Northern Ireland

Renowned youth orchestra hoping for White House u-turn, ready to lift the roof at Carnegie Hall

Pupils from Doagh PS at the Peace Proms at the SSE Arena in Belfast. Picture by Sean McMahon/CBOI
Pupils from Doagh PS at the Peace Proms at the SSE Arena in Belfast. Picture by Sean McMahon/CBOI Pupils from Doagh PS at the Peace Proms at the SSE Arena in Belfast. Picture by Sean McMahon/CBOI

MEMBERS of a renowned cross border youth orchestra are hoping for a last minute change of heart that will see them visit the White House and meet President Biden as they end a concert series on a high at Carnegie Hall in New York.

The 140-strong Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland, at the core of a Peace Proms event in Belfast over the weekend, are looking forward to the trip to the US and the St Patrick's Day show.

But a visit to the White House is unlikely, at this stage, said director Sharon Treacy-Dunne, one of the founders of the orchestra.

"We were in communications with the White House for some time, a year and half. We asked them to extend an invitation to the orchestra in the name of of peace and reconciliation," Ms Treacy-Dunne said.

The orchestra was founded in part in Co Louth where President Biden has roots while one of his relatives is one of the musicians, she noted. They even played for him in Carlingford.

A message was delivered back from the White House cannot make it happen this year. But in a last attempt to change minds, footage has been sent to Washington showing the orchestra and the ranks of the linked Children's Peace Choirs asking for an invitation.

They are still looking forward to playing the celebrated Carnegie Hall to end their annual series of concerts by the orchestra founded in 1995 to "promote peace, unity and tolerance on the island of Ireland" just as the process that led to the Good Friday Agreement was gathering pace. The 17 concert series this year, which included Peace Proms across the island involving thousands of primary school children choir singing, marks the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

In New York, the orchestra will be joined by Irish dancers, the award winning 100-strong Fairfield County Children’s Choir from Connecticut and the Pipe Corps from Xavarian High School, Brooklyn.

Over the last six weeks, the full orchestra, aged between 13 and 24, played with the Children’s Peace Choirs, around 35,000 primary aged from almost 700 schools on both sides of the border.

Musicians play pipes, Uilleann and Highland, harp, fiddle and other drums alongside the full orchestra.

The CBOI has performed for President Michael D. Higgins, King Charles III during his visit to Ireland in 2017;the President Obama at the White House in 2016, President Biden in Carlingford in 2016, and for Queen Elizabeth II at Hillsborough Castle in 2014.