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Ulster Youth Orchestra: Ensemble truly shines in its annual showpiece

Ulster Hall, Belfast

By Alf McCreary

One of the musical highlights of the summer is the annual concert by the Ulster Youth Orchestra, and this year's performance in Belfast was one of the best in recent years.

Under the direction of maestro Garry Walker, this highly-motivated ensemble embarked on a truly ambitious programme before a packed audience at the Ulster Hall.

The opening piece was Gershwin's Cuban Overture, rarely heard in this part of the world. There were some rough edges as the musicians settled in, but they provided just the right background for Saint-Saens' Havanaise played with great finesse by Ioana Petcu-Colan, the associate leader with the Ulster Orchestra.

The performance moved swiftly from Cuba to Russia, with a splendid and spirited performance of excerpts from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake.

The second half was devoted to Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances, which provided the highlight of the concert with some excellent ensemble playing, and an overall performance that did justice to the final work of this unique and much-cherished Russian composer.

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, sponsor, parents and families.

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