Statement in Response to the RTÉ Orchestral Review

AIC Statement in Reponse to the RTÉ Orchestral Review

We wish to expess our extreme disquiet about the economic changes which the RTE intend to pursue in relation to both their orchestras the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. We echo the sentiments of our Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, who recently expressed his concern about "any diminution of the RTE orchestras". (Interview with Marie O’ Halloran, Irish Times, Tuesday November 21). His views have been supported in the Dail by other politicians ,notably Joan Burton TD.

Whilst the two orchestras mostly perform the standard orchestral repertoire, Irish composers of all generations rely heavily upon both the RTÉ NSO and the RTÉ CO to perform, premiere and disseminate their new compositions. 

Commencing with the Free Invitation Concerts (St. Francis Xavier Hall) and The Dublin Twentieth Century Festivals in the 1970s, The Accents Festivals in the 1980s, and more recently The Horizon Series and The New Music Dublin Festivals, these two diverse orchestras have played a central role in nurturing Irish composition. Many of our prominent Irish composers learnt their trade and benefitted from the support of both the RTÉ NSO and the RTÉ CO.

It would be worth RTÉ and the Government’s time to take down The Piano Report from the shelf and revisit it. This report was commissioned in the 1990s by the then–minister for the Arts, Michael D. Higgins. Piano (The Provision and Institutional Arrangements Now for Orchestras and Ensembles) recommended: 

  1. RTÉ would retain the Concert Orchestra for television,radio and public concerts
  2. The RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra would become the Irish National Symphony Orchestra based in the National Concert Hall. This recommendation could be brought up to date by the inclusion of a board of management similar to The National Gallery, The National Theatre and The National Concert Hall.

There is also the serious matter of future job losses and redundancies for our highly trained orchestral musicians, not to mention the implications these measures will have for the employment of our up and coming musicians.

At present Finland, a country similar in size to Ireland, has 30 professional orchestras and presumably accepts and writes down ‘a loss-making element’ in its economic planning in relation to culture. On the other hand, the Finnish people obviously welcome the cultural dividend that results from these state initiatives. The present worldwide success of  Finnish composers, conductors, choral singers and musicians is a testament to this excellent cultural policy.

Can we not just draw a deep breath for the moment and ‘hasten slowly’ about this serious issue. It is not always about economics but maybe ‘a flower in a vase on the table’ (Sean O’ Casey).

Michael Holohan, Chair, Association of Irish Composers