Irish Youth Wind Ensemble Makes a Triumphant Return

We were absolutely thrilled to have the Irish Youth Wind Ensemble return to the Irish Chamber Orchestra Studio in University of Limerick for a week of rehearsals after three long years!

Under the baton of IYWE Artistic Director Ronan O’Reilly, a fifty-strong group of Ireland’s finest young wind, brass, double bass and percussion musicians came together to for a week of music, games, fun and performance!

The ensemble hosted concerts in the Curtis Auditorium, MTU Cork School of Music (in association with MTU Cork School of Music) and the O’Reilly Theatre, Belvedere, Dublin.

Taking inspiration from the natural world, ballet and dance, military motifs, Mediterranean islands and Japanese legend, this year’s repertoire presented works from renowned composers such as Gustav Holst, Rodger Cichy, Joseph Horowitz, Jose Alberto Pina, and Itaru Sakai.

We have asked a number of IYWE participants to give their opinions on this year’s course. Let’s start with Jack Doherty, a Tuba player from Dublin who was our longest-standing IYWE member and was attending his 6th course!

“I first began playing with the Irish Youth Wind Ensemble when I was 16 years old in 2015. Over the years I have been to every summer course that I have been able to attend. I was absolutely gutted when the course was cancelled due to Covid in 2020, and I am so happy that I managed to get back to it for one last year before I’m too old.

The course was just as good as ever despite the extra restrictions we had. IYWE was always my favourite of the summer music courses I did growing up. This year in particular was a real trip down memory lane for me, seeing lots of people who I had played with years ago now being staff, and most of the music being things that I had played at some point in the ensemble over the last seven or eight years.

The evening events were still a load of fun, even if they were a bit less populated than usual due to the smaller than usual ensemble size. The only negative thing I have to say about the course is that I didn’t manage to maintain my perfect record at the table quiz. Every other year I’ve entered my team has come first and this year I was robbed with a second place finish!

I really love this course, and it was so lovely to get back and be doing it again, even if I knew more staff than fellow players. You couldn’t have paid me to miss it.”

One of those former players who are now staff is Jack Mahony from Cork who is now the Administrator for IAYO. We asked Jack what it was like transitioning from IYWE musician to staff:

“I joined the Irish Youth Wind Ensemble as a euphonium player when I was 17. It was my first time being part of a national ensemble, and prior to arriving to the course I was filled with nerves and excitement (which is hard to tell the difference between!).

The repertoire that year was a massive step up from anything I had performed with local bands and orchestras. From just seven days of being at IYWE, I was a significantly better player by the end of the course. As the only euphonium in the ensemble, I was put under pressure I never experienced before and I rose to the occasion. My awareness of my position within the ensemble vastly improved and I contributed to the functioning of the band as a whole.

A quiet and shy teenager, the social aspect of IYWE was of great benefit to me. I was taken out of my comfort zone by mingling with a group of people I did not know, and I am lucky enough to have made some life-long friends from that.

IYWE’s international trip to Austria in 2018 was one of the highlights of my early musical career. It was a huge honour to represent Ireland at the Mid-Europe Festival in Schladming, Styria. I had the pleasure of listening to world-class bands and it opened my eyes to the fantastic world of wind band music. I made some truly amazing memories on this trip, both from a musical and social perspective. I can confidently say that my time in IYWE directly influenced my decision to pursue music at third-level.

For the 2022 course, I returned to IYWE as part of the welfare staff and orchestra management team. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly, and this experience was highly fulfilling. I found it very interesting as an ensemble musician to be behind the curtain which allowed me to understand absolutely everything that goes into a band or orchestra. It was a great feeling to know that the work that I was putting in along with the welfare and management team was enabling young musicians to share the amazing experience that is ensemble music making in a wind band; something I hold very dear to my heart.”

Grace Mulcahy-O’Sullivan, a flute and piccolo player from Cork, was a first-time member of IYWE this year. We asked her for her feedback:

“I thoroughly enjoyed the week, and found it very beneficial to my playing standard. I enjoyed the evening activities, which were a relaxing break from the rehearsals. Everyone on the course was friendly and welcoming, and made my first experience at IYWE a very enjoyable and memorable one.

I felt that the length of the course was sufficient to bring our repertoire to the fantastic standard always held by IYWE. The rehearsals were long, but this was necessary to play through and improve our pieces to the standard that was required. The lunch hour and breaks were well timed and the right length to provide a proper chance to rest (and eat!) between activities and rehearsals. The course length was also long enough to get to know other participants well enough to build lasting friendships!

I thought the repertoire was original and fresh, and provided subtle challenges that really helped bring our playing, both as an ensemble and as individual players, to the next level. The pieces were a nice blend of well-known compositions (such as Holst’s “Suite in F”) and lesser-known ones (such as Cichy’s “Bugs”). The pieces were of a good length – they were long enough to establish themselves as full musical works, but not so long as to require extensive stamina! 

All of the staff were lovely and really helpful. From the beginning of the course to the end, they provided us with advice whenever we needed it and never hesitated to offer a hand. The tutors were brilliant and guided us through the more difficult passages of our pieces by teaching us the skills to handle complicated repertoire. The support and teaching that the tutors provided was exemplary and essential to bringing us to the standard of IYWE!

Looking forward to IYWE 2023!”

The Irish Youth Wind Ensemble will convene once again in 2023 from 31 July – 6 August. More details will be announced at in the coming months.