Concert Review : Ulster Orchestra – Your Starter For 10!

By Peter McLoughlin @PeterGownArts

More a pre-season warm up than a full-blooded performance, the Ulster Orchestra’s ‘taster’ concert, Your Starter for 10!, was still an unmitigated success.

From the moment the Ulster Orchestra’s conductor, Christopher Bell, walked onto the stage, turned his back to the audience, and swept his arms up in the air; the Orchestra’s harmony was either elegant or epic or both.

A worrying, and ever-increasing, disparity in popular music – particularly electronic-based pop – is between how an artist sounds on their record and how they sound live.  The wonderful thing about classical music is that no matter how epic it sounds on record – and the UO’s performance of Brahms “Hungarian Dance No.1” was a perfect example – it is always more impressive live.  The pleasure comes from witnessing a large group of people handle with confidence and grace the complexity of performance, and arrangement, that is laid in front of them. Other stand out pieces from the show included Benjamin Britten’s “Soirees musicales”; Richard Wagner’s “Overture: The Mastersingers” and Jean Sibelius’s “Valse triste”.

I urge you to go along to one of the many shows that the UO are performing this season – a normal rock concert is always fun, entertaining, sweaty – but witnessing the UO is simply beautiful; it is a veritable repast of organic talent.

It’s important to have a balance with art – with music.  I wouldn’t be able to bounce around with such abandon to M83 if I didn’t appreciate lazing in bed listening to Chopin. Ignore the pretensions – the notion that operatic or classical music is outdated is just as pretention-filled as the notion that classical music is somehow superior to modern music.  Classical music is still immense, and yet a contemporary band like The National are capable of expressing with their lyrics a relevant, modern emotion – one that classical music can’t possibly compete with or compare to.

You’re here now, in Belfast, and you have the opportunity to witness an immense variety or art, and the Ulster Orchestra are a vital part of that.  Don’t sell yourself short.

For more information on the Ulster Orchestra’s schedule, visit

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