Eibhlín Gleeson, CEO of Cork Opera House, writes for Culture about the inaugural Cork Proms event, which takes place from June 21st– 23rd as part of this year's Cork Midsummer Festival.
I've always known that Cork audiences have a close and special connection to music. This has been developing over the span of the 164 years that we’ve had an Opera House in our city. Before I even began to work at Cork Opera House, I had heard the stories – Cork was the only city where you had regular Joe Soaps whistling arias as they walked to work; stories of thousands of people greeting famous opera singers at Kent Station and 'escorting’ them along the river to the Opera House.
Cork Opera House has always benefited from a very close relationship with the musicians from this region. Some of the biggest successes in our history has seen local musicians and singers take centre stage. In fact, I would say that its connection to local artists throughout its history is the reason that the Opera House has remained such a key institution in this country’s artistic and cultural landscape and remains successful and relevant to this day.
When I became CEO of Cork Opera House, it was a priority for me to celebrate this special part of Cork’s identity and to provide this generation of audiences and musicians with the opportunity to meet and grow together.
In October 2015, for the first time in the 164-year history of Cork Opera House, we formed our own professional orchestra, the Cork Opera House Concert Orchestra (COHCO). Although our players have very different backstories, some born and bred in Cork, some who have moved here from abroad and made Cork their home, some who have gone away and returned again, there is a tremendous sense of community and pride that some of Irelands most gifted professional musicians can play to packed audiences ‘at home’ on the Opera House stage.
Cork was the only city where you had regular Joe Soaps whistling arias as they walked to work; stories of thousands of people greeting famous opera singers at Kent Station and 'escorting' them along the river to the Opera House.
Working with award-winning composer John O’Brien, the COHCO has developed a strong identity, with impeccable standards at its core. Central to the orchestra’s purpose is a willingness to engage with a diverse programme. To date, our orchestra has shared a stage with some of opera, folk, rock and pop’s brightest stars through festival and concert performances including The Frank and Walters, Jack O’Rourke, Marlene Enright, Anna Mitchell, Ye Vagabonds and Strung. It is exactly this diversity that is at the heart of the inaugural Cork Proms – three nights of orchestral magnificence, open to absolutely everyone.
The three-night programme will be carefully curated by theatre director and music fan, Wayne Jordan and conductors John O Brien and Cathal Synott. It will feature music from Mozart and Vivaldi to Queen, and from the music of Broadway to Bowie. This is an opportunity for any music fan who is not familiar with orchestral music to experience something incredibly special. It’s also a rare treat for our orchestral audiences.
The Cork Proms is about pride in our city and our musicians and world-class programming for our audiences. The series will put our superb orchestra front and centre. It will be a celebration of our orchestra and a celebration of Cork, featuring as part of the Cork Midsummer Programme, already a very special time for our City.
The Cork Proms take place from June 21st– 23rd at the Cork Opera House, as part of this year's Cork Midsummer Festival - find out more here.