Ireland’s Cross Border Orchestra

It’s the concert of the year. On Thursday October 29 at 8 p.m. the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland (CBOI), a group composed of musicians aged between 12 and 24, will perform at the prestigious Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in Manhattan.

Established back in 1995 as a means of bringing young people from north and south of the Irish border together through the medium of music, the orchestra has gone from strength to strength as its reputation has grown.

Since its purpose is to promote peace and unity among Ireland’s youth, it helps that all the while they also stress the continuing importance of arts and culture programs within the Irish public school system, encouraging other young people to get involved.   

The orchestra’s Carnegie Hall debut in 2005 was a sell-out, so it makes sense they’ve upped the ante to perform next Thursday at Lincoln Center, the very pinnacle of Manhattan’s concert venues. As the song says, if they can make it here they can make it anywhere, so it’s a massive vote of confidence in the success of the program and in the vision of its founding member Sharon Treacy-Dunne.

The orchestra was first set up to create a cross community link between Catholic and Protestant school children throughout Ireland, teaching them about tolerance and friendship through the democratic medium of music. In the process the children have also enjoyed the hidden benefit of a boost to their professional and personal confidence, all the while breaking down the barriers of hostility and suspicion that have plagued their opposing communities for years.

Co-chair of the New York visit Ciaran Grant told IrishCentral’s sister publication the Irish Voice: “This is an amazing peace initiative where all the participants are between 12 and 24. It’s an opportunity for kids who’ve never had the opportunity before to interact with folks from different ethic and religious backgrounds. It’s a complete non-denomination event that transcends geography and religion.”

The organizers say that the Cross Border Orchestra doesn’t just exist to promote community programs, it also exists to highlight the teaching of music in Irish schools -- and the truth is that even today the country is woefully underserved in that capacity.

Ireland bills itself as the land of saints and scholars, but the reality is usually much more nuanced. “I think Ireland is one of the least served countries in Europe when it comes to arts and culture programs within the public school system,” Grant adds.

To make the point that Ireland can produce magic when it supports its own culture, the concert will be led by Gearoid Grant, one of the leading conductors in Europe. It’s a massive coup for the orchestra and for the concert itself that an artist of Grant’s stature is prepared to throw his talent behind an initiative that promotes Irish culture and reconciliation.

Grant will conduct the featured performers including the renowned tenor Emmanuel Lawler and uilleann piper Patrick Martin. The orchestra will perform alongside drum and piping corps, and their performance repertoire will range from “Ireland’s Call” and “Ellis Island” to “Satchmo, Lord of the Dance” and the perennial favorite “La Bamba.”

From wrenching Irish ballads to classical to jazz and pop classics, it’s a concert to please all comers and is certain to be a sell-out so you’re encouraged to secure your ticket the moment you finishing reading this to avoid disappointment. 

The Cross Border Orchestra show will also include 500 children from area schools who are set to join it on stage. To commemorate the first-ever performance by an Irish orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall, the performance will also include the specially commissioned American Ireland Fund Tribute.

The orchestra will also play two days earlier at the Cross Cultural Youth Festival at the Armory Track and Field Center in Washington Heights from 10 a.m.-noon.  Although they will headline the youth festival, accompanying performing arts groups will display their talents in traditional Irish dance, rhythmic gymnastics, and much more. 

For tickets to the Avery Fisher concert call 212-875-5030.