At 7pm on St. Patrick’s Day March 17th 2023, two young members from the Scout Bagpipe Band in Waterford will be stepping out onto the stage in Carnegie Hall with 130 young musicians from all over Ireland to perform together as the renowned Cross Border Orchestra of Ireland.  Johnny and Leena Farrell-Doyle began their journey into music while they were in Passage East Primary School in Crooke in Waterford.  Their teacher Annie Glavey had encouraged students to get involved in music and had arranged for a drumming company to come into the school to run a workshop.   “It was great fun and it made me want to learn more about drumming, then I saw the Scout pipe band in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Waterford and we got in contact with Pat Murphy who runs the band, they were taking in new members so we started going to lessons with them, since then we’ve travelled overseas with the band a number of times to perform at Celtic music festivals” Johnny told us.  “When we moved over to Ramsgrange Community School our music teacher there was Ms Howley, she was great and really encouraged us to keep up the drumming, we were even able to use it as our performance piece in our Junior Cert CBA’s so it was great to have that ability” Leena explained.

Johnny and Leena Farrell-Doyle

The Orchestra has just completed their annual ‘Peace Proms’ concert tour across Ireland and Northern Ireland where they played 17 sell-out arena concerts in Dublin, Belfast, Waterford and Limerick.  The Peace Proms consisted of the CBOI musicians and choirs made up of over 35,000 primary school children from over 650 school in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Cross Border Orchestra not only offers young musicians amazing opportunities to perform all around the world but is actively involved in  promoting peace, unity and tolerance in Ireland since its foundation in 1995.

Johnny and Leena had originally taken part In the Peace Proms as part of the primary schools choir when they were in Passage East Primary School but later when they were performing at the Celtic festival in Lorient, France they met world champion Highland Piper Grahame Harris who is the pipe major in the CBOI.  ‘”When we realised it was him I literally chased after him down a road and convinced him to let me audition for a place in the CBOI pipe corp” laughs Johnny, “Even though I knew I was younger than most of the musicians at the time I wasn’t giving up on the chance, anyway luckily Grahame and Brian Hassan from the Colmcille Pipe Band in Derry gave me a trial and some great tuition and the rest is history”.  The following year Leena joined the tour, she told us “Johnny was coming home telling me how great it was, I could see there was a great atmosphere at the concerts and all the CBOI musicians seemed to be really nice and welcoming so I decided to apply as a tenor drummer and I haven’t looked back since, I’ve made some great friends with the Highland Dancers from Northern Ireland who perform with the CBOI and I’m really looking forward to sightseeing around New York and performing at Carnegie Hall with them.  We’re also doing a concert for a high school while we are over there and a performance on top of the Empire State Building, it’s going to be something we’ll never forget”.

Significantly, the St. Patrick’s Day concert will also mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.  The CBOI performs a unique blend of symphonic Celtic music rooted the Irish and Ulster Scots traditions and specifically arranged for CBOI. Instruments from the Irish tradition including Uilleann Pipes, Harp, Fiddle and Bodhrán as well as those from the Ulster Scots tradition including Bagpipes and drums are interwoven with the full symphony orchestra creating a multi-layered musical tapestry which reflects the complex history and rich cultural heritage of Ireland. Their core message of universal peace is always central to their music while also highlighting the outstanding artistic and creative capacity among the young people of Ireland.

Based in Dundalk, Co. Louth, the CBOI is composed of over 130 exceptionally talented young musicians from all over Ireland and Northern Ireland. The performance at Carnegie Hall will showcase these exceptional young musicians while collaborating with talented artists in New York. Under the direction of internationally acclaimed conductor Maestro Greg Beardsell, the Orchestra will be joined by all-Ireland champion Uilleann Piper Conal Duffy; award-winning vocalist and song writer Lauren Murphy; world champion Highland Piper Grahame Harris and the Pipe Corp from Xavarian High School, Brooklyn; Ulster Scots dancers from the Michelle Johnston School of Highland Dance in Belfast; Irish dancers from Rockland County, New York, and multi-award winning 100-strong Fairfield County Children’s Choir from Connecticut.

“We never would have got the opportunities we’ve had if we hadn’t joined the Scout Pipe Band and had the support and encouragement from so many people we have met along the way so I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning the bagpipes or the drums” said Leena.  “I’d also like to say a big thank you to Sharon Treacy-Dunne who runs the CBOI, she started all this up herself a long time ago and has put a lot of work into building it into something amazing for all the young people who get to take part in it”.

Last year the CBOI has had the honour of performing for President Michael D. Higgins and has often represented the Government of Ireland for national and international celebrations including the launch of the Ireland 1916 Commemorations in Dublin; the 400th anniversary of the Flights of the Earls in Rome; and the World Trade Expo in Shanghai where they won the award for ‘Most Outstanding International Performance’. CBOI ensembles have performed for King Charles III during his visit to Ireland in 2017; President Obama at the White House in 2016, President Biden in Carlingford in 2016, and for the last Queen Elizabeth II at Hillsborough Castle in 2014.

Celebrate with the CBOI on March 17th, Carnegie Hall, New York!