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Ulster Orchestra Biography
Formed in 1966, the Ulster Orchestra has 63 full-time musicians and has established itself as one of the major symphony orchestras in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Its main concert season takes place in the Ulster Hall and the Belfast Waterfront between September and May, however the Orchestra also gives many performances throughout the year at venues across Northern Ireland. It has also performed many times at the National Concert Hall in Dublin and Royal Albert Hall in London.
Led by Hungarian violinist Tamás Kocsis, the Orchestra’s Principal Guest Conductor is Paul Watkins. Kenneth Montgomery was the UO’s Principal Conductor until 2010 having succeeded Thierry Fischer and a list of distinguished artists who have previously held the post, including Bryden Thomson, Vernon Handley and Yan Pascal Tortelier. Christopher Bell is its Associate Conductor and Ian Wilson is Associate Composer. In 2009, Sir James Galway became the Orchestra’s first Artist Laureate.
The Orchestra is not just renowned for its music, as it undertakes a major programme of education and outreach work each year that has been consistently recognised by numerous awards. These have included prestigious Arts & Business Arts Awards in recognition of its professionalism and creativity in the management and development of its business relationships.
The Orchestra also received the inaugural Royal Philharmonic Society Educational Award and most recently, the Orchestra was the recipient of a London 2012 Cultural Olympiad Inspire Mark for the Pied Piper project.
Since its foundation by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the UO has toured widely performing in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Also enhancing its reputation, the Orchestra has made some 70 recordings, notably for Chandos, Naxos, BMG, Hyperion, Priory and Toccata Classics. The BBC has a unique relationship with the Ulster Orchestra as its exclusive broadcast partner with relays on BBC Radio 3, Radio Ulster and BBC TV.
The Orchestra’s main funding partners include the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council.