Why we must not cut our national orchestras

 

Sir, – I am writing about the review of orchestral provision by RTÉ and notification that 31 positions will be lost in one of the orchestras by June 2018. Such drastic action will be enormously damaging to the future of orchestral music, musicians and the people of Ireland.

Music is the world’s most flexible language. It is a tool for international and cross-cultural communication. Now more than ever, the Government needs to support orchestral music as a national treasure. Music is fundamental to the Irish identity. It needs to be given essential resources. In most countries, orchestras are funded by national subsidy and audience attendance. That is a reality and it is a price worth paying.

While the Creative Ireland initiative is designed to put creativity at the heart of government, we face the possibility of the removal of one of our national cultural assets. Ireland already has extremely poor orchestral provision by comparison with our European neighbours. For example, Germany has more than 120 professional orchestras and to have only two in Ireland (the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra) is already embarrassing without taking steps to further reduce them.

I am a 21-year-old violinist and am currently undertaking a Master’s degree in performance in Kronberg Academy, Germany, one of the top string academies in the world. I frequently return to Ireland to perform, sometimes as a soloist with one of the RTÉ orchestras, but even when I am not performing with the RTÉ orchestras I nearly always perform with members of the orchestras, be it in chamber music concerts, festivals or other ensembles.

I had hoped that after I finish my studies in Germany, I would be able to move back to Ireland and find work with the RTÉ orchestras and their members. Many talented young Irish musicians have moved abroad for their studies with the hope of one day returning to Ireland for a position in or related to the RTÉ orchestras.

Is it the plan to deprive all young Irish classical musicians of a future at home? Is the plan to create another Irish music diaspora? If an orchestra is cut, I and most other musicians of my generation will not be able to live in Ireland and work as a classical musician. Thus, Ireland will lose another generation of young talent.

Ireland prides itself on its rich culture.

Are the children of Ireland to be deprived of their heritage? Art and music are more important than ever in today’s world. Many young people, disenchanted with today’s society, are turning rapidly to extremist views. It is vital that we give my generation and future generations another option; the option to find solace in art and beauty.

The opportunity to be exposed to high-level classical music is considered a basic priority in most other European countries.

People should be looking for ways to increase cultural exposure in Ireland, not tear apart the little that we have.

I urge that the current review be halted and that cross-departmental responsibility is taken for developing a national strategy for orchestras in Ireland involving the departments of both culture and communications, along with RTÉ and the Arts Council. Both orchestras should be maintained and the National Symphony Orchestra should be restored to full capacity. – Yours, etc,

MAIRÉAD HICKEY,

The Lough,

Cork.