The Irish Chamber Orchestra (ICO) is an Irish classical music ensemble, administratively based at the University of Limerick. János Fürst founded the ICO in 1963. The ICO consisted only of strings as its regular ensemble for many years, adding wind, brass and percussion players on a freelance basis when needed. The ICO was reformed in 1970 under the name of the New Irish Chamber Orchestra and the principal conductorship of André Prieur. The orchestra first toured North America in 1978. In 1995, the orchestra was again reconstituted, reverting to its original name of the Irish Chamber Orchestra. The ICO formally added horn players and oboes to its roster in 2008.
Following a succession of Artistic Directors including Fionnuala Hunt, Nicholas McGegan and Anthony Marwood, the orchestra has taken a new approach, appointing two artistic partners: Hungarian conductor Gábor Tákacs Nagy (Principal Artistic Partner) and the clarinettist and composer Jörg Widmann (Principal Guest Conductor/Artistic Partner).
Since September 2010, the orchestra has visited 27 venues across 14 counties, nationwide. This is in addition to its regular concert season, which runs in Limerick and Dublin (September–April annually, another 14 concerts approx.). In the past the orchestra has toured with success across Europe, Australia, South Korea, China and the US.
Leading Irish composers who have worked with the orchestra include Linda Buckley, Frank Corcoran, John Kinsella, Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, Bill Whelan and Elaine Agnew.
Plectrum & Bow, the latest CD release, marks a collaborative recording with US composer and guitarist Steve Mackey. It features his Concerto for Violin and Strings, Four Iconoclastic Episodes, which was jointly commissioned by the Irish Chamber Orchestra, the Academy of St-Martin-in-the-Fields and the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, University of Notre Dame, USA. Other recordings include Night Moves, conducted by Gérard Korsten, and Hommage, which features works by Irish composer John Kinsella.
The Irish Chamber Orchestra is resident at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick and is funded by the Arts Council of Ireland/An Chomhairle Ealaíon.
It uniquely owns a custom built studio, which has been acoustically modelled, on campus at UL, Limerick.