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The Vision Symphony
‘A unique event, a world first’ – the concert featured visually impaired (VI) and blind musicians in collaboration with Dave Flynn’s Irish Memory Orchestra (IMO). The musicians, mentored by members of the Irish Memory Orchestra (IMO), joined the IMO for the symphony having studied the music through a number of online platforms developed by 3L Music for VI and blind Musicians.
The VI and blind musicians performed newly composed music by Dave Flynn, commissioned by Clare Arts Office, using the online audio platforms and Braille music sheets as musical aids.The orchestra were joined during the performance by the Visionaries Choir, led by Frank Kelly. The choir is for people from 16 years of age upwards, who are blind or visually impaired. Frank, himself visually impaired, has over 40 years’ experience with directing and organising choirs.
Conducted by Bjorn Bantock, performers included concertina player Jack Talty, piper Mark Redmond, harpist Anne-Marie O’Farrell and guitarist Niwel Tsumbu. VI musicians included Frank Kelly, Rebecca Kelly and Amy Campbell. This ground-breaking event was held in glór, Ennis, Co.Clare on Saturday, October 26th, 2019.
The concert was held in collaboration with Dave Flynn’s IMO, Clare Arts Office, NCBI and 3L Music.
Blind and VI musicians are usually excluded from orchestral performances because orchestras generally require their musicians to sight-read sheet music and follow a conductor’s visual cues. Dave Flynn’s Irish Memory Orchestra have developed a novel approach which overcomes this barrier. They always perform by memory!
In 2013 Dave Flynn devised “The Clare Concerto” for the IMO’s first Apprentice training Scheme with Clare Arts Office. During this process applications were received by two visually impaired musicians, who were excited by the idea of an orchestra that performed without sheet music. This led Dave Flynn to imagine a new orchestral project tailored especially to blind and VI musicians. In 2017 Flynn approached the Arts Office of Clare County Council with his new vision and so the seeds for The Vision Symphony were sown.
In 2018 the Arts Office of Clare County Council, received Arts Council ‘Invitation to Collaboration’ Research & Development funding to research and test the potential for supporting VI musicians to learn orchestral material using multimedia platforms (voice and audio files). The Arts Office partnered with Dave Flynn’s Irish Memory Orchestra and 3L in supporting six musicians with various levels of (VI) visual impairments to participate in the research using the IMO’s memorisation techniques.
The research phase demonstrated that each musician had an individual way of learning according to their type of VI and demonstrated that a multimedia approach was necessary to provide a variety of options for musicians to learn music online (e.g. text, audio and Braille formats).
On foot of this research, Clare Arts Office secured project realisation funding in 2018, again through the Arts Council’s ‘Invitation to Collaboration’ scheme. This enabled the Arts Office to put the findings of the research of the IMO and 3L into practice. The Arts Office commissioned Dave Flynn to compose a Symphony – The Vision Symphony – to be performed by the IMO, joined by VI musicians and singers from the vision choir.
It is envisaged that the project will help to create professional equal opportunities and mentoring support for local and national musicians and singers with visual impairments to perform with a full orchestra while the website will continue to act as an evolving active resource for learning.
The programme featured the World Premiere of Dave Flynn’s 2nd Symphony, The Clare Symphony, a symphonic version of some of the highlights of The Clare Concerto, followed by the premiere of his 3rd Symphony, The Vision Symphony. Composer, Dave Flynn, gave each movement of the new symphony subtitles to reflect dedications to blind musicians from County Clare.