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Ulster Orchestra is staying in tune with online solo recitals during coronavirus outbreak


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Chief conductor Daniele Rustioni

Chief conductor Daniele Rustioni

Richard Wigley

Richard Wigley

Colin Stark

Colin Stark

Chief conductor Daniele Rustioni

The Ulster Orchestra is spending the lockdown presenting daily recitals online and planning ahead.

It is also preparing a special event to mark the lifting of restrictions, whenever it happens.

Currently nine of the 22 administration staff of the orchestra are furloughed, and 13 of the 63 players.

Managing director Richard Wigley said: "The Waterfront and Ulster Halls remain closed, and the rest of our current season has been cancelled, which we all find most disappointing.

"Unfortunately we cannot play together because of social distancing and the risks to health.

"However, we are providing online regular performances by solo members and we are planning our programme for the next 2020-2021 season, though we don't know when that will start.

"We will not be able to play the music scheduled for the rest of current season but we will try to reschedule Mahler's monumental Second (Resurrection) Symphony with our chief conductor Daniele Rustioni.

"We will seek another date for the families' Gruffalo Concert so that ticket-holders will not miss out."

The orchestra also plans to stage a special event to mark the end of the coronavirus shutdown.

Mr Wigley said: "We don't know when that will be as yet, but we want to mark it with a special performance for our supporters and other members of the public.

"I see big challenges ahead including adapting to tight funding, and also how our audiences will respond to our concerts when the lockdown is eased, and how our concerts will be supported if social distancing continues in some form.

"However, I remain optimistic that we will get strong support. When times are difficult, good music becomes an even more important part of our cultural life."

The current online performances are much appreciated.

Musicians Colin Stark and Jonathan Simmance are coordinating the concerts across the major social media platforms.

Mr Stark said: "It's an amazing journey, as we discover all sorts of hidden a talents across the organisation.

"It is essential to reach out to our supporters, to acquire hopefully new ones, and to make a cultural connection with people in isolation.

"It is also vital to keep our company healthy.

"We have all sorts of events including short classical performances, and we are planning a series with eminent guest conductors, including our new chief conductor Daniele Rustioni playing the piano in a duet with his wife Francesca Dego, the violinist.

"We are learning new skills and new ways of communicating. When we emerge from this we will be stronger and better placed to enrich many people's lives through music."

Belfast Telegraph