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Monday 4 December 2023 Dublin: 4°C
Mark Stedman Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan with Le Chéile participant Milo O'Brien (7) and Royal Irish Academy of Music student Maria Jose Rojas Cruz.
le cheile

Youth orchestra for disabled musicians 'major step towards societal change'

The Le Chéile project will develop music groups for young disabled musicians in every province.

A NEW INITIATIVE launched this week aims to see Ireland’s first ever youth orchestra for disabled musicians established by the end of the year. 

The Le Chéile project will develop music groups for young disabled musicians in every province, with the aim of bringing them together to form the Open Youth Orchestra of Ireland (OYOI).

Each ensemble will bring together eight to twelve disabled and guest non-disabled artists who will meet regularly between now and September to improvise and compose music together.

Ulster University, the Royal Irish Academy of Music and Athlone Institute of Technology will welcome participants from Ulster, Leinster and Connacht while the Cork School of Music will host the Munster ensemble.

AIT will later become home to a residential programme that will see all four groups join musical forces ahead of the inaugural performance of the OYOI in September. 

The orchestra will be drawn from members of the four provincial Le Chéile groups and will be the country’s first disabled-led national youth orchestra.

Leader of the Le Chéile project, Brendan Breslin, said that while the project is a music programme aimed at overcoming challenges for young people in Ireland, it also signifies a major step towards societal change.

Society must see that difference is valuable in artistic expression and recognise the positive and lasting effect on a person’s wellbeing through inclusion in music.

NO FEE 10 Le Cheile project Mark Stedman Le Chéile participant Adrian Conaghan with Royal Irish Academy of Music (RIAM) student Schuyler Perry from New York City Mark Stedman

Within each music ensemble, participants can choose to use traditional instruments or adaptive music technology, which by using equipment such as iPads and motion sensors allows physically and intellectually challenged musicians to compose, improvise and perform music. 

Speaking at the launch of the programme this week, Minister for Culture, Josepha Madigan, said the founding of OYOI represents a strong and crucial beginning in building awareness of the opportunities for young people with disabilities to access music education and participation experiences.

At present, opportunities for persons with disabilities to access active ensemble playing is limited, so the Le Chéile project is a major step towards addressing this inequity. 

The four ensembles will use what has been described as “ground-breaking methodology” for directing musical performance for disabled artists.

Developed by Dr Denise White of Ulster University, conductology relies on the use of 18 gestures agreed upon by the musicians.

The specialised body language is then used by the ensemble conductors to facilitate performance and improvisation in all four ensembles, the first of its kind in the world.

It’s hoped that the project will allow for the professional development of teachers and musicians across Ireland with the creation of a handbook and resource hub to support facilitators in sustaining inclusive ensembles across the country. 

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