughout the 25 EU countries. The EUYO's current Music Director is Vladimir Ashkenazy and the concert on Sunday will feature mezzo soprano Bernarda Fink with music by Ravel and Walton. (Booking: 021-4270022)