Belfast Telegraph

Book brings Ulster Orchestra history to life

Alf McCreary
Alf McCreary

By Staff Reporter

A new book telling the exciting story of the Ulster Orchestra is being published by the Ulster Orchestra Foundation in the run-up to Christmas.

Titled Unfinished Symphony and written by award-winning journalist and author Alf McCreary, it tells the story of the orchestra from its establishment in 1966 to the present day.

It is also lavishly illustrated and laid out by prominent book designer Wendy Dunbar.

The Ulster Orchestra is highly regarded as one of the best of its size anywhere. It has built up a large and loyal audience for its regular concerts, particularly in the Ulster Hall, which is viewed by leading musicians as one of the best venues in the world.

The orchestra's dramatic journey has been defined by great music on stage and also by its skill, courage and determination off stage to survive the worst of the Troubles and several financial crises which would have finished off a lesser ensemble.

It has attracted some outstanding principal and guest conductors over the years, as well as renowned soloists, including Ulster's own Sir James Galway and Barry Douglas, who have written warm tributes in the book.

The orchestra has an important musical outreach and its place at the heart of the wider community is underlined by the author.

Mr McCreary, this newspaper's religion correspondent, also relates some dramatic moments in the orchestra's history, including a concert it gave in New York a month after the September 11 terror attacks.

There are also a number of amusing stories, including one about an occasion when the orchestra searched for a drum to replace one that was unexpectedly broken and "borrowed" a Lambeg drum with a picture of King William III on the front.

This was tactfully covered with a white sheet while the orchestra performed Verdi's Requiem Mass in Newry's Catholic Cathedral.

This is a rewarding book which tells of the hopes, fears, creativity and emotions of those who play such beautiful music to entertain and enrich the lives of others.

Unfinished Symphony will appeal to anyone who appreciates good music, from classical to pop and back again, and who also loves a good story.

Leslie Morrison, the orchestra's deputy chairman, said: "This is more than a history of the Ulster Orchestra.

"It is laced with wonderful vignettes which bring to life a storied past and the challenges of survival.

"It is also a distilled treasury of our cultural life."

The book will be launched at Waterstone's in Belfast on Tuesday, November 19, at 6pm.

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