The Octagon Ensemble, Westport’s string orchestra, under the direction of Patrick Early, is set to return to Westport Town Hall Theatre on Tuesday, December 17, for its much-anticipated annual Christmas concert. This year’s concert promises more wonderful music, including Mozart’s ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’, Corelli’s ‘Pastorale’ from the Christmas Concerto and the popular Fields/Coleman ‘Big Spender’.
The orchestra will be joined again on this occasion by Joanne Keegan, Des Cafferky, Julia Dickson and the Mayo School of Ballet, under the direction of Sarah Callaghan Thornton.
The Octagon Ensemble grew out of a project that began in 2011 – a whole-school approach to primary-school music literacy and string playing. It was set up to cater for children who learned to play at primary school, so that they could continue to play together at second level, alongside mature amateurs who live and work in the area.
Espousing a bottom-up approach to bridging the participation gap, coaching for The Young Westport Strings (primary), The Westport Youth Orchestra (intermediate) and the Octagon Ensemble (mature students) takes place once weekly at Westport Town Hall Theatre.
The ensemble has become social outlet for those with musical aspirations, facilitating participation in a group 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, such as guitar and saxophone.
Join the ensemble
The Octagon Ensemble is currently 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 that music making provides. Art students, perhaps, who would like share or develop a vision, perhaps a collaborative project involving music for a portfolio; or 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; the project is continuously evolving.
Pat Early’s hope is that the orchestra becomes a ‘wanted’ phenomena, and that a crop of new musicians and artists will continue to grow and evolve. He is determined to encourage children to play both as ‘storyteller’, where they can invent, and ‘newsreader’, where they can recreate accurately. Once the skills needed to do both are acquired, the children can get on with their own musical journey, he feels.
Tickets for the Octagon Ensemble’s popular Christmas concert (€10/€8 each, or €30 for a family of four) are on sale from at the Westport Town Hall box office on 098 28459 and from the venue’s website, www.westporttheatre.com.