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Ulster Orchestra conductor in plea for arts rescue plan after lockdown

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Letter: Daniele Rustioni

Letter: Daniele Rustioni

Davide Cerati

Letter: Daniele Rustioni

The Ulster Orchestra's chief conductor has urged the Government to produce a long-term strategy to help the arts survive after lockdown.

Daniele Rustioni signed a letter to The Times with nine other major conductors.

The others in the list include Martyn Brabbins, music director of the English National Opera; Sir Mark Elder, music director of the Halle Orchestra; Edward Gardner, principal conductor-designate of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and Esa Pekka-Salonen, principal conductor and artistic adviser of the London-based Philharmonia Orchestra.

They warn that after weeks of the lockdown of concert venues "it is becoming more and more apparent that orchestras, opera companies and other musicians in the UK, a truly world-leading country in all forms of culture, are in danger of being lost for ever if urgent action is not taken".

"We ask for support from the Government and that it works with us in planning a long-term strategy for recovery, including additional financial support to help ensure that we can continue to play our full roles for our local and national audiences, our communities and our cities."

The Ulster Orchestra, whose 2019-20 season was ended by the lockdown, is staying in touch with its supporters with daily online recitals. Even when the concert halls open, depending on advice from the Government about Covid-19, a major problem for orchestral management and players is to perform a concert while following the rules of social distancing, both on the stage and throughout the auditorium.

The Ulster Orchestra has 63 players, with 13 furloughed.

Until the lockdown the orchestra, which is mainly funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the BBC as well as by box office receipts, had a successful season under Mr Rustioni.

Its managing director Richard Wigley said shortly after the lockdown began: "I see big challenges ahead including adapting to tight funding, and how our audience will respond when the lockdown is eased.

"However, I remain optimistic that we will get strong support.

"When times are difficult, good music becomes ever more important."

Belfast Telegraph