Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the Cork Orchestral Society

Features and Opinion Editor Liz Hession sits down with Tom Doyle, treasurer of the Cork Orchestral Society ahead of their 81st season.

Motley has been celebrating the arts and culture of Cork city since its inception in 2006. Whether those rich traditions stretch to the Crawford Art Gallery in the heart of the city, up to the Everyman Palace, to the stained-glass windows of the Triskel, or to our own wonderful Glucksman Gallery – history and the arts are never too far from our doorstep. Nothing could accompany Cork’s arts and culture trail better than the music curated by the Cork Orchestral Society.

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to sit down with Tom Doyle, the treasurer of the Cork Orchestral Society, who are celebrating their 80th anniversary, and opening their 81st season. I sat down with Tom to chat about the history of the society, its upcoming plans for the season, as well as their Opening Gala Concert which took place in September.

Tom explained to me that the society was founded in 1938 by Aloys Fleischmann. The society has spent 80 years continuing the legacy of Fleischmann, providing access to some of the finest live performances to ever take place on Leeside: “Fleischmann established the Orchestral Society and the Cork Symphony Orchestra in the late 1930s. The society has been known for welcoming international ensembles and performances as well as local musicians to perform here in Cork. In the 1950s and 60s, visits from the Vienna Philharmonic were a real turning point. They were the key ensemble of the time and [the society] continues that tradition by showing local and national ensembles.”

The society itself is organised and run by a series of volunteers which Tom sits with on the board. Tom added: “We’re grateful to be funded by the Arts Council and also Cork City Council who underpin a lot of the activities that we do and provide great support throughout the year for our activities and for the people of Cork to experience classical music from the wide range of ensembles, from orchestras to solo items. It all follows on from Fleischmann’s mission statement to provide the city with music of all kinds.”

The Opening Gala concert continued the traditions Fleischmann outlined all those years ago, welcoming a host of wonderful musicians from Ireland and around the world. Tom explained that the Society were delighted to have violinist Majella Cullagh joining the Gala, who sang the role of Adelaide in the premiere of the opera in Usher Hall, Edinburgh, in 2005, when her performance was praised by The Guardian as “the combination of thrilling abandon, perfect control and dramatic exactitude.” The evening also featured a song cycle for voice, trumpet and piano – to cast a shadow again – a series of poems by Katherine Gekker, set to music by American composer Eric Ewazen.

The Opening Gala was a treat for newcomers and seasoned concert-goers. Following the resound success of the night, I questioned Tom as to what else the Society has in store. Among the season’s highlights, the Society presents a piano recital by Hugh Tinney on November 1st, featuring timeless masterpieces by Beethoven, Chopin and Schubert as well as modern compositions by Ian Wilson and Thomas Adès.

Tom added: “We’ve a wide range of programme items, and this is thanks to Tom Crowley who is our programming director. The Irish Chamber Orchestra on November 16th will make an anticipated return to Cork to perform Puccini, Stamitz and Tchaikovsky under the baton of their principal conductor, Jörg Widmann. In addition, we’re delighted to have Rebecca and Kirsten Čápová who will perform piano duets on the 20th October in the School of Music. We also have the Cork Fleischmann Symphony Orchestra performing in City Hall with Patrick Rafter on violin, for a concerto being conducted by Keith Pascoe.”

“There are concerts by the Cork School of Music Symphony Orchestra for the Open Day in November as well as their annual collaboration with the Fleischmann Choir in St. Michael’s in Blackrock, featuring soloist Mary Hegarty. Towards the end of the season, we have the Ulster Brass Quintet, which are a combination of brass players playing in the National Symphony Orchestra and around the country, and then we’ll conclude this half of the season with concerts on the 19th and 20th of December. The Society are also hoping to collaborate with the National Symphony Orchestra over the next year.”

The concerts of the Cork Orchestral Society are open to everyone whether a member or not, and thanks to the support of the Arts Council and Cork City Council, ticket prices are kept low – in fact the society often presents world class artists at half what it might cost to see them in major international cities. Cork Fleischmann Symphony Orchestra performing in City Hall with Patrick Rafter on violin.

For more information on concerts and tickets, visit www.corkorchestralsociety.ie

Photo credit: Gavin Whitner via musicoomph.com