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Le Cheile project


Sweet harmony: First national youth orchestra for disabled musicians announced

The new Open Youth Orchestra of Ireland is set to be the very first of its kind in Europe.

Another string to Ireland’s musical bow, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Joespha Madigan T.D. today announced the foundation of the first national youth orchestra for disabled musicians in Ireland.

A collaborative, inclusive and exciting step for the country’s musical youth, the orchestra will be developed through the Royal Irish Academy of Music’s (RIAM) Le Chéile project – just one of 30 initiatives supported by the Creative Ireland Programme under its National Creativity Fund. Le Chéile will develop musical ensembles for young disabled musicians in every province in Ireland, culminating in the foundation of the Open Youth Orchestra of Ireland (OYOI) – the very first of its kind in Europe.

These ensembles will see talented disabled and guest non-disabled artists brought together in groups, comprising 8-12 participants each. Between now and September 2019, they will regularly meet to improvise and compose together, developing a special shared musical experience.

Third Level Partnerships

Third level institutes in each province are on board for this celebration of inclusivity in music performance education too. All leaders in diversity and equality, they will partner to develop four unique ensembles. Ulster University (UU), the Royal Irish Academy of Music (RIAM) and Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) will welcome participants from Ulster, Leinster and Connacht respectively; while the Cork School of Music (CIT) will host the Munster ensemble with support from disability rights group, the Cope Foundation.

AIT will later become home to a residential programme that will see all four groups join musical forces ahead of the OYOI’s much-anticipated debut performance in September 2019. A flagship Creative Ireland initiative, the OYOI will be an orchestra drawn from members of the four provincial Le Chéile groups and will be the island’s first disabled-led national youth orchestra.

Musical Freedom

With ownership and choice at the very heart of Le Chéile, its young participants will be free to perform using conventional instruments or Adaptive Music Technology (AMT). The use of technology like iPads and motion sensors allows physically and intellectually challenged musicians to compose, improvise and perform music on a level never thought possible before. The four ensembles will also utilise a groundbreaking methodology for directing musical performance for disabled artists called ‘Conductology’. Developed by Dr. Denise White of Ulster University, it relies on the use of 18 specific gestures agreed upon by the musicians. This innovative, specialised body language will be used by the conductors to facilitate performance and improvisation in all four ensembles – the first of its kind in the world.

The work of Le Chéile will also go beyond the ensembles and orchestra by developing a national framework for bringing musical composition and performance to our young disabled artists. The project will allow for the professional development of teachers and musicians across Ireland and will create a handbook and resource hub to support facilitators in sustaining inclusive ensembles across the island.

A remarkable step in embracing equality, celebrating difference and acknowledging ability at every level, Le Chéile’s is a tune we can all get behind.

Any individuals or organisations interested in supporting Le Chéile can register their interest by contacting

Read more about the 30 National Creativity Fund projects here

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