Best known for her popular BBC Radio Ulster programme ‘The Arts Show’, Marie-Louise Muir has returned to her childhood roots in Derry to make a documentary for BBC Radio 4 entitled ‘Notes on a Northern Ireland Childhood’.
Based on learning cello and taking part in the WELB Youth Orchestra throughout her school days, Marie-Louise took time out from practising to chat about how the idea came about, and most importantly, how the cello is sounding.
She said, “I was in the Youth orchestra during the 70’s and 80’s and had this idea in my head that the orchestra was put together so that Protestant and Catholic children could meet and work alongside each other.
“Throughout the course of making the documentary I’ve since realised that that wasn’t its sole purpose but it did start to play a huge factor.
“Personally, I had been solely educated in the convent school sector and this was the first time I had met somebody from the other side of the religious divide.”
Soon, the cello was mentioned and Marie-Louise re-learning the commanding string instrument is now a major part of the documentary.
“Over 25 years ago I achieved my Grade 8 in Cello and I did talk about studying music at university but time ran away, as it does, and now here I am, with less than five weeks to go, about to get back on stage with the Youth Orchestra.
“I think I knew in my heart that I always wanted to play again. I have tried to play over the years but as anyone who plays a stringed instrument will now, it’s hard on your fingertips. They get really sore very quickly, and I soon put it away again.
“But it must always have been going around in the back of my head, and it has now become a reality.”
However, it’s a reality Marie-Louise is not enjoying so far.
“I cannot lie, it’s really scary. Even my cello teacher thinks the piece I am to play is difficult.
“He has told me that even professional musicians would find it difficult.”
The music Marie-Louise will be playing is that of John Williams, made famous through the films he composed for, including E.T. and Superman.
This week Marie-Louise said she is finally playing ‘something that resembles ET, but Superman is not going so well.’
She confesses, “I am giddy with nerves. I was desperate to sneak in, sit at the back and get it over with. But Donal Doherty has insisted that I be introduced and sit somewhere where I can seen.
I’ll also be mic-ed up for the documentary.
“You know you have anxiety dreams, this feels like I’m living one.”
But the journey has also been enjoyable in places, as Marie-Lousie reflects, “It has been really lovely going back and remembering how important music was. Children from all over travelled miles to Omagh every Friday night, and played together for three hours. It was a huge commitment.
“But the atmosphere was akin to a sports team, we were in it together.
Talking about future cello playing Marie-Louise admits, “I have definitely got the bit between my teeth now and am determined to continue playing once the documentary airs.
“I have discussed maybe setting up a gathering of old Youth Orchestra members to play together again - for fun, nothing too serious.”
Marie-Louise will be playing the cello alongside the current WELB Youth Orchestra as part of their WELB Mayfest - Movie Magic concert on Wednesday 6th May at 7pm at the Millennium Forum.
‘Notes on a Northern Ireland Childhood’ will air in early June on BBC Radio 4.