RTÉ and its orchestras


Sir , – Being 85½ years of age gives one a certain perspective and I am not yet totally gaga, thank God, having recently completed my 11th symphony.

The latest flapping around about the RTÉ orchestras would not be taking place if the main recommendations of the Provision and Institutional Arrangements Now for Orchestras and Ensembles (Piano) Report had been implemented.

This report was commissioned in the 1990s by then-minister for arts Michael D Higgins on foot of a letter I wrote to him voicing my concerns about the future stability of the RTÉ performing groups within RTÉ.

Piano recommended, among other things, that RTÉ would retain the Concert Orchestra for radio, television and public concerts.

The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra would then become the Irish National Symphony Orchestra based in the National Concert Hall.

The National Concert Hall, National Theatre, National Gallery, etc, are run by boards of management, so why not, in heaven’s name, the National Symphony Orchestra ?

The Piano report looked at the state of classical music in Finland, a country managing its own affairs for a similar length of time as Ireland and with a roughly similar population, and found a much healthier situation.

There are currently 30 professional symphony orchestras in Finland.

Shame on us for fumbling around about two orchestras! Will we never, as a nation, loosen up and celebrate the glories and wonder and joy and healing powers of great art music ?

Isn’t it about time that we grew up when it comes to classical music? – Yours, etc,


(Head of Music

RTÉ, 1983 – 1988),


Dublin 16.

Sir, – I find it hard to believe that RTÉ has forgotten its public service remit so completely that it is intending to abolish one of its orchestras, by means of amalgamating the two completely different orchestras into one all-purpose band. This ignorant act, which can only arise from a misunderstanding of the purpose and character of each orchestra, was suggested many years ago, but management eventually came to its senses and thought better of it. One wonders exactly who is taking this drastic decision. And on whose advice? Could it be the same work study engineer who penned the following?

“For considerable periods the four oboe players had nothing to do. The number should be reduced and the work spread more evenly over the whole of the concert, thus eliminating peaks of activity. All 12 violins played identical notes; this seems unnecessary duplication. The staff of this section should be drastically cut. Much effort was absorbed in the playing of demi-semi-quavers – an unnecessary refinement. It is recommended that notes should be rounded up to the nearest semi-quaver. It would thus be possible to use trainees and lower grade operatives more extensively. No useful purpose is served by repeating on the horns a passage which has already been handled by the strings. If all redundant passages were eliminated, the whole concert-time of two hours could be reduced to 20 minutes and there would be no need for an interval. Since the players are provided with written instructions, the chap at the front appears to be redundant.”

The last paragraph is written in jest.

My first paragraph is absolutely not. – Yours, etc,


(Former RTÉ


Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.