Orchestral music and politics in 2021.
A chance to hear from composer Conor Mitchell on what it means to be a politically-engaged composer writing in 2021, in conversation with Patrick McCarthy from the Ulster Orchestra. The conversation will introduce a filmed performance of Conor’s new work for orchestra and electronics “Democracy Dances”.
Conor and Patrick will discuss the genesis of the piece, the role of the composer in writing work which is politically engaged, the responsibility of a publicly-funded organisation to present contemporary and socially relevant work, and explore the notion of the orchestra as a model of democracy.
In 2019, Conor Mitchell was awarded a grant by the PRS Foundation to write a piece for the 13-piece Belfast Ensemble. “Lunaria” premiered as part of the PRS Foundation’s New Music Biennial that year and, inspired by Northern Irish politics at the time, it evoked a furiously vibrant city caught in the crossfire of national identities.
In 2020, Conor and the Ulster Orchestra began to talk about collaborating on a piece of music. Northern Irish politics had been swamped by larger, worldwide events, but despite COVID and especially in the United States, the underlying story is the search and struggle for democracy. The resonances with the themes of “Lunaria” were there, so Conor reimagined and reworked the piece as “Democracy Dances”, allowing the Belfast Ensemble and Ulster Orchestra to merge together and expand the piece.
To introduce “Democracy Dances”, Conor will be joined by Patrick McCarthy of the Ulster Orchestra in conversation. They will discuss the genesis of the piece, the role of the composer in writing work which is politically engaged, the responsibility of a publicly-funded organisation to present contemporary and socially relevant work, and explore the notion of the orchestra as a model of democracy.
Conor Mitchell is a composer and music-theatre maker from Northern Ireland. As well and being an established orchestral, concert composer and librettist, Mitchell also directs stage works for The Belfast Ensemble.
The Belfast Ensemble is a collective of award-winning Belfast-based artists of several disciplines working towards a single vision: a permanent, cross-disciplinary music-theatre performance corps creating world-class, cutting edge music-theatre at the very edge of possibility that brings Belfast to the attention of audiences near and far. The Ensemble was founded in 2017 by Conor Mitchell, who is their Artistic Director.
Founded in 1966, the Ulster Orchestra has been at the forefront of musical life in Northern Ireland ever since. With a mission to enrich the lives of people living in Northern Ireland, those visiting, and those who encounter it through international touring and regular radio and TV broadcasts with the BBC, the Orchestra strives for excellence in all it undertakes, be it concert performances, learning and community engagement programmes, or creative collaborations across the arts.
The Ulster Orchestra’s Learning and Community Engagement programme aims to connect the Orchestra with communities and individuals across Northern Ireland, both as audiences and participants. All the Orchestra’s musicians work on activities including Relaxed Performances for people with additional needs, mentoring and coaching for players at all stages and the Crescendo project, the Orchestra’s community-led residency project for children from disadvantaged areas in North and West Belfast. Patrick McCarthy is Head of Concerts and Artistic Planning for the Orchestra.