Trinity is home to an impressive and diverse array of societies, each of which makes a unique contribution to college life. Few, however, can boast as impressive of a résumé as the Trinity Symphony Orchestra. As Ireland’s only student-run orchestra, Trinity Orchestra is, of course, well established within the confines of Trinity. However, the group have also demonstrated their talent in a variety of forums outside of the College’s boundaries. Trinity Orchestra have been frequenting the Irish festival route for several years now with appearances at Electric Picnic, Metropolis and, of course, Trinity Ball, as well representing Trinity on an international stage, in the likes of Budapest and Prague.
Already known for their interpretations of contemporary music, including the likes of Daft Punk, The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Sufjan Stevens, the orchestra have displayed their innovation and desire to honour more than just the classical side of music, commonly associated with orchestral arrangements. This year, however, the orchestra have been diligently at work creating a medley of the music of the late, great David Bowie and have taken a fresh and rousing approach to the project.
Leaving a monumental catalogue behind him, Bowie passed away in early 2016. Speaking to The University Times, Auditor of Trinity Orchestra for the 2016/17 year, Matthew Caulfield, posits this catalogue as the somewhat sombre inspiration for the project: “He was on everyone’s mind after he passed away. As someone embedded in popular culture, we wanted to pay homage to a musical superstar and all-time great.” The medley itself features a chronology of some of Bowie’s most cherished hits, including “Ziggy Stardust”,”Rebel Rebel”, and “Let’s Dance”. However, upon further inspection it’s clear this isn’t an arbitrary compilation: “We wanted to show Bowie in his entirety, at every stage, ending on the Black Star.” This theme shines through throughout the medley, with savvy arrangement techniques such as eight bars of “Under Pressure” being incorporated as a transition between different songs.
The orchestra has performed the medley previously, most notably at the 2016 Electric Picnic where they were accompanied on stage by singer-songwriter Hozier for a commended rendition of Bowie’s 1977 classic “Heroes”. Since then, the orchestra has been hard at work on a full recording of the medley, and an accompanying video. Working from Bow Studios on Abbey St, under the guidance of producer, studio owner and friend to the orchestra, Liam Mulvaney, the recording took place intermittently over the past few months. However, this is not to imply any sort of lethargy. Due to the studio’s modest size, at least in comparison to typical orchestral recording spaces, the recording process was done on an instrument-by-instrument basis, something which Caulfield claims ended up working to their advantage with regards to fine-tuning the finished project. That said, with the project totalling over 40 recording hours and with the contribution of over 30 individuals, as well as adding time for editing and producing, this is no mean feat for an orchestra of any calibre, let alone one run by students.
The video – which dropped yesterday – features compiled footage of the orchestra’s finest moments from the past 12 months. In this regard, it won’t only serve as memorial to Bowie but also to the vehement dedication of the orchestra as a whole. Within it, Caulfield hopes to capture the essence of the orchestra, that being “people having fun, getting together and playing some really great music”. Reflecting on the mammoth task, Caulfield expresses pride and admiration for all who took the time to make the project so unforgettable. “We could just become complacent and not tried to innovate but what we always wanted to strive for was being the best-run student orchestra.”