Meet our Instrumentalists

Brent Pope -Rugby Pundit - Clarinet

Brent Pope is a New Zealand born rugby analyst for RTÉ Sport. Brent is well known for being a sports man, but has never played a musical instrument. Brent is learning how to play the clarinet along with Greg Clifford, and the pair are being taught by Michael Seavers and Jean Duncan from the RTÉ Concert Orchestra

In 2010 Brent became interested in Habitat for Humanity's work, and decided to set up the Brent Pope Rugby Legends Foundation in partnership with them. Since then Brent has helped to build houses for impoverished families in Zambia with the help of former Irish rugby players and volunteers from the sports-loving public. He also set up 'Outside In', an art gallery and exhibition space established to give a voice to artists who have experienced adversity and exclusion in their lives. Brent is also an author having published his fourth children's book Arnold the Anteater in 2009, the proceeds of which went to Children's Hospice Homecare.

Brent grew up in a very sporty household so there was no time for being artistic or musical in any way. He regrets that he never learnt how to play an instrument, and envies people who can play the guitar or have a musical party piece of some sort. However he has always been one for trying new things so jumped at the chance to take part. Ultimately Brent would love to be able to play a tune on his clarinet at a barbeque!

As for Brent's musical tastes, he truly appreciates all types of music from the Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra and Barry Manilow to Metallica and The Prodigy.

John Murray - Radio Broadcaster

John Murray is an Irish journalist and broadcaster. He has been presenting The John Murray Show on RTÉ Radio 1 on weekday mornings from 9-10am. The show focuses on lifestyle and entertainment items, with a strong emphasis on human-interest stories. The show is also home to 'Instrumental' where listeners can follow his musical journey from the first casting days to the final performance at the National Concert Hall.

After studying Journalism in Rathmines, John went on to become a journalist for The Cork Examiner. He also worked in politics as Press Advisor to Mary Harney and as Department Government Press Secretary. He went on to become a reporter on Morning Ireland and presented The Business. In 2007, John won the award for Business Broadcast in the first ever UCD Smurfit School Business Journalist Awards.

John grew up with a piano in the house but never played it as he was too busy playing football! So he has never played a musical instrument and as he really regrets this he thought taking part in Instrumental would be the opportunity of a lifetime. John is learning to play the piano alongside Kathleen, under the guidance of Brian Connor from the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.

As for John's personal taste in music he likes an eclectic mix of pop and alternative, acts such as Talking Heads, Prefab Sprout and Kings Of Leon. He always makes an effort to promote new Irish music on the radio show. John hopes that Instrumental will encourage viewers to pick up an instrument and appreciate the importance of music.

Manuela Spinelli – Interpreter - Cello

Manuela Spinelli from Northern Italy is the official Interpreter of Giovanni Trapattoni, and is a familiar sight alongside him during most interviews. She first came to Ireland in 1993 to study languages in UCD before completing a Master's degree in Linguistics in Trinity College. After Trinity she became a freelance interpreter fluent in English, French and Italian. Her first job as an interpreter was working for the European Rugby Cup, who are the organising body of the Heineken Cup and the European Challenge Cup. The organisation is based in Dublin and she still works for them today because there's always a representative or two from Italy who needs an interpreter.

Manuela played the recorder for a few years when she was a child, but it was very basic and she was too busy training in judo for several hours a day to focus on anything else. Manuela's chosen instrument is the cello alongside Jennifer and the pair are being tutored by Yue Tang from the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. Manuela loves a challenge and feels this will be a huge one as she confesses "I didn't know what a G string was!!"

Manuela is very excited about the prospect of learning how to play an instrument as she's never had the chance before. Many of her friends play instruments and she feels that Ireland is such a musical country that this is a great opportunity to be part of that aspect to Irish culture. Trapattoni also encouraged her to take part as he loves classical music. Manuela's own taste in music is quite diverse as she listens to everything from rap to rock – "anything but techno!" In particular she likes Eminem, Damien Rice and Florence And The Machine.

Greg Clifford – Rockstar To Classical Star! - Clarinet

Greg Clifford (24) is a musician and music teacher. He lives with his family in Inchicore, Dublin. Greg teaches guitar and theory at the Lucan School Of Music and also teaches music to Junior and Leaving Cert students. Greg has played gigs in venues around Ireland such as The Mercantile, Sweeneys and Whelans.

He studied music in Maynooth for three years before completing a Masters in contemporary composition. He has played the guitar since he was 9 years old, completed all recorder grades, and taught himself piano.

Greg has a very broad taste in music. His favourite genre is rock, and would be inspired by the likes of Pink Floyd, Rory Gallagher, Nick Cave and The Beatles. He finds the music of Brian Eno very moving. He is also interested in blues, jazz and electro acoustic music.

Greg wants to be part of the show so he can expand musically by learning a new instrument. "It would give me the push to take on a new skill. The sound of an orchestra sends shivers down the spine of any music enthusiast, so to be part of it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity"

Along with Brent Pope, Greg is been taught how to play the clarinet by Michael Seavers and Jean Duncan from the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. Although Greg is a musician he has never played the clarinet so this will be a totally new experience for him. "The clarinet appeals to me but reading a score may prove difficult. But I do love a challenge. My old recorder teacher always hoped I'd go on and play a more advanced woodwind instrument."

Kathleen Byrne – 'BACH' To Basics! - Piano

Kathleen Byrne is a 50 year old from Athy, Kildare. She is married to Nick, and is the mother of two – son Kenny is 28 and lives in Cork, and daughter 21 year old Nicola lives at home. Kathleen has two dogs, Pippa and Lottie, and also a goat, some sheep and a few chickens! Along with John Murray, Kathleen is learning the piano under the guidance of Brian Connor from the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.

Although her daughter can play the keyboard and her son plays banjo, Kathleen has never played a musical instrument properly – although she can just about manage chopsticks on the piano! She has always wanted to learn how to play an instrument since she was a child but her Dad never had enough money to pay for music lessons when she was growing up. She would love to feel what it's like to stand in front of an audience and perform.

When Kathleen heard David Brophy from the RTÉ Concert Orchestra talking about Instrumental to John Murray on the radio she felt compelled to apply for the show as she thought David sounded so passionate. She is also inspired by the contestants on her favourite TV shows 'Dancing On Ice' and 'Strictly Come Dancing', as they start out as complete beginners but progress every week and by the end they have transformed and really achieved something.

Kathleen's husband Nick is a Telecommunications Rigger and has been out of work for some time, so when a job opportunity in Australia came up last April he had to take it. Kathleen is finding it very hard to cope without him, but they regularly Skype each other to stay in touch. Kathleen has been very sick in the last few years and in hospital a lot, so from a medical point of view sadly she can't join Nick in Australia. Learning to play the piano has given Kathleen a new lease of life.

Her favourite classical piece is Beethoven's Fur Elise "I just could fly to the stars listening to it, it's so beautiful",and she would love to perform Beethoven's Moonlight. Kathleen loves all types of music and says "I smile all the time when I listen to music, it takes me to different places – I can go all over the world without leaving my own home."

Jennifer O'Mahony – The Cork Woman With The Ultrasound! - Cello

Jennifer O'Mahony is a 35 year old mum from Glenville, Cork. With two little boys Sam and Andrew and a baby on the way in September, Jennifer has her hands full. She is married to Paul and works as a Diabetic Nurse at Cork University Hospital. Yue Tang from the RTÉ Concert Orchestra is teaching the cello to Jennifer, along with Maeve Higgins.

Jennifer's father taught her guitar and she also had piano lessons but never progressed very far. She loves the piano and often sits at it and tries to play tunes by ear, but is frustrated that she's not able to.

She loves all kinds of music from contemporary acts like Coldplay and Adele to Andre Bocelli. She enjoys listening to Lyric FM at home and in the car. Her father is in a group that plays the songs of Christy Moore, Mary Black and The Dubliners and Jennifer has joined in with them on the odd session.

Jennifer wants to be part of this show because she feels that her life would be more fulfilled if she had music in it. It is a big regret that she started piano lessons a year before her first son was born but never continued with it. "I know looking back I should have continued music and pushed myself to go back even after my little boys and didn't. It's something I think about every day."

It would be Jennifer's lifelong dream to become a musician and she feels it would be an honour to play with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, "To get a glimpse of the wealth of knowledge and talent of the musicians would be outstanding"

Jennifer has always adored Pachelbel's Canon and also the music from Dances With Wolves. She would love to perform an Adele track or Andre Bocelli's 'The Prayer'.