Irish Chamber Orchestra’s Sing Out programme is uniting communities in Limerick’s regeneration areas

Alan Owens

Reporter:

Alan Owens

OVER 300 children participating in the Irish Chamber Orchestra’s innovative community engagement programme, Sing Out With Strings, are busily preparing for a concert in Mary Immaculate’s brand new Lime Tree Theatre.

OVER 300 children participating in the Irish Chamber Orchestra’s innovative community engagement programme, Sing Out With Strings, are busily preparing for a concert in Mary Immaculate’s brand new Lime Tree Theatre.

Pupils from all three participating schools - Galvone National School, Southill Junior School and St Mary’s Boys School - will perform with the Irish Chamber Orchestra for the end of year concert.

The project is now in its third year and has seen some impressive results, with children in the schools coming into school at 8am for morning string classes, and staying after school for orchestra rehearsals in one of Limerick’s most socially deprived areas.

The project is funded by Limerick Regeneration, the JP McManus Foundation, Limerick Enterprise Development Partnership (LEDP) with additional funding from private donors. While regeneration funding is being slowly phased out, the ICO have indicated that they are “confident that this project will continue to thrive with the commitment of additional funding” from the LEDP, McManus and Healy foundations, as well as funding from private donors.

A report commissioned by the ICO and UL and carried out by Ailbhe Kenny and Gwen Moore - music lecturers in MIC - to identify the extent to which the key aims of the project were being met, has revealed that the project is an extremely worthwhile one.

Some of the key findings are that music has become embedded in the schools’ identity and ethos, thus the musical culture in each school has strengthened; that personal development is evident with increased self-esteem and confidence, pride, and self-discipline in the children; that concentration levels have increased and children exhibit increased motivation for learning; that children have shown improved behaviour and communication skills in a social setting; and that children have developed vast musical skills such as motor memory training and composition skills.

It also concludes that the project is a “social catalyst and is uniting communities” and is fostering a sense of “community pride and social unity” in the area.

The upcoming concert takes as its theme Oceans, Adventures and New Worlds, celebrating the voyager, St. Brendan the Navigator, and the children of all three schools have been busily composing sea shanties and ballads in recent weeks.

“For me as a facilitator it has probably been one of the most rewarding times in the project so far,” explained ICO education officer Kathleen Turner, who has driven the project over the past three years.

“We’ve really been thinking about the process of composing, with words of the week such as creativity, courage, determination, joy. The kids have really put that into practice. The ideas they have come up with have shocked and inspired me. Lyrics that you do not expect to come from children, lyrics that are funny and heart breaking and incredibly insightful,” she added.

The concert takes place in the Lime Tree Theatre at 1pm on May 16. See www.irishchamberorchestra.com for more.