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Ulster Orchestra cancels two of its online concerts

Group said it took the decision in order to protect players and not put pressure on NHS


Honorary Guest Conductor Jac van Steen had been due to take part

Honorary Guest Conductor Jac van Steen had been due to take part

Honorary Guest Conductor Jac van Steen had been due to take part

Two of the Ulster Orchestra's five scheduled concerts in its digital winter programme have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The first concert planned for later this month was to feature as soloist the renowned Lurgan-based concert pianist Barry Douglas, who was appointed CBE for his services to music and community relations in the New Year Honours list.

The listed conductor was Dutchman Jac van Steen, the Ulster Orchestra's Honorary Guest Conductor.

Another digital concert scheduled for February has also been called off.

Patrick McCarthy, the Orchestra's head of artistic planning and operations, said: "We are very disappointed but we feel it is our duty to cancel the concerts in order to protect our players and not to put any more pressure on the NHS and key staff dealing with the pandemic."

A further three concerts in February and March are still scheduled, but decisions whether to go ahead will be taken nearer the time, depending on the state of the pandemic.

Two of these are scheduled to feature the Orchestra's recently-appointed Chief Conductor Daniele Rustioni, who is also Principal Conductor of the Lyon Opera.

Mr McCarthy continued: "We had to cancel the first two because we could not reschedule them in our first digital series, but we are planning another six digital concerts later on and we may be able to include the Barry Douglas-Jac van Steen concert in this series, or some other way at a later date.

"The uptake for our winter digital series was encouraging, given the success of our Magic of Christmas concert, which exceeded our expectations and which brought us an audience which would have filled the Waterfront Hall in normal times."

Plans are in place for a series of concerts for the 2021-22 Season starting in the autumn.

Mr McCarthy added: "It will not be a full season in the traditional sense, with audiences filling the concert hall.

"Instead we may have some live concerts with a reduced audience due to social distancing as well as digital concerts, and also on occasions a mixture of both."

The Ulster Orchestra, which was established in 1966, is the artistic 'Jewel in the crown' locally and is funded by the Arts Council and the BBC.

Its reputation goes far beyond Northern Ireland, and it regularly broadcasts nationally and internationally on the BBC 3 Radio network.

It has also taken part in many Sir Henry Wood Proms in the Royal Albert Hall, and its last appearance there was in 2019 under its former Musical Director Rafael Payare.

The Orchestra has 63 full-time players and 18 administration staff, none of whom are furloughed at present. Mr McCarthy said: "During the first lockdown the players performed around 100 recitals and other contributions online, and we have plans for further online performances in a planned Digital Green Room and a Digital Salon."

Patrons who booked for the £10 concerts which have been cancelled can get their money back, or they can donate the cost to the Ulster Orchestra.

Belfast Telegraph