Carnival of Orchestras | Looking back

On Sunday, 9 May 2021, we held an online, Youth Orchestra Day of Celebration, where we celebrated the incredible work of youth orchestras and ensembles that has continued over the past year in keeping the music going with two brilliant online events!

One of these events was the wonderful Carnival of Orchestras, an online, play-along at home performance featuring over 150 young players aged 6 to 12, from nine junior orchestras steered by St Agnes’ Community Centre for Music & the Arts, Crumlin, Dublin.

This project was initiated by St Agnes’ Community Centre for Music & the Arts, Crumlin, Dublin ( and was coordinated by Joanna Crooks, who invited IAYO member orchestras to participate, following an initiative of the Irish Association of Youth Orchestras to nominate Sunday, 9 May to celebrate youth music during the pandemic year.

Fionna McKree from Athenry Music School with her pet snake Shadow as part of the Carnival of Orchestras’ Pet Parade!

Taking part remotely in the Carnival Orchestra were young musicians from Accora Orchestra, County Cavan, Athenry Music School, County Galway, Budding Bows, WIT Waterford, Kiltra School of Music, County Wexford, Music Generation Louth, Sligo Academy of Music, Sligo, St Agnes’ CCMA Junior Strings, Crumlin, Dublin, St Peter’s School, Phibsboro, Dublin, and The Staves Orchestra, Carlow College of Music, County Carlow.

This great event took many weeks of planning and coordination from all involved parties. Repertoire was agreed well in advance and St Agnes’ CCMA took responsibility for sending scores, parts and pre-recorded tracks to orchestras for rehearsal. These pre-recorded tracks were also used on the day of the performance.

During the Zoom concert, the pre-recorded tracks were streamed for the audience to hear. The young musicians, while muted, performed their own parts at home but could be seen by the audience performing along.

In the run-up to the event, there were many meetings held between the conductors and teachers of the nine orchestras and then two rehearsals, during which, the young musicians were invited to tell jokes, introduce the pieces and introduce their pets and have a photoshoot with them! This gave them practice for the main event.

Artworks and photographs were submitted by the young musicians and these were included in the e-programme and video banner for the concert.

This repertoire included the story of the Tiger Who Came to Tea suite of eight pieces which was adapted to reflect the pandemic world of the children and to reference their many home counties across Ireland, and two movements of a piece called The Covid Saga, composed by Robert Mahon, CEO and Conductor of Kiltra School of Music for his own orchestra, which was shared with the other performing orchestras. There were jokes and a live pet-parade, Smiler the Clown, and greetings from the young musicians to many family members that they may not have seen for quite a long time!

There were 411 devices joined in on the Zoom concert from across Ireland and the world! Audience members came in from Austria, Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Ireland, France, India, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Scotland, Tahiti, Taiwan, and USA. These included family members of the young musicians who have not seen each other in many, many months!

The feedback from audience members, young musicians and participating orchestras has been so positive! Robert Mahon of Kiltra School of Music, Wexford said:

 “It was so great to have something to aim towards with our orchestra this year, let alone something so HUGE – special mention to Smiler, he was so good, the perfect man for the role! The support of Allin and IAYO is crucial for music in Ireland, too. As Adrian Petcu always, says, “Let’s keep in touch!””

Family members were particularly praising of the event with one parent from St Agnes’ CCMA Junior Strings mentioning that there were “tears of joy in Poland where grandparents were watching” and a parent from Sligo Academy of Music had this to say:

“Thank you all so much for the wonderful Carnival of Orchestras, it was obvious all the hard work that went into organising it but moreover the fun and happiness and definitely a carnival theme was enjoyed by all. (Our child) loved telling her joke and was thrilled to be involved and loved seeing her pet on the screen, lovely to see that the small details can bring so much happiness!”

The video of this truly brilliant event is available to watch below: