Co-Orch is a Dublin based orchestra that has, over the last five years, presented a diverse range of music, catering from all tastes from Mozart to Sibelius, Schoenberg to Copland, and works by indigenous composers such as Tom Lane. Since they first came together in 2011 they have been partnered with a charity for each of their concerts and have raised €60,000.
This model has also been successful in attracting musicians of high quality, who are always happy to give their time for a good cause, as the self-proclaimed "Co-Orch Elves" explain; The idea of establishing a charity orchestra with a co-operative attitude was very appealing when we realised that while many groups were forming for specific charity events; the wealth of Irish musical talent could be utilised for the good of the hard-working charities across the country.
For their upcoming concert, their charity partner is The Immigrant Council of Ireland, who are fundraising for their integration work; reuniting refugees with family, modernising the immigration system and encouraging involvement of minorities in the political process. The Co-Orch elves have aptly named the concert 'Orchestrating Equality' and have a suitable mix of nationalities represented;
Our programme is a mix of periods and nationalities, with works journeying from a twentieth century Germanic style Russian piece (Stravinsky) to an eighteenth century Viennese symphony (Mozart), mixing nicely with a piece by Irish composer Éna Brennan, commissioned especially for this concert.
However, the Elves maintain that as well as reaching out to people, they also wish to introduce their music to new spectators; "Co-Orch is all about opening up orchestral music to a new audience. Our favourite way to perform is in the round, so that the audience surrounds and mixes with the orchestra, getting a very immersive experience in the performance."
They are rather ambitiously taking orchestral music out of traditional locations like concert halls, and performing in city centre venues that would be more associated with rock and acoustic concerts; "Not many people are too open to the idea of popping along to listen to the latest interpretation of Beethoven’s Fifth. This is something we want to do our bit to tackle. We want to take classical music out of its comfort zone and throw it into unknown territories. By holding our concerts in venues such as the Village or the Button Factory we hope to attract a different kind of audience and open up the exciting world of living, breathing orchestral music to a crowd more used to a different kind of sound."
If you do find yourself at one of their concerts, the Elves advise you won’t be met by "penguin suits", or "lengthy silences", but rather they will perform with energy, enthusiasm, plenty of chat between pieces and there'll probably be a few drinks too. And the Elves appear to be pleased with the reaction of non-traditional audiences; "The response from the ‘non-musical’ crowd has been fantastic and we’ve had a regular following develop over the years. The opportunity to open someone up to this musical world is great and something we always consider when planning our events."
However, they warn in their upcoming concert that the bassoons may be as loud as any rock band or night club DJ; "The Stravinsky Octet will be a great opportunity for anyone who’s wondered what those really loud instruments actually look like – it’s an unusual combination of wind instruments that could potentially be quite dangerous to people’s hearing."
The Elves will be joined by Patrick Rafter as solo violin in Prokofiev’s 1st Violin Concerto, who will be fresh off the plane from playing with Maxim Vengerov in Geneva. And, as promised, there will also be wine and beer for the audience.
Co-Orch perform "Orchestrating Equality" in The Complex, Dublin 7 on Thursday 12 November at 8pm.