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Ulster Orchestra: Pupils in west Belfast treated to workshop

Two pupils Katie (brown hair) and Grace
Katie, left and Grace said they enjoyed the visit

A west Belfast primary school pupil has said her first time hearing live music from the Ulster Orchestra was "magnificent".

Katie, and other pupils at John Paul II Primary School were treated to a workshop from the orchestra on Tuesday.

It is as part of an initiative to expose young people to the educational and developmental benefits of orchestral music.

Ulster Orchestra players have delivered workshops to 10,000 children.

'I want to take up the cello'

Katie said she would like to go and see the orchestra some day.

"All of the players were so nice and they were amazing at playing," she told BBC News NI

"I want to take up an instrument like the cello now.

"That could have been their own time to practice but they're coming to schools to teach us more and see if we'll get into it. That's very inspiring."

The majority of children involved have been from disadvantaged backgrounds or those without formal instrumental provisions because they cannot afford them.

John Paul II Primary School currently has a school choir, however, its musical instruments are limited for pupils as it does not offer music tuition.

Nigel Ireland, is the Ulster Orchestra Community Liaison
Nigel Ireland says it's good to get kids to take up an instrument

Nigel Ireland, the Ulster Orchestra Community Liaison, lead the Inspiration Workshops.

He said the idea behind the workshops was to inspire young children.

"It's also about trying to get kids to take up an instrument and learn and feel the joy of making music together," Mr Ireland said.

"Coming out of Covid it's been difficult for children to get back into playing instruments and these workshops are a taster about music and how much benefit can be gained by being involved in music.

"We're hoping to inspire them to take up an instrument because of the benefits, as well for personal development. Music can be a real benefit to children."

The workshops were both interactive and visual, featuring songs the children would recognise. It also gave them the chance to try out instruments and even conduct the orchestra.

The pupils were also taught about all of the different instruments that feature in an orchestra and how they work together.

'Amazing'

"I loved it so much," school pupil Grace told BBC News NI.

"It's amazing, absolutely outstanding how much they practice and how good it is.

"It's brilliant that they spent their own time coming to us and teaching us about their instruments."

For the workshop on Tuesday, Nigel Ireland was joined by the Ulster Orchestra leader Ioana Petcu-Colan, viola section leader Wenham Jiang and cello section leader Thomas Osaac.

Mr Ireland said the feedback from schools has been "phenomenal".

"We hear about children from that area going home and raving to their parents," he said.

"And also behaviour wise, there's an uptake on how well children respond and behave."

He said he also hoped to continue to inspire pupils in primary schools across Northern Ireland and to create fond memories that they could carry into adulthood.

"I still have really fond memories of being at school when I was five or six," he said.

"So hopefully today these children will have these happy, lifelong memories of the day the Ulster Orchestra came to their school.

"The orchestra isn't just about concerts, it's about community engagement and the players are all committed."

Carol Lynch teaches Primary One and is the music coordinator at John Paul II Primary School.

Carol Lynch
Carol Lynch says workshops are so important because some children might never get the chance to avail of the opportunity again

"We used to play instruments and with funding and everything it wasn't available. It is expensive but we do have a range of percussion instruments we try to use in class as well, " Ms Lynch said.

"But we would love to get involved again and projects like this are fantastic for our children."

Ms Lynch said the workshop had been inspiring for both pupils and staff.

"These workshops are so important because some children might never get the chance to avail of this again," she said.