The Orchestra will be resident in the Waterfront Hall Belfast from mid-August, recording and streaming great music to share across Northern Ireland and beyond. With musicians sitting three metres apart, using screens, masks and other health and safety measures, it will certainly feel very different. Managing Director, Richard Wigley, explained: “We are determined to find a safe way to share amazing music with the people of Northern Ireland; this means that our musicians are recorded whilst spread across the expanse of the stage and stalls area of the Waterfront Hall.
“The Orchestra has got really good at adapting and it was important for us to make sure we kept in touch with our audience. We’ve been talking for a long time about improving or digital content and this pandemic has accelerated our plans. Through our digital platforms we’ve reached a lot more people, so in a funny kind of way, despite the problems of Covid, it’s been quite invigorating. That said, while what we have achieved over the past few months is an interesting addition to what we do, it will never replace a live concert experience.
“It is a unique challenge for all musicians around the world to manage the social distancing requirements whilst remaining a tight ensemble; a worthy challenge for our superb orchestra. And with chief conductor Daniele Rustioni back in residence, everything becomes possible.”
Joining Daniele is principal guest conductor Jac van Steen. They have flown over especially to record some exciting pieces which will be distributed online to various audiences across Northern Ireland and indeed the world. “I am thrilled to breathe live music with the Ulster Orchestra again after such a long period of reclusion due to the global health crisis,” said Daniele. “I want to congratulate all the musicians and staff who, against all odds, produced around over a hundred music videos and contributions for online, keeping the sound and soul of the orchestra and contact with our audience alive. “Now it is time to come back together and continue our journey with renewed hope and goals, aiming to embrace our public again in the future and to perform new exciting repertoire.”
Partnering with the BBC and Waterfront Hall has been crucial to getting back to business for the Orchestra and from the venue’s perspective, it helps fill the auditorium once more with much-missed music and atmosphere. Julia Corkey, chief executive ICC Belfast | Waterfront Hall | Ulster Hall, commented: “The Waterfront Hall is one of Belfast’s most iconic venues and is at the heart of the city’s live entertainments scene. We have hosted many Ulster Orchestra concerts over the years and we are really delighted to be able to once more set the stage for these recordings. Visitor and staff safety is our top priority. Until we are able to welcome live audiences back safely, streaming provides an imaginative solution for their many supporters to continue to enjoy the Orchestra’s much-loved music.”
This period also sees an exciting new development with the Ulster Orchestra musicians using IPads instead of playing from printed sheet music. In this highly innovative initiative, the Orchestra addresses a major aspect of the Health and Safety concerns surrounding COVID and becomes one of the first of the UK orchestras to move to a new digital future.