Belfast Telegraph

Former Stormont official Peover is new Ulster Orchestra chairman

By Alf McCreary

A retired senior civil servant has been appointed as the new chairman of the Ulster Orchestra.

Stephen Peover takes over from Sir George Bain, who stepped down at Tuesday’s board meeting after five years in the post.

It is understood the orchestra has secured funding for another year, but its long-term financial stability has still to be worked out. This will be a major priority for the new chairman and his  colleagues.

Mr Peover, whose final post at Stormont was as permanent secretary in the Department for Finance and Personnel, said: “Taking over from Sir George Bain is a daunting prospect, but I look forward to building on his tremendous contribution, and to working with music director Rafael Payare and the managing director Richard Wigley and their teams.”

He added: “The passion, energy and talent of this incredible group of musicians is always to the fore, whether on the concert stage, or playing in a hospice, working with disadvantaged children, or even playing at a dance event in an arena full of thousands of young clubbers.

“I am especially excited about the orchestra’s commitment to engaging with its local communities and with young people across Northern Ireland.”

Sir George was the leader of the team that worked extremely hard to prevent the closure of the ensemble at the end of 2014.

Following a widespread public campaign, and significant internal work, the orchestra survived, and hopes are high that it will soon achieve permanent, sufficient financial backing.

The orchestra marked its 50th anniversary earlier this year with a series of successful 50 Pop-Up concerts in and around Belfast.

This was the brainchild of Mr Wigley, the managing director who has a wide experience of international orchestral management. He was appointed in March this year.

In his farewell speech to the Ulster Orchestra and the audience at an Ulster Hall concert earlier this month, Sir George said: “The fact that we survived the financial cuts — and nearly did not — gives comfort and satisfaction.

“There are signs that the structures, policies and people put in place during the past few years have provided the basis for the orchestra not just to survive, but to thrive.”

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