“…O brave new world,
that has such people in’t!”
As artistic director of this very fine ensemble of singers, I want to write a few words about who we are and why we have changed our name. This will all be from a very personal perspective however.
To me, the new name betokens not a new beginning, but rather a recognition that we have already evolved over the past few years into a different kind of group than the one originally formed in 1996 as the National Chamber Choir of Ireland. The new name is therefore a way of catching up with ourselves.
It is also an affirmation of who we are. A Chamber choir is not just a small choir. It is specifically a group which makes chamber music: in the vital sense that every individual contributes to the work, makes a difference to the sound, and has an investment in the result.
A Choir is a group of singers making music with their voices. It stands in front of an audience as an entity, but also as a collection of individuals, each with his or her own musical identity and unique background. A choir is not an orchestra however, and the big difference is that we, as singers, deal with words, as well as music. I will return to this little detail in a moment.
A new name is also of course an opportunity to open new ground, as Seamus Heaney might have put it. We aspire to continue as ‘Ireland’s flagship choral ensemble’, and in so doing we will continue to champion Irish composers and to represent Ireland on the international scene as well. We will continue to tour Ireland, bringing a kaleidoscope of musical riches to audiences around the whole island of Ireland. We also want to make closer contact with audiences and musical students (of all ages) to draw them further in to our world of music and words. But new ground?
Ireland is famous for its gift of words. And as performers of words it is our privilege to explore Irish literature and Irish music: sometimes Irish words with music from elsewhere, sometimes Irish music with words from elsewhere, and sometimes both words and music from right here in Ireland. But words and the stories that words can tell: narrative. This is the ground that I have begun to open in our work, and which I will continue to cultivate as strongly as opportunities allow.
The fundamental job of any performing artist is to communicate their art to the society in which they live. The challenge is to do this, not only by repeating what is already known and familiar, but also by creating new work that may be unfamiliar in style…opening new ground. Therefore I see it as one of our primary tasks to beg, steal or borrow new music from wherever the good stuff is to be found – and bring it to you, our audience.
And finally, what was wrong with the old name? Simply this. It belonged to an era when the choir was a full-time entity, arising from its previous existence as the RTÉ Chamber Choir. The Choir has now evolved into an independent body. It continues to enjoy significant support from the Arts Council – a lifeline for which we are deeply grateful – and we are also seeking other forms of sponsorship to enable further development. So, while still strongly embracing the ‘National’ identity, we wanted a new name with which to face this brave new world…