Belfast Telegraph

Flash mob: Under-threat Ulster Orchestra gives St George's Market visitors a surprise performance

By Claire Williamson

Unsuspecting visitors to St George's Market on Saturday were treated to a performance by the Ulster Orchestra.

Dotted around the Belfast venue, one by one the musicians dressed in casual wear, began to play before joining together at the end to complete the rousing performance.

Northern Ireland's first professional orchestral flash mob featured 43 musicians from the orchestra who played the up-tempo Piazzolla's Libertango.

They performed as part of the Save the Ulster Orchestra campaign that has been building momentum over the past month.

They even had a new recruit as Belfast panto legend May McFettridge joined in the fun by playing the maracas.

It was one of several events staged in a bid to gather support for the under-threat orchestra which faces closure.

Volunteer organiser Bee Riddell said: “We would just like the cause to become visible to our politicians and anybody in positions of authority or influence.

“The players were beaming from ear to ear.

"I think it did an awful lot for their motivation."

Sir George Bain, Chairman of the Ulster Orchestra said:  “We are delighted with the response to the flash mob – I believe it shows how the orchestra is able to reach out to the people of N. Ireland, inspiring them and making them feel proud to have such a world-class product representing their country.

"A huge thank you to all the organisers and everyone who helped make this first flash mob such a success.”

The future of the orchestra is hanging in the balance because of cuts in the arts sector over the past three years.

The orchestra, which costs around £4.6m a year to run, has appealed for £500,000 from Belfast City Council to help keep it afloat.

It has also asked for the free rental of the Ulster Hall for the next five years, which would save it £160,000 a year.

World-renowned pianist Barry Douglas is the latest in a host of the musical elite to add their support to the Ulster Orchestra's plight.

He followed virtuoso Belfast flautist Sir James Galway and more than 30 leading names synonymous with the classical music world made a plea for the Ulster Orchestra to be saved.

Previously the Sinn Fein MLA said it was not her job to "drum up" cash support for the under-threat Ulster Orchestra.

And she confirmed that without a viable rescue package of proposals by December 15 the orchestra will be in "serious difficulties".

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