Cork Youth Orchestra: 50 years in the making…

Our Story

Cork Youth Orchestra, established in April 1958 by the Cork Soroptimist Club, was first conducted by Mr. Michael O’Callaghan M.A., B.Mus. The orchestra's first public concert took place at the Aula Maxima, University College, Cork, in January 1959, in the presence of the Lady Mayor and Mr. Jack Lynch, the then Minister for Education, who subsequently became Taoiseach. Both the Lady Mayor and Jack Lynch were patrons of the orchestra.


In 1964, CYO played at the opening of the International Women’s Congress in the RDS, Dublin, in the presence of President Eamon De Valera. In 1979 the Orchestra performed in Cork City Hall, and at the opening of the Cork International Choral and Folk Dance Festival.

From the outset, CYO rehearsals were held every Saturday night, as continues to be the case today, 50 years later. In the early days, a week of “intensive practice and rehearsals” used to take place at Gormanston College, Co. Meath. A statement from our 1998 concert programme still holds true today – “Based on solid foundations, Cork Youth Orchestra looks with confidence to a future in which it will strive to maintain its valuable contribution to the cultural life of Cork. The People of Cork will surely respond to, and support, the efforts of our dedicated young people” “Mol an óige…”.

A great tradition

Founded in 1958, CYO has had three conductors in its history: Michael O'Callaghan, Conor O'Ceallacháin and Tomás Mc Carthy. The CYO undertook their first tour to Wales in 1998 with musical director/conductor Conor O'Ceallacháin. When Conor retired in 1998, Tomás McCarthy was appointed to the position of musical director/conductor.
Under Tomás, the orchestra has adapted to suit the ever increasing and varied performance opportunities that have presented themselves. In 2002, CYO were invited to perform at the European Festival of Youth Orchestras in Florence, Italy, where they featured Shaun Davey’s ‘The Brendan Voyage’, with soloist Flaithrí Neff (Uilleann Pipes). CYO has worked on a wide variety of projects which have included performances in major concert halls, live R.T.E. radio broadcasts, recordings and benefit concerts. These projects have provided an opportunity for CYO to present wide-ranging programmes and repertoires.
James Galway Poster
"To Tomás, thank you for a most enjoyable and memorable concert in Cork. I hope to play for you again and to cement my ties with your orchestra and the people of Cork."
James Galway, 2nd December 2005.


The Orchestra has had the pleasure of working with some of Ireland’s finest soloists over many years. CYO toured the Czech Republic in 2004 with soloist Mark O’Keeffe (principal trumpet with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra) who performed the Arutjunjan Trumpet Concerto. In 2005 the Orchestra worked and performed with the members the Ulster Orchestra under principal guest conductor, Takuo Yuasa, in City Hall, Cork. The Orchestra’s most ambitious project to date afforded them the rare opportunity to invite Sir James Galway to Cork as their guest soloist on December 1st 2005 as part of the closing sequence of Cork 2005.

Charitable projects

CYO has been an active participant in, and supporter of, special needs projects. Beneficiaries of their successful benefit concerts include the Lavanagh Centre (Enable Ireland), St. Vincent de Paul, the Special Olympics Fund, Friends of Chernobyl Children, youth facilities in Bandon, Marymount Hospice and most recently, Cystic Fibrosis Ireland, as well as Deerpark C.B.S. where the orchestra holds its weekly rehearsals.

The CYO has engaged actively with the community and has raised considerable sums for deserving causes in recent years.
© Cork Youth Orchestras CLG. 2024
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