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Funding ideas for orchestra are pure fantasy

Bernard J. Mulholland attacks the Ulster Orchestra again ( Letters, November 21). He appears to be unable to understand how expensive funding a symphony orchestra is - as such bodies go, the Ulster Orchestra is run on a tight budget. He is fantasising if he supposes that the Ulster Hall could be filled for 167 performances each year with tickets at £30 a head (the Ulster Hall is rarely full as it is, though it is often two-thirds or three-quarters full). It is most unlikely that it could be filled to capacity on almost half the nights each year.

Mr Mulholland could go on producing calculations as to how many ticket payers could fund the orchestra on the basis of so many performances at such and such a price per head, but his sums have little relation to reality. He assumes blithely that concert-goers and orchestra supporters have limitless sums to spend.

If Mr Mulholland ever troubles to attend one of the orchestra's concerts he will see no audience members in top hats or in minks and tiaras; he will see a lot of ordinary people there, pensioners and students among them. They may be able to afford to spend between £10 and £25 a night and some may be able to do so for all or most of the orchestra's performances; few if any, however, could afford to spend the sums Mr Mulholland thinks they can.

Orchestras throughout the UK and Western Europe depend to a greater or lesser extent on public support; in that respect the Ulster Orchestra is hardly unique. Mr Mulholland writes of the orchestra's "pampered poodles". His insult is unfair; the performers are well-educated and highly skilled but they are hardly well paid and they are certainly not "pampered".

Mr Mulholland and other critics of the Ulster Orchestra appear to rely on an ill-directed sense of class resentment against what they see as an elitist body.

C D C ARMSTRONG

Belfast

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