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City of Belfast Youth Orchestra

Former Member Profile No. 15 Mark McCloskey French Horn 2004-07

Every few weeks we will be profiling a former member of CBYO and catching up with what they have been doing since leaving the orchestra. We aim to start with recent members and work back through the last 61 yearss !

Profile No.15 Mark McCloskey - French Horn 2004-2007

My name is Mark McCloskey and I played French Horn in the City of Belfast Youth Orchestra from 2004-2007. My time with the orchestra took me from Belfast to the USA, to Spain, and to the hallowed stage of the Royal Albert Hall, to name but a few highlights. Since leaving the orchestra, I have been glad to maintain close links, returning as a member of staff on tours to Italy, Slovenia and France, and on three further visits to the Royal Albert Hall. (“Let go” I hear you say? Never…)

It is difficult to name a singular highlight from these cherished memories. The first tour is always a special one: as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed 16-year old, I was dazzled by the opportunity to play at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. As an older (certainly not wiser) 18-year old, I was privileged to lead my section on the tour of Spain, a personal highlight of which was the opportunity to perform a movement from a solo concerto in Valencia.

Similarly, I have very fond memories of the tours on which I acted in a staff capacity: the thrill of watching the open-air opera in Verona, performing in the renowned Ravello Festival. By the end of the most recent Italy tour, I realised that every tour has its spine-tingling moment: the second movement of Dvorak 9 in Spain; the third movement of Brahms 4 in Italy; *that* flute and harp moment from the third movement of Shostakovich 5 in France, etc. Those are the moments that I remember the most clearly. Aside from the wonderful musical opportunities, even more important are the friendships that I forged (or forced) during my time with the orchestra, many of which have withstood the test of time. Not a Christmas goes by without some kind of reunion over (several) drinks and I am also lucky to be able to catch up regularly with those of my former orchestral colleagues who live in London.

If that were not proof enough, I have just returned from a wedding in France (of former CBYO leader Michael Trainor) where the craic was had and old memories relived with a formidable cast of CBYO alumni.

The CBYO would be nothing without its dedicated staff team. The indefatigable Robert Briscoe keeps the group running like clockwork on a weekly basis and does a tremendous job of (single-handedly) organising the unfailingly successful international tours, alongside his numerous other work commitments. Thank you, Robert, for the chance to travel to so many incredible destinations.

Paul McBride is an inspirational musician and teacher who is always conducting! At times fearsome, but always kind-hearted, he generously gives of his limited time to lead the orchestra and maintain its rigorously high standards which audiences worldwide have grown accustomed to – I know of no other local youth orchestra that could hold a candle to the maturity and depth of repertoire and sound that the CBYO consistently produces, which is a testament to Paul’s brilliance and devotion.

Finally, the CBYO’s sectional staff, most of them members of the Ulster Orchestra, bring the voice of orchestral experience to bear, working tirelessly to prepare the players for their many performance engagements.

I now work as a lawyer in London, though I have by no means left music behind. I was thrilled to take part in the CBYO’s 60th Anniversary celebrations as part of the alumni orchestra recently. I also sing a lot and play in concerts, both here in London and at home in Belfast. Going through the legal graduate recruitment process, I was struck by how interviewers would highlight my orchestral credentials as a point of interest, telling me that it indicated creativity, flexibility, time management skills, etc.

All of this is to say that your time with the CBYO will prepare you for the future in many more ways than you can currently envisage. So take in all that wisdom, harness it and put it to its optimum use, but most of all, make friends and enjoy the ride!

Posted by robert.briscoe on the Thursday, 09 June 2016