The Irish Chamber Orchestra (= ICO) is a world class orchestra, based in Limerick. It is is a highly distinguished ensemble of professional Irish and international string players, committed to excellence in the performance of classical and contemporary music. and renowned for its diversity, energy, its unique sound and outstanding musicianship. The orchestra was founded in Dublin in 1963 by Hungarian-born conductor János Fürst and re-branded in 1970 as the New Irish Chamber Orchestra (= NICO) under Principal Conductor, André Prieur. In 1995 the Irish Chamber Orchestra re-located from Dublin to the University of Limerick and reverted back to its original Irish Chamber Orchestra (= ICO) brand.
The ICO is based at the Irish World Music Centre at the heart of the emerging College of Performing Arts at the University of Limerick (UL) and performs regularly in Limerick, Dublin and Cork as well as regular international tours. This orchestra has built a reputation for the highest level of musical excellence. Having consolidated it reputation as not just Ireland’s premier ensemble, but one of the finest of its kind in the world, word is fast spreading globally. Its success is reflected in its uniquely owned custom built studio, on campus at UL. The orchestra is funded by The Arts Council of Ireland/An Chomhairle Ealaíon.
Under Katherine Hunka‘s leadership, the Irish Chamber Orchestra offers a richly diverse concert season in Limerick and Dublin (September - April) as well as two national tours annually.
The ICO had succession of illustrious Artistic Directors including Fionnuala Hunt, Nicholas Kraemer and Nicholas McGegan, Internationally renowned violinist Anthony Marwood was appointed Artistic Director in January 2006, succeeding Nicholas McGegan. Marwood's tenure includes the artistic directorship of the orchestra's annual MBNA Shannon International Music Festival. The orchestra has already established special links with American soloists as the first two recipients of the Ardán Award, given annually by Artistic Director Anthony Marwood to a young emerging international soloist, have both hailed from the USA.
Following Anthony Marwood's tenure, the orchestra appointed two artistic partners - Hungarian conductor Gábor Tákacs Nagy (Principal Artistic Partner) and clarinettist/composer Jörg Widmann (Principal Conductor/Artistic Partner). With different styles, Gábor Tákacs Nagy closes out his Haydn cycle which visited land-mark chapters in the composer’s life and some of his most influential symphonies. Jörg Widmann continues his personal journey performing all the Felix Mendelssohn symphonies alongside some of his most innovative compositions.
The ICO enjoys fruitful relationships over many years with an array of Irish composers, including Garrett Sholdice, John Kinsella, Linda Buckley, Elaine Agnew, Frank Corcoran, Míchael Ó Súilleabháin, Bill Whelan and exciting young composer Sam Perkin.
The orchestra has worked with some of the world’s finest musicians and soloists both international and national including Alison Balsom, Kristóf Baráti, Jonathan Cohen, Leon Fleisher, James Galway, Stephen Hough, Steven Isserlis, Nigel Kennedy, Gérard Korsten, Pekka Kuusisto, Steve Mackey, Anthony Marwood, Claron McFadden, Michael McHale, Sergeij Nakariakov, Nuria Rial, Ailish Tynan, István Várdai, Maxim Vengerov, Tabea Zimmermann, and Sinéad O'Connor.
The ICO has received plaudits both at home and abroad for sustaining the highest artistic standards. The ICO offers a new and refreshing perspective on the chamber music repertoire through an energetic and unique approach to performance. Activities include a busy concert schedule at both national and international levels; commissioning and performing new work by Irish and international composers; recording classical and contemporary works; organizing the Killaloe International Music Festival and managing a comprehensive schools and community outreach programme. The Festival has attracted musicians of the highest calibre from the USA.
The ICO has toured with success across Europe, Australia, South Korea, China and the USA and demand for the orchestra’s presence on the world stage has been altogether more fruitful, in recent times. International appearances for the ICO with Widmann began in Berlin in 2007 and since then he has been influential in opening doors for the orchestra across Europe. In 2011 the ICO appeared at De Singel, Blue Hall, Antwerp. In 2013, they performed at the prestigious Konzerthaus, Berlin and at the Heidelberg Frühling Festival which has resulted in a three year residency which begun in May 2016. Later in 2013, the orchestra appeared at the Rheinghau and Lichfield Festivals and undertook a USA-tour across 9 states, visiting 13 cities with flautist, Sir James Galway. In 2014, Widmann and the Irish Chamber Orchestra performed at the Storioni Festival, Holland, the Heidelberg Spring International Music Festival and at the Mozartfest, Wurzburg in Germany with Christmas concerts in Bregenz, Austria and Wiesbaden, Germany with Ailish Tynan.
In 2015 the orchestra embarked on a USA 4-Concert tour with Principal Artistic Partner, Gábor Tákacs Nagy and celebrated Hungarian cellist, Istvan Vardai. As well as the Heidelberg Residency in April, the orchestra performed in Cologne in June 2016. The ICO directed by Widmann returned to the Mozartfest, Wurzburg with acclaimed violist, Tabea Zimmermann in June 2016. July of this year saw the orchestra make their Swiss debut in Züurich with Widmann and a highlight in 2017 must be the orchestra’s debut in Vienna’s Konzerthaus. The orchestra perform in London’s Wigmore Hall in 2017, when Widmann will be artist-in-residence.
For many years the Irish Chamber Orchestra only had string players under contract. In 2008 this expanded to include oboes and horns. The orchestra currently has 20 players under contract, but in most concerts the ensemble grows to include extra players - more strings, wind, brass and percussion.
With several recordings, the ICO has reached agreement with the prestigious German international record label, Orfeo, releasing its first CD under their label in 2016,
The Irish Chamber Orchestra has developed a comprehensive community engagement programme which brings live music from the concert hall directly to the community. It offers music as an instrument of social change, introducing children to music, creativity, innovation, understanding and openness, thus helping them to reach their full potential as individuals.
The Irish Chamber Orchestra continues to make waves at home and abroad and looks forward to a bright future ahead. tHE SAT: "We encourage you to support us in whatever way you can. Buy a ticket, a CD, tell a friend about us, make a donation, explore our community work. Continue the story and join us on our journey!"