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Ulster Hall, Belfast

An immediate talking point at the Ulster Orchestra's rehearsal, was The iPads. Everyone in the orchestra was playing off them - proper iPad music stands, with attendant digital gear to pencil in markings and turn pages. I knew this was coming, but didn't expect that my first experience of whole-orchestra technology would be in Belfast's beautiful Ulster Hall (built 1859.)

The UO are early adopters of the technology, having initially taken it up during the Covid period, but then realised how useful it was; for instance, allowing rehearsal markings to be sent immediately through the section (by whom, wasn't quite clear to me yet.) I can also imagine that some string players may be happy to play off a personal part, turned at the moment of their choice (!) An undoubted advantage is that parts can so easily be sent out for prior view to everyone before rehearsals start, and not mislaid afterwards.

Faced with all that, I could hardly argue; but nevertheless feared that a whole era of orchestral life will disappear with those dog-eared orchestral part sets, along with the many markings , musical and not, within them.

I was here for my recent piece New Every Morning, which received a fine, warm-hearted performance under Angus Webster. The piece had been written for an amateur group, the New Edinburgh Orchestra, and my happiest take-away on the day was that the music had transferred to a professional context with no issues at all. The Belfast concert was a BBC production, and a Radio 3 recording will appear soon.





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