Orchestral renditions of classic video game scores from Mario to Zelda have earned young Irish musicians recognition in Europe.
The Belfast-based Irish Video Game Orchestra are heading to Novi Sad in Serbia next week after being shortlisted for the 2019 Amateo Award.
Some 65 projects from across Europe competed for the €1,000 prize which celebrates exceptional amateur arts projects that have had a profound impact on their community.
The Northern Irish musicians will join the five finalists at the Serbian awards ceremony on June 7th representing work from The Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Serbia and Northern Ireland.
The Irish Video Game Orchestra have been bringing a new audience to orchestral music since they formed in 2015.
They meet weekly to practice and have evolved into a group of over 40 young musicians performing the scores of classic games like Mario and Tetris accompanied by video and a light show.
Member David Bennington said the group felt like “classical rock nerd gods” at their best gigs and were astounded to have been picked to fly-out to Novi Sad as finalists.
“It was posted in our committee’s group chat and one guy went ‘Oh My God! He lost it completely. This was the most amazing thing that had happened in like, forever! His reaction was priceless!
“This is big, really, really big for us. Honestly we have been so excited about it, we’ve been talking about it non-stop.
“The orchestra is made-up of members from both sides of the community from a lot of different backgrounds. Coming together and having something that’s completely neutral we can bond over, make friends about, talk about… it’s really quite amazing to see how much of the stuff we would consider blockers or pain points don’t really matter when you have something fun to do.”
Jim Tough, Scotland-based coordinator of the Arts Take Part project which runs the Award programme said:
“The ability of the voluntary arts to make people’s lives better are writ large in the
applications we’ve seen for this prize.
“Our finalists have done amazing things including The Irish Video Game Orchestra who’ve been bridging communities in Northern Ireland through their work and inspiring youngsters to embrace orchestral music in an innovative way.
“Every project has on its own way made a hugely positive contribution to its participants and their communities.”
The finalists will be represented at the announcement of the winner on June 7th in Novi Sad, Serbia as part of the Amateur Art & Youth in Intercultural Society Conference hosted by Amateo member the Amateur Art Association of Vojvodina.
The Amateo Award is in its second year now and was launched by Amateo, the European Network for Active Participation in Cultural Activities in Europe.
The Network was founded in 2008 as the multi-disciplinary European organisation within the field of participatory arts and cultural activities. There are 32 national and regional umbrella groups and associations from 14 EU member states and 2 programme countries, with contacts to a huge network of regional and local associations within the European field of amateur arts.
Amateo’s 4-year programme Arts Take Part is supported by Creative Europe and aims to grow and strengthen the network over the next four years. As part of this programme and to celebrate its 10th anniversary, the first annual Amateo Award was held in Ljubljana, Slovenia last year.
It was won by OpRoet, an amazing collective from The Netherlands who brought together refugees with over 40 local actors and musicians to create the show ‘Ed van Hoorn, Fuck the System’ about a local activist credited with building refugee camps.
Amateo sees active participation in the arts as a core value for a free and open society as enshrined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.