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Homecoming musicians to join forces

By Linda McKee

Ulster's finest young musicians will be converging on the Waterfront Hall in their hundreds this weekend for a major homecoming concert.

The musicians - all now studying or working outside Northern Ireland at the highest level - will be gathering for an unmissable performance of Mahler's Symphony No 2, a piece so ambitious that it hasn't been heard in the province for 10 years.

Because the piece requires the input of 120 musicians and a huge choir, it is rarely staged in Northern Ireland - and this performance by the Orchestral Musicians of Northern Ireland (OMNI) is only possible because the musicians have all agreed to play for free.

Orchestra manager Ross Lyness says OMNI was founded around three years ago by a group of young musicians who had all played together in the past in the City of Belfast Youth Orchestra, the Ulster Youth Orchestra and the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland.

"We had a frustration whereby Northern Ireland produces such good musicians, but they all tend to go to the UK, to London and further afield to study and work," Ross said.

"The aim of OMNI is to bring musicians back to Belfast to perform in front of a home audience and we also like to perform larger symphonic repertoires that usually aren't performed in Northern Ireland. The last time the Mahler symphony was performed here was over 10 years ago - it's such a large piece. It requires a very large orchestra, so logistically and financially it's not possible to stage here."

The unique thing about this performance is that the musicians - home to visit their families for Christmas - will all be playing for free, he said.

"People do it for the love of playing in front of our own home audience, " he said.

"The orchestra is made up of young people from Northern Ireland who are either studying abroad or working as professional musicians."

The programme, conducted by Johnny Phelan, includes 'Darf Ich' by Arvo Part.

For information and tickets contact the Waterfront Hall box on 028 9033 4455.

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