Notes From A Northern Irish Childhood


2015060420151229 (R4)Amidst the violence and bloody conflict of the early 1970s, youth orchestras sprang up across Northern Ireland.

Aged 7, Marie-Louise Muir took a bus to orchestra practice every Saturday morning, carrying her cello across a landscape marred by bomb blasts, riots and civil unrest. While the violence raged, she met children from other religious backgrounds for the first time. She formed friendships - and a love of music - that would endure long after the sound of gunfire had faded.

But life moved on for Marie-Louise. Her cello was set aside in her attic where it languished for 25 years. Even her own children never heard her play.

Now Marie-Louise dusts down her cello and allows it to reverberate with memories of a troubled but life-changing period.

She joins young musicians on stage for a grand concert in her home town of Londonderry, a city once gripped by some of the worst violence of the Troubles. In between lessons with her cello teacher David, struggling to play John Williams' classics, Marie-Louise meets old friends and tutors to discover the true impact of music on their lives. In Omagh, she revisits the school assembly hall where they used to practice with Mary Scully, now one of the world's top double bass players. Paul Cassidy, of the world famous Brodsky Quartet, recalls carrying his violin through riots in Derry and the impact of hearing Grieg's piano concerto for the very first time. John, Frank and Gordon came from different religious backgrounds but found a shared love of music amid hormones and sneaky cigarettes on the bus to orchestra practice.

For Marie-Louise Muir, this is a personal and emotionally charged journey, taking her back to a time when her cello, the orchestra and music provided protection, friendship and hope.