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The Octagon Ensemble prepares for summer concert

Going Out

POISED FOR PERFORMANCE Members of the Octagon Ensemble.

Westport Town Hall Theatre to host community orchestra performance

Laura Golden

Westport Strings, or the Octagon Ensemble is a learning orchestra that meets on the top floor of Westport Town Hall Theatre every Tuesday evening. Now, the musicians are preparing for a concert on May 21 at the venue, when they will play works by, Handel, Cafferkey, Reidy, Mercury, Warlock and others.
The ensemble is comprised of three different groups; youth, intermediate and the mature. Each set is made up of varying levels of amateur musicians, and everyone reads to a certain level, but that’s where the similarities end.
There are musicians from all walks of life, and a variety of ages from the young to the somewhat less young. They are mostly all amateurs in the process of learning with the addition of two music educators and professional musicians, renowned musical innovator and educator Patrick Early (founder) and the equally enchanting instrumentalist ,Patrick Dexter.
It is a social outlet for those with musical aspirations that facilitates participation in an ensemble that plays everything from traditional arrangements to contemporary music. There are violas, violins, cellos, double bass players and the odd cameo from other musical instruments; guitar, and saxophone to date, but there’s also a dance troupe winging their way to collaborate with Westport Strings.
Their upcoming concert includes two collaborations, the first with accomplished professional musician and leader of the well-known Clew Bay Pipe Band, Des Cafferkey, and the second with local musical raconteur and Spotify artist, Tony Reidy.
The night I attended a rehearsal Tony made a guest appearance. When I spoke to him later on he described how the group was born out of Patrick Early’s desire to create a legacy of musical value, or as Tony put it, ‘Pat had a vision’.
Patrick drew up a programme on the premise that music was for everyone, in the hope of democratising the elitism that often accompanies classical music. He mentions that the absence of a conductor is deliberate: “Acting on the direction of the conductor, is often already too late, even the body language between players which we rely on, can be tricky. A better approach is to be thinking in some kind of unified way about the music or the ability to tune into the ‘intention’.”
He says the absence of a conductor while maintaining a state of musical equilibrium is not a typical approach. In essence he has created something which lives and breathes on its own, which is the unique selling point of this particular group. “We try different things, one session involved rotating the job of starting a piece of music by every single player, where each player had to get their heads around the problem of communicating their idea with every other player, in order to get the piece started.”
It’s not all plain sailing of course – there are things that would make life easier, music stands that hold lights comes to mind, so sponsors are welcome too. On that note (no pun intended) they are grateful to their sponsors, Portwest, Nomadic Display and My Sign.ie for their kind support. Monies have gone towards the development of promotional material to help build awareness of the orchestra and promote their summer concert in the Town Hall Theatre on May 21.  A special thanks has to go out to Rosaleen, Paul and all at the Town Hall Theatre for facilitating orchestral rehearsals and for making the orchestra feel so welcome.  
While more sponsors are encouraged, the ensemble is also seeking players who would like to lend support with their musical ability. Perhaps musicians living in the area who would like to get back into playing and meet up with others and take advantage of the social outlet which music making provides. Art students perhaps, who would like share or develop a vision, perhaps a collaborative project involving music for a portfolio, arrangers with an idea of setting text to music, lighting artists who want to step outside the boundaries of what is possible, projectionists with storyboards or ideas for continuity and production, soloists looking for support from other musicians, people with ideas … the list is endless. If you live not too far away from Westport feel, free to get involved – it’s a project that is only getting started.

For tickets to The Octagon Ensemble’s performance on Tuesday evening, May 21, at 8pm, phone 098 28459 or visit www.westporttheatre.com.