Studio Symphony Orchestra

Famous Occasions

200th Anniversary performance of Haydn’s “The Creation”

In the mid 1990s Michael O’Donnell devised a project for the Studio Symphony Orchestra in which it would be linked with some excellent local choirs, thereby enabling them to perform with a full-sized symphony orchestra.  A number of concerts were arranged in leisure centres and churches, bringing classical music into the community and to audiences who might not otherwise experience this type of event.

200th Anniversary performance of Haydn's CreationIn 1996, as a member of Making Music (at that time called the National Federation of Music Societies), the orchestra applied for and was awarded a prestigious BT Innovation Award for the project at a ceremony in London – the first time the award had come to Northern Ireland.   

Michael was keen to expand the project to include choirs from across the border, and to perform some major choral works which would otherwise be beyond their reach. In 1997 this even more ambitious project was awarded a second BT Innovation Award. The financial element of the Award enabled the implementation of the project, and led to the formation of Cross-Border Music Projects.  This in turn led to an application for E.U. Peace and Reconciliation funding administered through Co-operation Ireland, the success of which ensured the core idea of twinning choirs on a cross-border basis was possible.

On the 29th April 1998 in the new Waterfront Hall, Belfast, the Studio Symphony Orchestra and over 200 singers from Armagh City Choir, Belfast Philharmonic, Culwick Choral Society, Dublin, Larne Choral Society and the Setanta Choir, Dundalk collaborated in a performance of The Creation, by Haydn, on the 200th Anniversary of the first performance.  The soloists were soprano Mary Nelson, tenor Eugene O’Hagan, and bass Philip O’Reilly.  This was the orchestra’s Waterfront Hall debut.  Nerves were tingling; we were all a bit awe struck at the scale and presence of this great venue, but the hall was packed, and it was a marvellous and memorable occasion.


Verdi Requiem, Waterfront Hall

The following year (May 1999) Cross-Border Music Projects, managed by Michael O’Donnell, presented Verdi’s Requiem with the orchestra and a large cross-border and cross-community choir in both the Waterfront Hall, Belfast and the National Concert Hall, Dublin.  The Belfast concert was conducted by David Openshaw and the Dublin concert by Colin Block.  The soloists in each concert were soprano Orla Boylan, contralto Deirdre Cooling-Nolan, tenor David Fieldsend, and bass Frank O’Brien.  

During 2000 and 2001 The Twinned Choirs Project, initiated by Cross-Border Music Projects, and funded by Co-operation Ireland, promoted seven major events which included at different times the Studio Symphony Orchestra and fifteen choirs, some 1795 participants.  These included the Messiah in Enniskillen, the Creation in Letterkenny and Cootehill, Co. Cavan, and a massive Choral Jamboree in the Waterfront Hall in 2001.