RTE Television


Instrumental follows the highs and lows of of Brent Pope, Manuela Spinelli and John Murray when they partner with members of the public on an exciting musical challenge!

Have you ever wished you could play a musical instrument? Did you learn an instrument as a kid and regret giving it up? This brand new six part series proves it's never too late to pick up an instrument - especially if the end goal is to play live on stage with the RTE Concert Orchestra.

Instrumental follows Brent Pope, Maeve Higgins and John Murray and three members of the public as they set off on a journey to learn a musical instrument from scratch. Over a course of escalating challenges and public performances each week, their journey culminates on stage at the National Concert Hall as they play a solo with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.

Each student is mentored by principle conductor David Brophy and member of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. David wants to inspire the nation with the passion of music, so that it can enrich their lives, as it has his own. The series illustrates the hard work, passion, dedication and fun in learning to master an instrument.

Instrumental seeks to stimulate the nation to pick up and play a music instrument.

Over the course of the series the 'instrumentalists' are tutored by members of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra on the Piano, Cello and Clarinet. Members of the public can join the journey by logging onto www.rte.ie/tv/instrumental where specially produced web music classes are hosted by the RTÉ Concert Orchestra instrumental tutors.

Meet the Instrumentalists:


Brent Pope - 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 to play the clarinet along with Greg Clifford, and the pair is being tutored by Michael Seaver and Jean Duncan from the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.

Brent admits this is the toughest challenge he's ever faced. He doesn't think he has any musical ability at all. Brent feels that it's one thing to pick up a hurley or grab a surfboard and learn how to use them, but playing a clarinet is an entirely different story. There's so much to learn about breathing techniques before even attempting to make a sound. And then on top of that there's the business of learning how to read music which Brent likens to learning Morse code!

John Murray - piano

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

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 Byrne, under the guidance of Brian Connor from the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.

Maeve Higgins - Cello

Maeve Higgins is a comedian most well known for her appearance in RTÉ's hidden camera show Naked Camera. She has written and performed various shows for festivals including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Melbourne International Festival, the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the Kilkenny Comedy Festival, and the New Zealand International Festival. Maeve also made her own cookery comedy series for RTE with her sister Lilly called 'Fancy Vittles'. She has recently started work on her first book of personal and funny essays.

Maeve started learning the cello with Jennifer O'Mahony under the guidance of Yue Tang from the RTE Concert Orchestra. Although a difficult instrument to master she wants to give it her all.

From the public auditions:

Greg Clifford:

Greg Clifford (24) is a musician. He lives with his family in Inchicore, Dublin. Greg teaches guitar at the Lucan School Of Music and also teaches music to Junior and Leaving Cert students. Although with Brent Pope, Greg is a musician he has never played the clarinet so this will be a 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:

Kathleen Byrne is a 50-year-old from Athy, Kildare. She is married and has two children. Along with John Murray, Kathleen is learning the piano under the guidance of Brian Connor from the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.

Kathleen's husband Nick is a Telecommunications Rigger and had 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. Learning to play the piano has given Kathleen the opportunity to fill a gap in her life.

Jennifer O'Mahony:

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 wanted 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."

Instrumental - Tutor Biographies

Get on the Instrumental Journey: Over the course of the series the six instrumentalists are tutored by members of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra on the piano, cello and clarinet. Members of the public can join the journey by logging onto www.rte.ie/tv/instrumental where specially produced web music classes are hosted by the instrumental tutors.

Brian Connor - Piano Tutor- Belfast

Brian is excited to be tutoring John Murray and Kathleen Byrne on the piano.

Brian Connor performs frequently on piano/celeste with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra. He studied piano and composition at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin. For four years he was the Musical Director of 'Riverdance' for it's UK and USA touring productions. Other credits include Celtic Woman, the Abbey Theatre's 'The Shaughran' and 'Abbey 100', and he was Associate Musical Director of 'The Pirate Queen' musical in Chicago and Broadway. He has worked with many singer/songwriters including Freddie White, Brian Kennedy, Van Morrison, Mary Coughlan, Dolores Keane, Christie Hennessy, and Eleanor McEvoy.

Michael Seaver - Dublin

Michael, along with Jean Duncan, is teaching the clarinet to Greg Clifford and Brent Pope. Principal clarinettist with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, and co-founder of the Crash Ensemble and a member of the Haenjo Trio, Michael has performed concertos - from Mozart to Artie Shaw - and has given solo recitals throughout Ireland, specialising in contemporary music. He holds an MA in Music and as a composer he wrote over twenty scores for dance companies in Ireland and Mexico, after which he concentrated on writing about dance. He has also composed for theatre, including the Abbey Theatre, and is the dance critic with The Irish Times.

Jean Duncan - Dublin

Jean, along with Michael Seaver, is teaching the clarinet to Greg Clifford and Brent Pope. Jean was born in Ireland but moved to England when she was six-years-old. She studied the clarinet and piano and completed a degree in the Royal Academy of Music in London. She spent a year freelancing in clarinet before joining the RTÉ Concert Orchestra of which she is a longstanding member. She also takes part in various choral societies.

Yue Tang - Bej/ Dublin

Yue is teaching Jennifer Mahoney and Maeve Higgins how to play the cello. Yue is the sub-principal cellist of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and the conductor of the Royal Irish Academy of Music Junior Strings. He hails from Beijing and studied the cello at the prestigious Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. During his year at the school, he performed in recitals and chamber concerts in all the major concert halls of Beijing, and has appeared on China Central Radio and CCTV. Now he performs regular recitals in Dublin.

Instrumental is produced by Adare Productions for RTÉ with the support of the BAI sound and vision fund.

  • RTÉ One, Thursdsay, 7.00pm