The Bassoonist from Ballymahon

Sixteen-year-old Ronan Whittern from Ballymahon has just returned from playing principal bassoon with the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland (NYOI).

Sixteen-year-old Ronan Whittern from Ballymahon has just returned from playing principal bassoon with the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland (NYOI).

Ronan – who is the son of Richard and Grace – is currently enjoying a short leisurely break back home following a tight schedule of rehearsals lasting for up to eight hours a day in the run up to a series of evening concerts with the orchestra.

The Ballymahon youth is also a member of the Irish Youth Wind Ensemble (IYWE) which holds workshops and concerts during the month of August at the University of Limerick and at various locations throughout Cork and Dublin.

Ronan’s musical talent has taken him all over the world including to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with the NYOI during this year’s St Patrick’s Day festivities. “It has been an amazing experience,” said Ronan, adding that the bassoon was a comical instrument that took “character” to play.

“The woodwind section is the best one in the Orchestra, although some of the brass players might beg to differ! The bassoon player is always in demand in orchestras and chamber groups because it is an unusual instrument. I am hoping to pursue a career as a professional musician and travel and play in orchestras around the world.”

The local lad is currently studying music on a music scholarship at Chetham’s School of Music. He has been playing music for many years and started his musical career by learning to play the piano at an early age.

“I started playing piano with Mabel Farrar and then the trumpet with Mullingar Town Band,” he said. “I played trumpet for a few years until Hubie Magee was looking for someone to learn the bassoon and when he asked me if I would be interested, I said that I would give it a go.”

Ronan was just ten at that stage and the bassoon was nearly as big as himself.

“I took to it and really enjoyed playing it. I have also continued to play the trumpet as well,” he added.

At the age of 12, Ronan went to St Finian’s College in Mullingar on a music scholarship where he studied piano, voice and organ. He won the Stanford Cup for organ and sang with the Choir that took first place at the Feis Ceoil.

“I studied bassoon under John Hearne at DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama and won the Junior and Senior Bassoon Gold medals in the Dublin Feis Ceoil at the RDS. I recently spent two weeks in the USA on a music scholarship while attending DIT.”

Ronan also has a younger brother Rory who is snapping at his heels and learning to play both the clarinet and piano. Rory won the Gold Medal in the junior clarinet section of the Feis Ceoil which was held in April.

The brothers are also active members of the Irish Midlands Youth Orchestra (IMYO), under the baton of Vincent Hunt who is based in Kinnegad.