St Agnes’ Community Later Starter Orchestra (LSO) was the sole Irish representative at BTHVN 2021 – an international conference of amateur orchestras organised by the German Federation of Amateur Orchestras(BDLO) – in late September in Dresden.
The conference focused on the opportunities and challenges of music making in amateur and professional orchestras on an international level.
Delegates present from 40 countries, together with online representation from all continents, reported the impact of the pandemic on amateur orchestras in their areas and using the theme ‘Passion meets Profession’ discussed the synergies between amateur and professional orchestras and musicians.
Existing models in the USA and Eastern Europe were compared and good practise in sustainable and successful orchestra tutorship was discussed while the online contributions from Ghana, Kenya, Colombia and Argentina provided insight into the global impact of music making and orchestral practice though ominously the expected online contribution from the National Institute of Music in Kabul was ‘not possible at this time’.
Christine Sickert, a German delegate, herself a B Mus, reported the very musically qualified and experienced make-up of her amateur orchestra, while Denise Ni Dhuibhir from the Crumlin Centre for Music and the Arts (CCMA) reported on the success of the St Agnes’ Late Starter Orchestra at the CCMA where people who never thought they would have an opportunity to play are now experiencing and enjoying the magic of music in an inclusive and diverse age, gender and cultural setting.
St Agnes’ CCMA hosted the first international LSO Round Table Forum in February 2020.
Elena Rahon, from New York and attended the St Agnes’ International Round Table Forum, noted the emergence and importance of Late Starter Orchestras.
She founded the New York Late Starter String Orchestra after returning from a summer string program at the East London Late Starter Orchestra and now the orchestra is providing a non-judgemental setting where people help one another and feel valued.
She described one orchestra member who reported constant stress as a New York city bus driver who after a year in the orchestra literally ‘skips as she leaves each rehearsal’.
A unique orchestra of international amateur musicians came together in Dresden and after two days practice under conductor Markus Stenz provided an uplifting concert of the music of Richard Strauss and Beethoven in the restored Kreuzkirche.