Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, visitors from the Emerald Isle will descend on River Forest this weekend to ring in the holiday with a festive nod to Irish arts and culture.
One of Ireland’s native sons, actor Gabriel Byrne, will make an appearance during the intermission of Dominican University’s Annual Trustee Benefit Concert on Saturday, March 12, starting at 5 p.m., to accept the university’s Bravo Award for his contribution to the arts. Byrne, 60, a stage and film star, has appeared in over 35 films, as well as directing, producing and writing. He has been named Irish cultural ambassador for an American tour designed to showcase Irish culture abroad. The Dominican appearance represents one of the three Chicago stops on this leg of the “Imagine Ireland” tour.
Highlighting the program will be a musical performance by Camerata Ireland, a 40-piece Irish orchestra founded by artistic director Barry Douglas in the late 1990s.
“They’re committed to their music and their very enthusiastic onstage,” said Douglas of the lively group of instrumentalists. “Sometimes classical music can seem or even be a little bit too boring or stuffy,” he said. Not so with Camerata Ireland. “You’ll see they’re actually having fun.”
The performers have good reason to be enthusiastic. When Douglas founded the orchestra, he did so to respond to a lack of musical career opportunities available for Irish musicians in their native land. “Too often young Irish musicians would go elsewhere to study, and then they didn’t have a chance to come back to their own country,” he said. “I wanted them to feel that they had a home.”
From their home to ours, they’ll bring with them on Saturday several pieces by Mozart and famed 19th century Irish composer John Field. Dublin-based soprano Celine Byrne (no relation to the actor) will sing along with three Irish songs.
“This is a once in a lifetime event,” said Leo Latz, a longtime River Forest resident and one of the benefit chairs. “An international symphony orchestra is basically going to be playing in our neighborhood.”