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Ulster Orchestra's critic is out of tune with reality

Bernard J Mulholland's letter on the Ulster Orchestra (Write Back, November 13) demonstrates the lack of understanding which has characterised much recent criticism of the ensemble.

Mr Mulholland is aggrieved that members of the orchestra supplement their income by music teaching. No doubt he is unaware the players are said to be among the worst-paid orchestral performers in the United Kingdom.

They supplement their income because they have to do so; and in teaching young musicians, they are performing a socially useful function.

Mr Mulholland adds that the orchestra should raise its ticket prices. Clearly, he is unaware that it has recently done so. In recent weeks, he has criticised the Ulster Orchestra for accepting sponsorship from JTI and made the (bizarre) suggestion that it should be run by golf and rugby clubs.

He now wants all of its state funding removed because (he claims) it diverts much-needed funding from other arts organisations. It's hard to see how arts funding could be better spent than on the Ulster Orchestra. It is the only one we have - without it there will be no professional orchestral performances here; furthermore, it is the only large-scale arts organisation which can boast of a reputation outside the province (as evidenced by the support it has received in the national Press and from composers such as James Macmillan and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies).

Mr Mulholland claims to wish the Ulster Orchestra well; if that is the case, I would hate to meet someone who wishes it ill.

CDC ARMSTRONG

Belfast

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