Saturday, 5 September 2009

Our Friends, the Whites

At what shall probably be my last Friday evening concert for a while, I attended another BBC Radio 3 Summer Invitation concert at the Ulster Hall in Belfast last night. I didn't bother to dine out.

The conductor was Pascal Rophé, from France; and the soloist was the young Northern Ireland pianist, Michael McHale. The pieces played included compositions by César Franck, Florent Schmitt and Dr Ian White, a composer originally from Northern Ireland.

Being truthful, I can't declare that it was one of my favourite concerts; nevertheless, the Ulster Orchestra played outstandingly as usual.

I know the White family. They lived in Holywood, County Down; indeed, Ian White's mother still lives there. Our late fathers both knew each other well and were cogs in Holywood's big wheel - in a sense. I was a childhood friend of Ian's sister and we kept closely in touch till about three months ago, when she died suddenly and tragically aged 48. How truly sad.

I didn't know Ian at all. He must have left the Province when he left school, which would have been circa 1973 I imagine. I do know that Ian's personal achievements have been both impressive and remarkable: professional and orchestral trombonist; a doctorate ; composer; husband; homes in Surrey and France; and, most recently, newly-qualified barrister.

In fact, his mother told me that he was due to attend an initiation ceremony at one of the Inns of Court in London at the time of his sister's sudden death. One of the few times I had the pleasure of meeting Ian was actually at his sister's funeral in June, where he delivered a most fitting and eloquent eulogy.

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