In 2019 City of Belfast Youth Orchestra undertook a European Tour which included Leuven, Brussels, and The Netherlands. Irish College at Leuven provided a suitable programme for the Belgian part of their visit. The facilities at the campus of Irish College Leuven were ideal for the orchestra as they needed a suitable venue for the 70-piece orchestra to rehearse and prepare for the upcoming performances. The team at Irish College Leuven arranged the programme of performances, visits to some sites of interest in the area, and downtime for the musicians.
Members of the orchestra settled into the college and explored the surrounding city of Leuven, and the beautiful sound of their rehearsals filled the historic buildings and gardens of Irish College Leuven.
The Orchestra visited the Northern Ireland Executive Office, Brussels, and had a tour of the European Quarter. There were visits to Parc Leopold and the Grand Place and a chance to unwind before giving a performance at the Eglise Notre Dame au Sablon, as the headline performers in a programme co-hosted by the Embassy of Hungary.
Some downtime was enjoyed at the Walibi theme park in Wavre where they got to blow off some steam and take a break from rehearsals.
Back in Leuven, the orchestra gave a performance at Pieter de Somer Aula, for a more personal group of guests invited by the orchestra members themselves and by Irish College Leuven.
Irish College Leuven organised a visit to the war graves and memorials around Ieper, where so many soldiers from across the island of Ireland had fought and fallen in World War I. The visit included a stop at ‘The Island of Ireland Peace Park’, erected by both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in unity, to commemorate the lives lost in the conflict, as well as the Tyne Cot Cemetery, the Bayernwald trenches, and the Pool of Peace. A selection of brass players from the orchestra were given the honour of performing during the ‘Last Post Ceremony’ at the historic Menin Gate.
The City of Belfast Youth Orchestra completed a successful tour – on and off the stage. Their visit benefited from three key elements: Programme of international performances, safe accommodation and good meals for the young people, and suitable auditoria for rehearsals and concerts.
The halls of Irish College in Leuven still ring with the memory of their laughter and graceful melodies.