One hundred and seven musical groups, bands and musicians across Northern Ireland are celebrating this week, with news they are set to receive funding to help upgrade worn out instruments and purchase new ones. Among those set to benefit are schools groups, community choirs, marching and brass bands, and individual professional musicians. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is providing the funding worth almost £580,000 under its Musical Instruments Scheme. Thanks to capital investment from the Department for Communities, the scheme, set up to increase the quality of music making in Northern Ireland, was extended for the first time this year to offer grants to a range of professional and non-professional musicians and groups.
There are three strands to the funding. Among the 30 bands set to benefit under Programme One: Musical Instruments for Bands are: Down Academy Pipes and Drums, Kellswater Flute Band, Ravara Pipe Band, Dunganon Silver Band, Orangefield Flute Band and Bessbrook Crimson Arrow Pipe Band. Under Programme Two: Professional and Non-Professional Performing Groups, 41 awards have been offered, including grants for: Armagh Pipers Club, Ulster Youth Orchestra, North West Cultural Partnership and Newry Chamber Music, as well as a number of schools groups, including Sacred Heart College Omagh, St Patricks College Maghera and Lisneal College in Derry/Londonderry.
While 36 Individual Professional Performing Musicians, who will receive support under Category Three of the programme, include: Darragh Morgan, Kim Vaughan, Conor Lamb, James Joys, Jordan McCuaig, Scott Flanigan, Martha Guiney, Greg Caffrey and Laura McFadden.
Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “We have a fine history of musicianship in Northern Ireland, one which is celebrated all over the world and it is a pleasure to announce today this funding which will benefit so many musicians, playing in professional and non-professional groups, bands and schools across the country. “With support to buy new instruments and equipment we are helping to increase the quality of music making here, across a broad range of genres; classical, jazz, traditional, contemporary and electronic, to name just a few. The awards announced today will help benefit hundreds of musicians, from young musicians just starting out, right through to highly trained performers working at a professional level.” Debbie McKibben, Head of Arts and Creativity Branch, Department for Communities, said: “As Head of the Arts and Creativity Branch I am delighted that the Department has been able to invest these funds in the Music Sector. This programme will provide valuable support to a wide range of musicians across the region, which will enable the development of quality music making within our communities, connecting people and enriching lives.”
Arts Council of Northern Ireland Press Release – February 14th 2020
Press Release 5th August 2019
Northern Ireland’s award winning and dynamic national youth orchestra set to perform showcase concerts in the Guildhall, Derry-Londonderry and the Ulster Hall, Belfast on 23rd and 24th August 2019.
The Ulster Youth Orchestra (UYO) is regarded as one of the jewels in the crown of the local arts scene with a reputation for excellence in all its performances. Established in 1993, the Ulster Youth Orchestra continues to flourish as the premier showcase youth orchestra in Northern Ireland.
Following rigorous competitive auditions, 94 talented young musicians have been selected to attend the annual summer course in preparation for two public concerts in Derry-Londonderry and Belfast. The young players will be coached by a team of highly experienced professional tutors during the intensive 10-day residential course at Greenmount Agricultural College, Antrim.
This year’s programme begins with Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on themes by Weber – a crowd pleasing entertainer which will open the concerts with a punch!
Lowell Liebermann’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra features Irish flautist Eimear McGeown (an alumna of UYO) who has steadily built a reputation as being one of the world’s most versatile exponents of both the classical and Irish flute. Liebermann’s Concerto was commissioned by, dedicated to and first performed by UYO Patron Sir James Galway in 1992.
Arguably Tchaikovsky’s greatest work, Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, (Pathétique), concludes the evening with uninhibited expressions of longing which promises to stir the emotion of the hardest of hearts.
The UYO is thrilled to welcome British conductor Rumon Gamba to the podium for the first time.
Rumon Gamba studied at the Royal Academy of Music winning the Lloyds Bank BBC Young Musicians Conductors Workshop in February 1998 before becoming Associate Conductor to the BBC Philharmonic, a post he held until 2002. Gamba has held the positions of Principal Conductor and Music Director of NorrlandsOperan and Chief Conductor of the Aalborg Symfoniorkester. He was also Chief Conductor and Music Director of Iceland Symphony Orchestra between 2002 and 2010. As a champion of new music he recorded new works with BBC National Orchestra of Wales and returned to the BBC Proms in 2017 to conduct the Proms Youth Ensemble. The Royal Academy of Music recognised his contribution to music when they made him an Associate in 2002 and in 2017 he became a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music.
Public concerts will be given at the Guildhall, Derry-Londonderry on Friday 23 August and at the Ulster Hall, Belfast on Saturday 24 August.
The Ulster Youth Orchestra is grateful for the substantial funding it receives from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to support its work.
Paula Klein, UYO General Manager, says:
“Excitement is building as we prepare for the annual summer residential course and concerts and we can’t wait to get immersed in this fantastic repertoire. We are thrilled to have someone of Rumon Gamba’s expertise and experience to inspire our young musicians to excel and look forward to producing high quality, sparkling performances!”
Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:
“Congratulations to those talented young musicians who have won a coveted place at the Ulster Youth Orchestra summer residential course. Working with internationally acclaimed conductors and tutors and performing to live audiences in both Belfast and Derry will develop their skills and confidence as orchestral musicians. I wish them all success in what promises to be a fantastic experience!”
If you would like to review the concerts, film/photograph UYO in rehearsal, interview any of the players, or receive any information about the orchestra, please contact:
Paula Klein, General Manager – firstname.lastname@example.org // 028 9027 8287 or 07921 804428
2018Marking the date of what would have been Bernstein’s 100th birthday, there is no more fitting way to open the evening than with the exuberant overture to Candide. It was conducted by the Belfast-born conductor Courtney Lewis at a brisk tempo. There was nothing cautious about the playing without it feeling rushed. Brimming with enthusiasm, the orchestra romped through the piece, but at times the percussion became too prominent. That contagious vigour generated appreciative applause from a proud audience of teachers, family, friends and Belfast regulars.
This was followed by Debussy’s Première rhapsodie for clarinet, performed by UYO alumnus, William Curran. Giving the orchestra a piece that requires such subtlety was an ambitious choice but the string players showed maturity in handling the delicate palette. It was an admirable reading producing a subtlety varied hue of sound but the clarinet playing occasionally retracted too deeply into the texture.
Bringing the first half to a fitting conclusion was Gershwin’s An American in Paris. Whilst there were initial blemishes at meter and tempo changes, Lewis’ conducting was clear and kept the players on track. The orchestra played with increasing confidence and a real sense of fun capturing the vivacious spirit with a youthful glee. In the solo violin passages, Susanna Griffin showed what a capable player she is. The brass here were commendable too; technically secure and truly understanding the spirit of jazz. Andrew Milligan on tuba and Joshua Cargill on bass trombone shone through with shapely and detailed phrasing.
After the interval the concert championed music from two Northern Irish-born composers. The first, a 25th anniversary commission supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, was from Ryan Molly. The piece entitled Ogham, draws inspiration from the Irish stones of the same name which are inscribed in their own unique alphabet. Putting a new commission in the hands of inexperienced orchestral musicians, let alone younger players can be brave, but this piece played to the orchestra’s strengths. Whilst giving the musicians the thrill of a première it allowed them to engage wholeheartedly with a piece of contemporary music. Ogham avoids the cliché of something overtly celebratory, but this was a weightier, more substantial composition. The piece created a sombre, monumental mood with dark and cold colours; textures were varied and as complex as the stones themselves. On occasions there were echoes of Britten’s Sea Interludes in the strings and percussion. The young players, in the capable hands of Lewis, showed maturity beyond their years, appearing to have a real empathy with the music, capturing all the nuisances admirably. The brass again were excellent in the fanfares, the woodwind assured in their complex overlapping polyrhythmic parts. The prominent piano part played by Michael Burrowes was played wonderfully.
Concluding the concert was the very substantial tone poem The Children of Lir by Ulsterman Hamilton Harty. Premiered in 1939 and based on the Irish legend of the same name, this tragic tale of the four children of King Lir is captured in Harty’s rich tapestry of brooding orchestral colour and mood.
The turbulent opening depicts the Sea of Moyle, as seen from the hills of Antrim – not a million miles from Ulster Hall, a landscape perhaps in the blood of these musicians. The UYO with Lewis really understood the Irish character with its folk-like tunes, laments and reels which were played convincingly; the violence of what Harty himself describes as “storm and tempest” depicted using a battery of percussion against some brash brass chords came across realistically. A wordless solo voice, projected effortlessly from behind the orchestra, by another Belfast born and UYO alumnus, soprano Aoife Miskelly. She created an ethereal quality characterising the voice of Finola, Lir’s daughter as she cries out from the swan in which she has been trapped. With the toll of a church bell the spell is broken and the swans are transformed into their true selves but no longer as children, now they are old and close to death. Approaching the end, a toll of bells and violin solo create an elegy in a real moment of poignancy portraying the death of the children. Concluding the piece are a dramatic and rousing few bars (with three timpanists) which filled the Ulster Hall with the sound of crashing waves, bringing us full circle to a vision of the sea.
The concert showcased the diverse and immense talents these young people possess. It gave the young players an aspiration of what could be ahead of them. Nothing can replicate the thrill of being part of a 90-strong ensemble and the invaluable experience it gives. In terms of the changing political landscapes this group show the continuing cross-generational and cross-community harmony brought together through the unifying entity of music.
Leighton Jones, Bachtrack
Ambition of Youth Orchestra produces night of triumph
"The annual concert by the Ulster Youth Orchestra (UYO) is one of the highlights of the musical season and Saturday night's performance to a packed audience in the Ulster Hall was no exception.
The UYO is nothing if not ambitious.
The first half, after a slightly nervous start with Copland's Fanfare For The Common Man and Torke's more assured Bright Blue Music, the players blossomed into a most engaging interpretation of Prokofiev's Cinderella Suite. This is undeservedly less known than his ballet music for Romeo And Juliet. The first half would have been enough for any substantial concert, but the second half launched into an outstanding performance of the Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz.
Under the skilled and sensitive direction of maestro Michael Seal, the UYO metaphorically took this crazy, devilish, complicated, outrageous and wonderful symphony by the scruff of the neck and wrung out every nuance of this masterpiece by the genius Berlioz, with fine performances in all departments This was one of the best concerts in the history of the UYO and it augurs well for its 25th anniversary next year. Great credit is also due to the conductor, the tutors and funders, and not least the parental backing, which made this performance a privilege to hear. The audience responded with a prolonged and deserved standing ovation."
Alf McCreary, Belfast Telegraph
21st August 2017
“The Ulster Youth Orchestra deserved its standing ovation, and great credit is due to everyone who made this memorable concert possible, including the director, tutors, musicians, sponsors, parents and families.”
Alf McCreary, Belfast Telegraph
29th August 2016
“The exuberance of the orchestra was matched with the response of the audience, four ‘curtain’ calls and great whooping from their young admirers, I expect most of them musicians themselves. We have a great musical future in Northern Ireland with musicians of this standard. Congratulations to them and to their tutors.”
Anne Hailes, Belfast Times
29th August 2016