Belfast Telegraph

Approval of funding adds to seasonal celebrations for Ulster Orchestra

Ulster Orchestra. Lunchtime Concert. Ulster Hall

By Alf McCreary

A distinct festive spirit filled an Ulster Hall bedecked with Christmas trees for this early afternoon performance on Thursday.

The lunchtime concerts have been one of the great successes of the past two seasons, and this event in a jam-packed auditorium was no different.

There was also a hidden bonus in that most of the audience may not have been aware that the orchestra's funding was renewed this week for a further year.

All of this was a huge contrast to the Christmas concert two years ago when it looked as if the Ulster Orchestra might cease to exist because of stringent cuts to the arts.

So this year's festive spirit of thanksgiving hung in the air - certainly for the players and staff - and there was no better way to start a celebratory concert than with Rossini's sparkling overture La Cenerentola.

The ensemble, under the direction of its guest conductor Robert Houlihan from Kerry, was in fine form and played Glazunov's Winter from The Seasons, Rimsky-Korsakov's Dance Of The Tumblers and Ravel's Mother Goose suite with pananche.

There was a noticeable absence of an excerpt from Tchaikovsky's timeless Christmas favourite The Nutcracker, but there were also carols a-plenty in Sir Malcolm Arnold's Fantasy On The Holly And The Ivy to keep everyone happy.

The large and appreciative audience departed with Christmas cheer, and part of the same programme was repeated in a later concert of seasonal music and carols that evening.

Belfast Telegraph

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