New Irish Chamber Orchestra 1970-1980 by Lindsay Armstrong

 The New Irish Chamber Orchestra (NICO) came into being as a totally unexpected consequence of an industrial dispute in Radio Telefís Éireann. Founded by André Prieur as conductor and Lindsay Armstrong as manager – both members of the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra – NICO made a powerful and seminal contribution to the performance of classical music in Ireland throughout the 1970s. It brought together some of Dublin’s finest professional musicians and worked as a co-operative on the strict basis of equality and artistic responsibility. Every member, including the conductor and manager, received the same fee!

As well as its Dublin appearances, NICO gave concerts in small towns throughout the country, answering an overwhelming musical need and delighting audiences with imaginative programmes. 

In its first decade NICO hugely enhanced the international reputation of Irish musicians, undertaking no less than seventeen foreign tours (totalling eighty-eight concerts) including lengthy visits to the USA, USSR and China. 

Lindsay Armstrong’s memoir, beautifully written in a lucid and often humorous style, narrates the orchestra’s multifaceted activities, its highs and occasional lows. It provides a fascinating and unrivalled insight into the operation of a unique ensemble which richly adorned Irish musical life. The book is an indispensable source of reference to the instrumentalists, soloists and conductors who participated in NICO’s trail-blazing journey, (Paul Tortelier, James Galway, Peter Pears among many) and also contains valuable information on the orchestra’s recordings, concerts and repertoire.


LINDSAY ARMSTRONG studied oboe privately with Derek Bell in Belfast and with Neil Black in London, at the Royal Academy of Music. From 1963 – 1979 he played oboe and cor anglais in the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra and in 1970 co-founded the New Irish Chamber Orchestra (NICO), continuing as player/manager until the end of 1980. He became the first General Manager of the National Concert Hall in 1981 and a year later was appointed Director of the Royal Irish Academy of Music (1982 – 1993). In 1995 he was invited to become Manager/Artistic Director of the Orchestra of St Cecilia, (OSC) a position he held until his retirement in 2014. After his retirement, he lodged the Archives of NICO and OSC in Special Collections, Dublin City Public Library, Pearse Street, Dublin.

A superb account of NICO in its first decade, together with an invaluable chronicle of concerts, venues, international tours, repertory, recordings and soloists which marvellously deepens our understanding of musical life in Ireland in the 1970s and early 1980s. A unique and brilliant achievement. Harry White – Professor of Music, University College Dublin

Recounted in a relaxed and frequently humorous style, this is a remarkably detailed, honest and frank account of the birth and history of an orchestra created by the commitment of some of the best musicians in Ireland and a dedicated manager. Proinnsías Ó Duinn – Conductor Laureate Rté Concert Orchestra

A wonderfully detailed and authoritative account of an era of music making in Ireland by enlightened individuals sharing a passion to explore the breadth of the classical repertoire. The story of NICO shows how an artistic dream became a reality. Fergus Sheil – Artistic Director, Irish National Opera


ISBN: 978 1 9999970 7 6
Paperback with flaps
30 October 2019