Ciaran Kennedy, 'A desert for the arts'? Orchestral provision in Northern Ireland, 1945-1981 (PhD, Queen’s University Belfast, 2014)

These details defined Wed Jan 4 12:45:00 2012, last updated Thu Jul 18 14:05:57 2019  edit
 Author:  Kennedy, Ciaran 
 Title:  'A desert for the arts'? Orchestral provision in Northern Ireland, 1945-1981 
 Degree, institution:  PhD, Queen’s University Belfast 
 Status, year:  accepted, 2014 
 Volumes, pp., etc.:  1 (397pp.), 120000 words 
 Supervisor(s):  Jan Smaczny; Sarah McCleave 
 Repository:  QUB McClay library 
 General specialism:  Musicology 
 Content, timeframe:  1945-1981 
 Content, key terms:  Concepts:
Genres, instruments: 
Music history; concert life in Northern Ireland; musicology
Edgar Boucher; Godfrey Brown; Sergiu Comissiona; Edgar Cosma; David Curry; Michael Emmerson; Alun Francis; János Fürst; David Greer; Kenneth Jamison; Maurice Miles; Peter Montgomery; Denis Mulgan; Havelock Nelson; Bryden Thomson; Raymond Warren
Belfast; Derry; Northern Ireland; Ireland; Great Britain
Arts Council of Northern Ireland; Ulster Orchestra; BBC; City of Belfast Orchestra; Studio Opera Group; Opera Northern Ireland; CEMA NI
Orchestral music; opera

This thesis is the first analysis of orchestral music in Northern Ireland, and the first academic project that has focused on any aspect of musical life in Northern Ireland in the post-Second World War era. CEMA/ACNI’s music subsidy and BBC music policy are examined in tandem, as these two organisations were the primary sponsors of orchestral music in the region during the period. In 1945, there was no professional orchestral ensemble in Northern Ireland, though over the ensuing years a number of developments took place in the sphere of orchestral provision. The first of these was the establishment of the part-time BBC Northern Ireland Light Orchestra in 1949, a studio-based ensemble of fifteen players. The formation of the City of Belfast Orchestra followed in 1950, a semi-professional orchestra that was heavily reliant on the participation of BBC Northern Ireland players. In 1965 the BBC extended the contracts for its BBC Northern Ireland Light Orchestra from part-time to full-time, leading to the situation whereby the City of Belfast Orchestra was no longer sustainable. The City of Belfast Orchestra was subsequently disbanded, and in 1966 ACNI formed the Ulster Orchestra, a full-time orchestra of 37 players that was dedicated to concert-giving and education work throughout Northern Ireland. Despite some initial successes, it soon became apparent that the Ulster Orchestra was living well beyond its means and in 1969 a reappraisal of the orchestra’s position was undertaken. Under the auspices of the Northern Ireland government’s Operations and Methods department, a report was issued which recommended the amalgamation of the Ulster and BBC Northern Ireland orchestras. Both ACNI and the BBC were amenable to this, though in 1974 the Musicians’ Union rejected the proposed merger. ACNI reacted to this rejection by commissioning a Working Party to assess the Ulster Orchestra’s situation. In 1976 this Working Party presented its findings, and once again recommended a merger with the BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra. Proposals for this second amalgamation attempt were met with resistance from the players of both orchestras, though in 1981 the BBC NI musicians were recruited into an enlarged Ulster Orchestra of 55 players.

 Related publications:  "A Triumph for Matcham's Sound Theatre Design": the Grand Opera House and the Staging of Opera in Belfast, Theatre Notebook Vol. 67, No.3 (2013)