The Ulster Youth Orchestra marks its 30th Anniversary with two celebratory concerts, supported by The National Lottery and Arts Council NI

10th August, 2023

The Ulster Youth Orchestra's 30th Anniversary concerts are jam-packed with celebration. The 30th Anniversary celebrations feature a new commission to mark the occasion by composer Greg Caffrey, incredible performances from UYO’s patrons, Barry Douglas and Michael McHale, plus a show-stopping West Side Story finale. The two concerts take place at the National Concert Hall Dublin on Thursday 10 August and Ulster Hall Belfast on Saturday 12 August 2023.

Members of the Ulster youth Orchestra in rehearsals with their instruments with Jo Wright from the Arts Council and Paula Klein, General Manager of the Ulster Youth Orchestra in the centre. All are holding up their hands with crossed fingers.
The Ulster Youth Orchestra will celebrate their 30th Anniversary with two concerts this August.  Pictured at rehearsals is the Ulster Youth Orchestra with Paula Klein (middle), General Manager at the UYO and Jo Wright from Arts Council NI.

Watch the video taken at rehearsals above.

The UYO is regarded as one of the jewels in the crown of the local arts scene with a reputation for excellence in all its performances. Following competitive auditions, 96 exceptional young musicians were selected to attend the annual summer residential course ahead of the public concerts. The young players, aged 14-23, have been coached by a team of highly experienced professional tutors during the intensive 10-day course at Greenmount Agricultural College, Antrim.

Paula Klein, UYO General Manager, commented, “The Ulster Youth Orchestra has been providing access to excellence for 30 years and we are thrilled to be able to mark this special anniversary in such spectacular fashion in both the National Concert Hall in Dublin and in the Ulster Hall, Belfast. To be able to accompany Barry Douglas and Michael McHale both on the same night will be a treasured memory for our young musicians. Add to that a new commission, Bernstein and the conductor Ilyich Rivas and we have the perfect mix for two exceptional concerts!”

Gilly Campbell, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added,

“Congratulations to the Ulster Youth Orchestra on achieving 30 years as the foremost youth music provider in the training, development, and showcasing of our finest young, classical musicians in Northern Ireland. The Arts Council is proud to be principal funder of this important organisation which helps to create the next generation of classical musicians in the region, thanks to funding from The National Lottery and Department for Communities. We are also delighted to support a new work composed by our Major Individual Artist (MIA) awardee, Greg Caffrey, to mark this momentous occasion, and I would encourage everyone to go along to the performances at the National Concert Hall Dublin and Ulster Hall, Belfast, which promise to be two evenings of tremendous music.”

Bringing the very best out of the young orchestra at the concerts is Venezuelan-born American conductor Ilyich Rivas. At only 29 years old, Ilyich Rivas already has nearly 20 years in his profession under his belt and enjoys a remarkable career with concerts all over the world. His talent has allowed him to appear on some of the world's most important stages in Europe, Australia and the United States.

Joining the Ulster Youth Orchestra on stage at the concerts will be two of its highly acclaimed patrons, pianists Barry Douglas and Michael McHale. Barry Douglas will perform Tchaikovsky’s majestic Piano Concerto No.1 in the first half and in the second half, Michael McHale will play Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F- a work dominated by rhythm, mood, and atmosphere.

The concert opens with a new work by Northern Irish composer and arts Council of Northern Ireland Major Individual Artist (MIA) awardee, Greg Caffrey.

Fanfare and Overture, sub-titled “In celebration and anticipation of peace, local and universal”, was commissioned for the 30th anniversary year of the Ulster Youth Orchestra and is funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland through the New Commissioning Programme, supported by The National Lottery. The piece is dedicated to the young players of the Ulster Youth Orchestra and celebrates the hope, optimism and potential of a new generation for whom relative peace can be assumed and enjoyed, following the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

The grand finale is the thrilling West Side Story: Symphonic Dances by Bernstein, guaranteed to bring the evening to a dazzling close.

For details and tickets both concerts visit