Saturday, 6 August 2016

Invitation Concert

Illustration by Marcus Patton OBE

THE ULSTER HALL, Bedford Street, Belfast, was built in 1862 in the Classical style.

The 4th Baron Dunleath (who died ahead of his time in 1993) was a passionate supporter of the Hall and occasionally played the organ there.

I have fond memories of Henry Dunleath.

The Ulster Hall was sold to Belfast City Council in 1902.

In 1959, a new shield was erected, depicting the red hand of Ulster.

Ulster arms prior to present representation

This shield is displayed at the very top of the building.

In 1862 this splendid building was one of the biggest concert halls in the British Isles, with a capacity of 2,000.

The Hall was almost filled to capacity last night for a concert produced by BBC Radio 3.

By the way, if you think the orchestra looks slightly sparse in the photographs, this is because some pieces did not require the full ensemble; so various sections took leave of absence for awhile (!).

The conductor and pianist was Howard Shelley OBE.

We were treated to a selection of absolutely lovely pieces by Bridge, Sterndale Bennett, Sir Hamilton Harty, and Sir Hubert Parry Bt.

I wasn't aware that Hubert Parry had been created a baronet in 1902.

Howard Shelley conducted the Ulster Orchestra and also played the piano in Sterndale Bennett's marvellous Piano Concerto Number One in D Minor, doing it all with great aplomb and authority.

The orchestra's principal oboist - a familiar face to regular patrons - was Christopher Blake, who was the soloist for Parry's Symphony Number Three in C Major.

Incidentally, Christopher is a keen and passionate gardener during his spare time, particularly for subtropical palms, ferns, bamboos and succulents.

The programme lasted for about two hours.

As I left the Hall and walked up Bedford Street I noticed that demolition work has begun on a section of the ground floor of Windsor House, which is being transformed by the Hastings family, hoteliers, into the Grand Central Hotel.


Anonymous said...

Was the original Coat of Arms on the façade of the Ulster Hall not the traditional Arms of the Province of Ulster? rather than the Red Hand on a base of concrete. The late Charles Brett suggested that that was the original design and states this to be the case in his book on the Buildings of Belfast, but he could have been mistaken

Timothy Belmont said...

Anon, good point. I have an image of the previous tablet which I'll add to the article, if you have another look.

Thanks for that.