HE’S the man who believed that Limerick’s future could be changed through music, but after 19 years at the helm, the chief executive of the Irish Chamber Orchestra has announced it’s time for the curtains to fall on his tenure.
John Kelly, who has helped secure millions of euro in Government funding for the University of Limerick based orchestra, said that directing it over nearly two decades helped him achieve his “dream to establish an Irish orchestra that would be recognised as one of the leading chamber orchestras in Europe.”
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my lengthy tenure with the ICO. I’m deeply grateful for the experience I’ve gained and very proud of what we’ve accomplished together,” he said following the announcement.
Under his leadership, the orchestra developed strong relationships with world-class soloists and conductors, commissioned some of Ireland’s finest new works and toured internationally from the US to China, Singapore and Australia. The fortunes of the ICO have also increased during his term, with resources climbing to €1.895m by the end of 2010, which was largely spent on charitable expenditure, according to the most recent accounts filed.
It is also been actively involved in introducing school pupils in disadvantaged areas in Limerick to classical music with great success, believing that “music can be an important instrument of social change.” In addition to holding ‘Sing out the Strings’ concerts, comprised of students from these schools, they have also introduced scholarships for children of the regeneration areas. He has repeatedly called for music to be top of the school agenda, saying “You can’t tackle these social problems through maths.”
Professor Micháel Ó Suilleabháin, director of the Irish World Academy, at the University of Limerick, asked Kelly in 1994 to consider relocating the Irish Chamber Orchestra from Dublin to UL.
“Since then, John has taken the ICO to just about everywhere that matters. This ensemble put down roots and flowered under his inspired leadership. His legacy to the Irish Chamber Orchestra, to the Irish World Academy and to the University of Limerick, has been a true and generous gift to music in Ireland from a gifted musician and cultural entrepreneur,” says Prof Ó Suilleabháin. Dr. Edward Walsh, founding president of UL, said in his six years as deputy chair of the board of the ICO, “one of my greatest pleasures was working with John Kelly.
“I’ve rarely met a man with John’s ability to see opportunities and realise them. He is able to create a compelling vision and communicate it to people across social and national boundaries and to enlist support from key stakeholders in government, academia and the private sector.”
The 57 year-old Killaloe resident is originally from Kildare, studied at the Royal College of Music in London and began playing with the RTE Symphony Orchestra at 18. Gerard Keenan takes over as acting CEO of the Irish Chamber Orchestra from August 1. A former professional musician, Gerard studied at the VEC College of Music, Dublin, and was orchestra manager of the ICO since 2006.