The internationally-acclaimed classical pianist Barry Douglas is looking forward to returning to the Ulster Hall on Friday night (May 27) with the Ulster Orchestra after an absence of 3 years — but he has painful memories of his previous visit.
He told the Belfast Telegraph: “The day before my first rehearsal with the Ulster Orchestra, I slipped on wet leaves and injured my shoulder. I was in great pain, but I persevered.
“On the night before the Belfast concert we played at the Guildhall in Derry, and the pain was so bad that I was just about able to stretch my arm to the left-hand side of the piano which was very difficult as I was performing the Rachmaninov Second Piano Concerto.
“I thought that I might not be able to go through with the Belfast concert, but my shoulder became less painful overnight and I was able to complete the performance.
“Later on the doctors confirmed that I had broken my shoulder, but when I had a scan six months later it had healed and I was given the all-clear. I was very fortunate.”
The Ulster Hall is one of Barry’s favourite concert venues.
“It is one of the best in the world, and I have played in very many of them. It has excellent acoustics and it is also very beautiful.
“I remember falling in love with the Ulster Hall when I attended my first concert there at the age of 10 or eleven and I am still in love with it. When I perform on the stage of the Ulster Hall it feels like I am coming home.”
He says that the audiences are also very special.
“They are very discerning musically and you can almost hear them taking an active listening role as you play, which really inspires me and other solo performers.”
The Ulster-born Barry Douglas, a former pupil of Methodist College in Belfast, has had a glittering professional career since he first sprang to fame by winning the Gold Medal at the Moscow International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1986.
He was the first non-Russian to do so since the American pianist Van Cliburn won the competition in 1958.
Barry continues with a busy international schedule.
Earlier this week he returned from a series of concerts in Japan, and on Sunday his Camerata Ireland Orchestra is performing in Dublin. Then he is off to Spain, then back to Limerick for a concert, and later he travels to Finland for two weeks of performances.
He says: “It’s not so bad when you are travelling but it’s more difficult when you stop. It’s a bit like a spinning top which in the end loses momentum.
“It’s usually on the third-day after a long flight that I suffer the jet-lag. I am looking forward to spending time at my home in Lurgan this summer, mowing the lawn.”
Barry Douglas is also Artistic Director of the Clandeboye Festival which is taking part this year from August 20-27.
Two years ago Lindy, Marchioness of Duffering and Ava who had hosted the Festival on her estate for years, passed away. Barry added: “Her contribution was incalculable.
“She left a great legacy for us. Lindy was a great supporter and a great friend. She is greatly missed.”
The details of this year’s Festival and the booking options will be announced shortly.
Meantime, Barry Douglas is focusing on Friday night’s performance in the Ulster Hall but he added: “I need to be careful not to slip on wet leaves beforehand.”