The Cross Border Orchestra Of Ireland Play Carnegie Hall

Today is St Patrick’s Day. Tonight the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland will perform at one of the world’s most prestigious venues, The Carnegie Hall in New York. This performance follows the run of sold-out Peace Prom shows the Orchestra has performed across Ireland. Together, these shows honour the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

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Ahead of the Carnegie Hall concert, the orchestra has just released a cover of Where the Streets Have No Name. The 1987 U2 song addressed preconceptions about a people’s class and religion based on the Belfast street on which they happened live. In their version, the orchestra blends symphonic music rooted in both Irish and Ulster Scots traditions.

The arrangement is by Paul O’Brien. Taken together, the music and the video, which combines footage filmed across Ireland “from the Cliffs of Moher in Co Clare to Grianán an Aileach in Co Donegal” with recent concert footage from Dublin, Belfast, Limerick, and Waterford, celebrates the strong cultural heritage of Ireland, which flourishes despite Ireland’s complex and often troubled history. A large part of the motivation of the Orchestra is to ensure that the troubles remain in the past.

The Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland emerged from the process leading to the 1998 agreement. In 1994, loyalist and republican paramilitaries agreed on a ceasefire. This inspired Dundalk schoolteacher Sharon Treacy-Dunne to try to bring young Catholics and Protestants together through music. It was difficult. Treacy-Dunne was accused of trying to destroy Protestant culture and brainwash children. She responded by ensuring that both cultures were represented equally. It worked like a charm.

Of course, the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland performs the Cranberries’ iconic Zombie, wherein the Dolores O’Riordan-fronted band distanced itself from the violence associated with the Troubles! The song has been part of the orchestra’s repertoire for some time, but this version, posted on 1 March 2023, is from the current tour. No doubt Lauren Murphy will sing it at tonight’s Carnegie Hall appearance.

The Dundalk-based Orchestra, which has a core membership from Co Louth and the Border counties but includes young musicians from across Ireland, has a maximum of 130 players. To extend the involvement and spread the message of peace, in 2002 the orchestra started inviting school choirs to sing with it. This evolved into The Peace Proms, an annual tour across the UK and Ireland performing with different school choirs, which now involves 35,000 children of diverse backgrounds.

Tonight will be the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland’s third appearance at The Carnegie Hall. As usual, the orchestra will combine instruments from Ulster Scots culture (including bagpipes and Lambeg drums) and traditional Irish instruments (like the harp, the fiddle, uilleann pipes, and the bodhrán drum). Tonight, under the direction of Maestro Greg Beardsell, the orchestra will be joined by the all-Ireland champion Uilleann Piper Conal Duffy; world champion Highland Piper Grahame Harris; along with both Irish and Ulster Scots dancers. Altogether, there are 157 in the travel party, which will be accompanied by a further 200 parents and friends. The US-based Fairfield County Children’s Choir and Brooklyn’s Xaverian HS Pipe Corps will also participate. The New York show is titled Ancora. It promises to be quite a spectacle!

Over the years, the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland has played before heads of state and Royalty, from President Obama to Queen Elizabeth. They have also played at “a breakfast” for then-Vice-President Biden. Two weeks ago, President Biden’s Irish cousin Éilis, a member of the orchestra, sent the President this delightful message.

Speaking to ahead of the New York trip, Sharon Treacy-Dunne acknowledged the “huge support” from the New York Irish community, the Irish Consul, the British Consul, the Northern Ireland Bureau, and sponsorship from the Goodman Foundation and Invest Northern Ireland. “Our sponsors are extremely generous and we couldn’t do it if we didn’t have their support.”

May the road rise with you!

If you would like to see more from the Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland, you can subscribe to their YouTube channel or follow them on Facebook. You can also visit their official website for more information.

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