Students may no longer be the loudest source of noise on the University of Limerick campus as the Irish Chamber Orchestra (ICO) settles into its new state-of-the-art office studio in the student resident village of Cappavilla. The new 900 square foot building, officially opened November 17th by Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism Martin Cullen, comes as the rewarding end result of a five-year, €3.5 million project.
The building, located on the college’s north campus, was designed by Project Architects and acoustic specialists AWN Consulting. It consists of a rehearsal room, musician’s common room, instrument storage room and an administrative office. The rehearsal room, although not designed for performances, is able to hold up to 180-200 people comfortably along with the orchestra. Already the ICO is playing with the idea of using the space for experimental contemporary pieces. Spacious administrative offices located on the upper level are a big plus for the orchestra as never before has the ICO experienced the organizational flow of being under the same roof as its administrative staff.
The ICO has been the permanent orchestra-in-residence at UL since it moved there from Dublin in 1995. As the university developed over the past thirteen years, the demand for space grew significantly.
It was during this period that the ICO had to become more innovative in its use of rehearsal space. The orchestra moved from location to location until each became overcrowded or simply too far away.
John Kelly, chief executive of the ICO explains, “At first we rehearsed in the Bourn Vincent Gallery. But it was being developed as an art gallery, and as more exhibitions were hung it became less and less possible for us to rehearse there. We also shared space with the Irish world academy of music and dance, but as their programmes grew it became more difficult to access that space, too.” Mr Kelly said the need for the ICO to establish a more permanent home within UL quickly became evident. “When we found ourselves having to rehearse off-campus in Killaloe, I realised that we were going to have to build our own space”.
When Mr Kelly initially spoke with UL’s vice president for physical development, John O’Connor, the prospects of a new building looked bleak. However the ICO and UL held on to their vision and subsequently received an influx of private donations as well as both state and local government funding. Mr Kelly says the site of the new ICO building is very generous and boasts top-class facilities, “I don’t know of any chamber orchestra that owns its own studio and office complex”. The ICO were fortunate in being allocated this site as the fixtures were already in place for student accommodation, making the site ready for development. “We were, in effect, given a fully serviced site”, praised Mr Kelly.
The ICO, a renowned competitor on the international stage finally has a suitable home to reflect its status. It is expected that the role played by the orchestra within the community of Limerick will continue and even expand through the use of outreach programmes. Mr Kelly concludes, “It was a good deal for the ICO. It was a good deal for UL”.