Local girl Christine Watson, founder of Watson & Co. Chartered Marketing, has been appointed to offer WorldHost training in Co Down, Belfast, England, Scotland and Wales.

Launched by Ministers’ Arlene Foster and Stephen Farry, the training is planned at a critical time for the economy, as Northern Ireland prepares to host a series of world-class events in 2012 and 2013.

Chartered marketer Christine Watson founder of Watson and Co. Chartered Marketing has expanded her service offering to include internationally renowned WorldHost customer service and ambassador training following its formal launch by Ministers’ Arlene Foster and Stephen Farry. The training is supported by a generous funding package from DEL which reduces the cost by 89% to just £20 for eligible businesses who sign up before 30 March 2012, in the tourism industry spanning hospitality leisure, retail and transport. Originally from Newcastle, Christine built her career in Banbridge bringing hundreds of thousands of retail tourists into the area. Christine is accredited to offer WorldHost training in Co Down, Belfast England, Scotland and Wales.

Christine said:  “It’s a very exciting time for the retail and tourism industries in Northern Ireland and delivering excellent customer service at each and every customer touchpoint is essential.  WorldHost is supported until end March 2012 by a generous funding package from DEL which reduces the cost by a staggering 89% to just £20 per participant for eligible businesses in the tourism industry in Northern Ireland.

“Our tourism industry which spans hospitality, leisure, retail and transport can capitalise on this year’s unique opportunity, to raise its profile on a worldwide stage, creating lasting impressions and encouraging repeat visits and positive word of mouth endorsement of Northern Ireland as a must visit or top tourist destination.”

The first WorldHost course for tourism related businesses in the Banbridge district is scheduled for 6th and 7th March at the Belmont Hotel.  Places are limited and will be allocated on a first come first served basis.  To register your interest or book places, email your details to

With over one million people trained worldwide, WorldHost customer service training gives front-line staff a comprehensive grounding in the principles of customer service and acting as an ambassador for their local area. Originally developed in Canada and widely perceived as the global leader for customer service – WorldHost also has a track record of being used to support world-class events. The programme was used to train 39,000 tourism staff and volunteers in the run-up to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, and is also being used at London 2012 to train thousands of staff and contractors working at the Olympic and Paralympic venues.

Christine is accredited by People 1st, The Northern Ireland Tourist Board and WorldHostTM.  A professional Chartered Marketer Christine is also a Customer Service Assessor for the Centre for Competitiveness Gold Star award and an innovation agent, technical mentor and marketing expert to small businesses in NI and ROI for the EU via Noribic’s iFactory and Castlereagh Borough Council’s Evolution programmes.

Originally from Newcastle, a designated area of outstanding natural beauty, Christine’s career achievements to date include attracting hundreds of thousands of retail tourists into Banbridge from the Republic of Ireland positioning the area as a retail tourism destination.

Woo at the Zoo for your loved one and you!

If you’re looking for that special place to take your loved one this Valentines Day then Belfast Zoo is the destination for you.

Come along for the perfect romantic day out and learn about all the animals in love. To take part in our Woo at the Zoo tour phone 028 9078 2085 and book your ticket.

As if that wasn’t enough we are giving you the chance to win a once in a lifetime experience feeding the giraffes.

By purchasing an animal adoption for your loved one and by answering a simple question, you will be automatically entered into a prize draw for the ‘Woo at the Zoo’ competition.

The winner will be announced on facebook and will receive their chance to feed the giraffes on Sunday 12 February 2012.

To be in with the chance of winning follow three simple steps. Choose the animal you would like to adopt, the level of adoption you would like (bronze, silver or gold) and answer the following question:

Question: Which of our monogamous animals presents a gift of a pebble to his lifelong mate?

(a)   Moloch gibbons

(b)   Gentoo penguins

(c)   Pygmy marmosets

Phone 028 9078 2085 or email for more information and to apply.

Terms and conditions

  • You must answer the question when you apply for your animal adoption.
  • This promotion is valid from 1 February 2012 and ends on Friday 10 February 2011 at 3pm.
  • The winner will be selected at random and once a winner has been selected, the decision is final.
  • The winner will be notified on Friday 10 February 2011 at 3:30pm.
  • This prize is for a maximum of 2 people.
  • Payment for your animal adoption must be received before 2:30pm on Friday 10 February 2011 in order to enter.
  • Belfast Zoological Gardens reserve the right to re-organise the prize due to unforeseen circumstances.


The first ever Ulster Association of Youth Drama Conference will be held at the Grand Opera House, Belfast, on Wednesday 29 February.

Ryan Black, Chair of Ulster Association of Youth Drama, shares some insights into ‘The Next Stage’, the first ever UAYD conference to be held in the Grand Opera House on 29th February 2012 with young people who will be performing at the event.

Aimed at those working directly in the youth drama sector in Northern Ireland, the one day event, themed ‘engage, inspire and create’, will offer attendees a varied programme of performance, keynote speeches, workshops and a panel discussion session.

Some of the UK’s leading drama experts will be on hand to impart their knowledge and engage with the delegates.  Colin Bradie of Promote YT, Scotland, and theatre director and writer Phil Clark will give keynote addresses; Ali Campbell, a leading expert in Boal Techniques, will present facilitation masterclasses, Danny Braverman, a director and writer, who has particular experience in community theatre, will host a workshop on drama and citizenship and Tracy Dempsey of Soul Ambition will inspire delegates on how to engage with young people through social media.

Ryan Black, Chair of Ulster Association of Youth Drama, said:  “NI2012 is certainly a year of opportunity for arts and culture.  We want to embrace ‘our time, our place’ with a thought provoking Conference, offering learning and best practice to anyone who wants to explore the use of drama when working with young people or those studying for a career in the industry.

“Basically we would encourage theatre leaders, professional artists, youth leaders, academics teaching drama, community and voluntary groups, public sector support organisations, arts officers, performers, workshop facilitators and students pursuing a career in drama to attend.

“We are committed to leading a co-ordinated approach to the development of the sector stimulating good practice, growth in participation and audiences.  Face to face interaction is key to working together to achieve this and we are both excited and confident that we are offering something unique to those who plan to attend ‘The Next Stage’.”

Gavin O’Connor, Youth Arts Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “The Arts Council has long been a supporter of the Ulster Association of Youth Drama and its first conference will create an opportunity for theatre professionals and young people to share their experience, knowledge and ideas, through a structured process of discussion and debate.”

The Conference will also feature a Youth Theatre Forum open to all young people aged 16 plus who have an interest in arts, theatre and drama.

Delegate fees range from £10.00 to £25.00.  To book your place at ‘The Next Stage’ log onto or email


Andrew Lloyd Webber starts a nationwide search on ITV1 for the next musical superstar#1

The prize on offer is a unique opportunity to play the title role in new arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar across the UK,
starting at London’s O2 arena

And the final decision will be in the hands of the British public

ITV1 and Andrew Lloyd Webber today announce ‘Superstar’– a brand new show that will give the British public the chance to choose the country’s next major rock star.

The winner’s life-changing prize will be the leading role in a new arena tour of the legendary rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar which will open at London’s O2 arena.

Superstar will help talented singers achieve their potential and Andrew Lloyd Webber hopes the British public will help him discover an extraordinary new voice to fill the country’s largest arenas.

Andrew Lloyd Webber says: “Presenting a new, 2012 version of Jesus Christ Superstar for arenas is truly exciting. Some of the best performances of this show have been in rock venues and I’m thrilled to see the show return to its roots. ITV is providing the perfect platform for us to find a new, British Superstar.”

Andrew Lloyd Webber has previously discovered brilliant new stars for West End productions of The Sound of Music, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Oliver! and The Wizard of Oz. Theatre audiences have grown, there has been an increase in musical theatre licensing by amateur societies and a surge in applications at stage schools.

“It is the public who lead the casting process and they’ve got it absolutely right four times already. It’s been wonderful to see the careers of so many of the contestants blossom, so it will be especially fascinating to see who the public chooses as their Superstar!” says Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Auditions will take place across the country during February-March in London, Dublin, Belfast, Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff. The UK’s most promising new talent will perform on stage in the hope of impressing the casting panel for a place in the final live shows.

The casting team will whittle down the numbers for the live shows featuring those they believe have potential to become a superstar.

Lloyd Webber will be joined by a carefully selected panel of judges to help him in his search. But ultimately it will be up to the British public to decide who they want to be his Superstar and play Jesus.

Elaine Bedell, ITV’s Director of Entertainment & Comedy, says: “We are asking ITV viewers to help us find a new superstar – in every sense of the word. We’re looking for the kind of performer who can fill arenas – and produce a rocking performance to match.”

Peter Davey, Executive Producer, says: “This is a massive, exciting opportunity and Andrew is looking for special talent. The winner will overnight become both an acting lead and – dare I say – a rock god overnight. There’s never been a bigger role or greater challenge ……… and it will be fascinating to see who the British public pick as their “Jesus”.

Kevin Lygo, Managing Director of ITV Studios says: “Live primetime entertainment is at the heart of ITV Studios and we’re delighted to be working with Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber to bring this nationwide search to ITV1.”

Superstar is executive produced by Peter Davey with Katharine Begg as series producer.

Superstar is an ITV Studios production for ITV1.

How to Apply:

Please go to for full details on how to apply and audition, website will be live from midnight Wednesday 18th January 2012. Anyone can apply over the age of 18 yrs, be it professional or amateur.

For further press information on the show please contact;
Gary Smith on 0207 157 3016 or

For further information on pictures please contact;
Shane Chapman on 0207 157 3043 or

ADELAIDE MOTORCYCLE FESTIVAL 2012 Belfast King’s Hall 10-12 February

How well do you know either Dundrod or Mondello Park? Or to be more accurate, how fast can you lap those circuits and at the same time beat the experts?

A Room2Race computer simulator will provide the answer at the Adelaide-backed King’s Hall Motorcycle Festival this weekend when fans will be able to pit their wits against guest riders in the Nugent Hall.

“It’s good to get the punters involved with some live activity in Belfast,” said show promoter Billy Nutt. “During Friday afternoon and all day Saturday we will have qualifying sessions.”

“The grand final will be on Sunday when the public will be able to go head-to-head with the likes of the British Superbike champion Tommy Hill, Isle of Man TT specialist John McGuinness and Steve Plater who has won seven-times at the North-West 200.”

Michael Rutter

“Our own Alistair Seeley who is the British Supersport champion will also be on the grid so-to-speak along with Macau Grand Prix specialist Michael Rutter, Manxman Conor Cummins who is a former Dundrod lap record-holder and hopefully Michael Laverty who will be part of the Honda team in this year’s British Superbike championship.”

“Ballywalter’s David Lemon, an accomplished 125 cc rider, is the man behind the race simulator.”

“So far as the fans are concerned the best two will receive VIP tickets to the final round of the Adelaide Masters series at Mondello Park while £300 will go to the winning rider.”

“We will have two of these simulators which will no doubt throw-up some interesting statistics.”

“This is a huge social occasion,” added Nutt. “We have more than 70 exhibitors and that coupled with a large classic display, an auto-jumble and acrobatic demonstrations by some of our top trials riders means that there is something for everyone.”

“Andy Perry who leads the Irish trials championship will be performing some daredevil stunts while British championship motocross contender Martin Barr will also be in attendance along with Comber’s Tommy Merton who is the current Ulster MX2 champion.”

“There will be a display of the new EVO motocross bikes thanks to the involvement of Lawrence Spence and the Knock club.”

Hill is due to declare the show officially open on Friday (10 Feb.) at 2pm and it will run until 10pm.The opening times for Saturday and Sunday are 10am to 5pm on both days.

The MAC takes Centre Stage with World Class Programme Launch

The MAC, Belfast’s brand new arts venue, today (Fri 3rd Feb) launched its opening programme at an event hosted by broadcaster and journalist Mariella Frostrup. The launch included a series of panel discussions about the MAC’s first ever programme and about the arts sector in Northern Ireland. First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness also spoke at the event and welcomed the opening of the MAC later this year. The invited guests heard messages of support from some of Northern Ireland’s most famous arts exports, including award-winning children’s author Oliver Jeffers, actress Geraldine Hughes and actor Ciaran Hinds.

The MAC supporter actress Meryl Streep added “I’m so disappointed to be unable to celebrate with you today back in the beautiful Harbour Commissioner’s Office in Belfast. When we all stood there last, back in 2007, the MAC was a wonderful dream, and now that dream has finally become a wonderful reality.  The MAC really is an amazing gift for the people of Northern Ireland.

“I’ve seen amazing photographs, and the colossal MAC building itself looks absolutely stunning – it really is an architectural gem to have in the heart of your city.  But of course the MAC is more than a building, it’s about the art, and the magic that happens inside. And I’ve had a sneak peek at the opening programme of events – it is a truly inspiring and breathtaking line-up. It’s especially exciting to see so much new theatre and dance and visual art being created in these challenging times.

“I strongly believe that the arts help us to live fuller lives, and the MAC is an invaluable new home for the arts in Northern Ireland.”

Located in the heart of Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, the MAC is due to open on 20 April 2012.  When it opens, the MAC as Northern Ireland’s newest arts venue will provide local and international art, theatre, dance and music along with bars and restaurants, all under one roof.

At the launch, host Mariella Frostrup said: “The MAC is a truly wonderful addition to the cultural landscape of Northern Ireland. The programme launched today is worthy of any international venue and I am thrilled to be a part of the celebrations. I look forward to returning in the very near future to visit the MAC when it opens in April.”

Anne McReynolds, Chief Executive of the MAC said, “We are absolutely delighted today to unveil our hotly anticipated programme for the MAC.  We are counting down the days to our official opening in April and today’s a major milestone in our journey. We have all worked extremely hard to create a programme which will appeal to audiences of all ages and interests from the international art to the kids’ workshops. We can’t wait to start welcoming locals and visitors to the MAC giving them something new in the heart of the city.

“This project has been ten years in the making and with the launch of the superb opening programme, the opening of our ‘pop-up’ ticket shop on Rosemary Street, the progress with the building and the new website all launching today it makes the project very real. We are confident that that the MAC will add another layer to the cultural offer in Belfast and Northern Ireland and help put this region on the worldwide stage.”

Gillian Mitchell, Director of Programmes at the MAC, who curated the programme said: “We are very proud and excited to be opening with our own show – Titanic (Scenes from the British Wreck Commissioner’s Inquiry, 1912). This brand new MAC production written by Owen McCafferty is a riveting courtroom drama which seeks the truth behind the tragedy, uncovering the human stories of the ship’s survivors in their own words. It will be the very first show in the MAC’s 350 seat theatre, opening 22 April.”

She continued: “We are extremely dedicated to promoting and supporting the work of local theatre companies and emerging artists from Northern Ireland, alongside bringing international work to the MAC. In our galleries we are exhibiting L.S. Lowry alongside local artist William Conor, a huge installation by LA-based artist Robert Therrien, on tour from the Tate, and a video installation by Belfast-based artist Nicholas Keogh.”

Also on offer is Sweet Charity, the musical sensation of the year. The MAC has teamed up with popular Belfast-based Bruiser Theatre Company to bring this Broadway smash-hit to life. Featuring hits such as Hey, Big Spender and The Rhythm of Life, this feel-good show runs from 29 May to 17 June.

With support from local Government (DCAL, DSD and Belfast City Council), Arts Council of Northern Ireland and NITB, the MAC is a prime example of how devolved Government is working for our people and our place. Celebrating the best of home grown talent, showcasing international work and nurturing new, emerging artists in a world class facility, the MAC is set to become an iconic landmark in Northern Ireland’s cultural heritage.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “This high quality venue, supported by an investment of £5.25million of Arts Council funding, will add to the Belfast arts infrastructure. In the busy year for arts and culture ahead of us, it will also provide our talented local artists with yet more job opportunities and make a significant contribution to the city’s economy.”

The MAC will open its doors to the public on 20th April and will be open seven days a week until late, including from 10am on Sundays. Tickets for all events are on sale now from or from the MAC’s pop up shop at 33 Rosemary Street in Belfast.

THE MAC, Belfast’s brand new arts venue, launches world-class visual arts programme for 2012

Opening programme includes:

–              William Conor & L.S. Lowry: A People Observed

–              Nicholas Keogh: A Removals Job

–              Maria McKinney: Somewhere but here, another other place

–              ARTIST ROOMS: Robert Therrien No Title (Table and Four Chairs)

–              Eithne Jordan: Small Worlds

–              Shipsides and Beggs Projects

Located at the heart of Belfast’s cultural Cathedral Quarter, the MAC is Northern Ireland’s brand new arts venue, which includes three stunning art galleries, including a closed control gallery within the impressive six-storey building.

Opening on 20th April, the MAC’s inaugural arts programme launches with a diverse selection of exhibitions, from newly commissioned works to monumental sculptures and a historic show. With free admission to the galleries seven days a week from 10am, the MAC encourages individuals, families, groups and communities to experience new world-class facilities and exhibitions right on their doorstep.

At the heart of the MAC’s opening season is ‘A People Observed’, an exhibition that brings together, for the first time, two of our most popular artists L.S. Lowry and Belfast-born William Conor, as part of the ‘Our Time, Our Place’ celebrations of Northern Ireland’s heritage and talent. The exhibition draws on Belfast’s industrial heritage and celebrates the labour which contributed to the historical significance of cities such as Belfast, Manchester and Salford. This exhibition sees Lowry’s work coming to Northern Ireland for the very first time. It will feature alongside contemporary artists exhibited in the MAC’s other two galleries including LA-based artist Robert Therrien, and local artists Nicholas Keogh and Maria McKinney.

Cassandra Needham, Curator, the MAC said:  “We are delighted to open the MAC with such an eclectic mix of exhibitions. L.S. Lowry is one of the most popular British artists of the 20th century, renowned for his depictions of life in the industrial districts of Northern England. Lowry’s distinctive figures are ant-like against a backdrop of factory chimneys and imposing mills, whilst the works of William Conor are more overt celebrations of working-class life; his portrayals are warm depictions of city life in his native Ulster. Both artists were born and died within a few years of each other, and their works document, without parallel, the changing landscapes of their time and the people that populated them.

“Following the celebratory theme of labour is Belfast-based artist Nicholas Keogh, whose film A Removals Job (2012) is a major new commission by the MAC. A Removals Job honours the camaraderie of a group of workers as they physically demolish a traditional two-up two-down terrace house in Belfast. Cleared of furnishings and with personal effects violently cast aside, the group are initially erratic and destructive. As the film progresses the workers – both their bodies and the objects they carry – begin to move together in intricate unison. Keogh’s film is a passionate and  humourous response to life as a manual labourer in Northern Ireland.”

Also in the MAC’s opening programme, a series of intricate installations by Dublin-based Maria McKinney explore the ideas of boredom and how best to escape it. McKinney has reconfigured an earlier work Somewhere but here, another other place (2010) for the MAC’s Sunken Gallery. Comprising second-hand domestic tables stacked to fill the gallery, the installation invites the visitor to physically explore the work, allowing it to develop as the installation unfolds.

McKinney’s installation complements and contrasts with the monumental sculptural work by Los Angeles-based Robert Therrien situated in the impressive Upper Gallery. Therrien’s work, which is part of the ARTIST ROOMS collection donated by Anthony D’Offay jointly to Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in 2008 with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund, Therrien’s colossal is entitled No Title (Table and Four Chairs) 2003 would be a typical dining set except for the fact that it stands at nearly ten feet tall. Visitors are encouraged to walk in and around the imposing sculpture, which provokes memories of childhood and – much like McKinney’s installation – asks us to reassess our sense of scale and space.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said: “Today’s programme launch adds another exciting layer of anticipation around the opening of the MAC and what will be a vibrant new space offering fabulous opportunities for people to participate in and enjoy the arts.”

Amy Dickson, Managing Curator, ARTIST ROOMS spokesperson, said:

“We are delighted that Robert Therrien’s No Title (Table and Four Chairs) from the ARTIST ROOMS collection will be part of the inaugural displays at the MAC. We are thrilled that this important work will be seen in Belfast by visitors to this new and important venue.”

Later in the season is an exhibition of new works by Belfast-based Shipsides and Beggs Projects, as well as the largest presentation of Eithne Jordan’s works on paper to be exhibited in Northern Ireland.

Anne McReynolds, Chief Executive of the MAC commented: “The MAC will showcase the work of our extremely talented local artists alongside those of international reputation which we hope will appeal both to regular gallery goers and to those who are experiencing the visual arts for the very first time.  There is something on offer for everyone in each of our three stunning galleries and we look forward to welcoming visitors when we open our doors in April.”

The inaugural visual art exhibitions are generously supported by Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland Tourist Board.

Make it a date to remember with the National Trust

Here’s a little secret – if you want to really impress someone, give them an unforgettable experience. The National Trust has everything you need to make Valentines Day really special this year. With breathtaking backdrops and centuries of romantic tradition, we have everything you need to treat your loved one to a memorable day out.

Here’s a selection of our top tips for romance:

Spend the day together

There’s nothing more important on Valentines Day than spending time together. Take the exhilarating rope bridge challenge at Carrick-a-Rede and enjoy a truly unique cliff top experience.  Or wander hand in hand through the inspirational gardens at Mount Stewart.  Whatever you choose, we have everything you need to escape and spend time with each other.

Think about the backdrop

A memorable day out needs a memorable setting. The breathtaking ruins of Downhill Demesne with Mussenden Temple perched on the cliff edge are guaranteed to capture the imagination. Or for a peaceful setting head for Florence Court in Fermanagh with its glorious walks set against the dramatic backdrop of mountains and forests.

Make a stay of it

Why settle for an afternoon out? National Trust holiday cottages are in some of the most beautiful places in Northern Ireland. Relax with a short break at Butler’s Apartment in Florence Court, enjoy coastal walks on the North Coast from Portbraddan Cottage or explore the cycle and walking trails at Castle Ward with a stay in Downpatrick Gate Lodge or Potter’s Cottage.

It doesn’t have to cost the earth

You don’t have to break the bank for a great day out. With an array of coast and countryside places across Northern Ireland, a stunning location may just be right on your doorstep.  Enjoy the breathtaking natural beauty of Murlough National Nature Reserve, miles of golden sand and dramatic sand dunes at Portstewart Strand and spectacular panoramic views over Belfast from Divis and the Black Mountain.

Find a quiet space

With extensive grounds on magnificent country estates, not to mention stunning walks on the coast and in the countryside, you can always find a secluded and romantic corner. Rowallane Garden is a haven for all seasons, with 52 acres of informal gardens to explore there’s plenty of space to find your moment.  Or savour the peace at Castle Coole with a stroll around the lakeside walk and discover the wildlife that live in and around Lough Coole.

Fantastic flowers

From delicate white snowdrops to colourful winter gardens, you can see stunning displays of seasonal flowers at many of our places. The Argory and Springhill have some of the best displays of delicate snowdrops; much more memorable and impressive than any bouquet.

Give a thoughtful gift

Rather than something impersonal, pick up something special to remember your day by. With a great selection of handmade delights and fine local produce, shops like the one at Mount Stewart or the Giant’s Causeway, are a great place to pick up a memento.

Percussion Spectacular set for Friday Night!

Colin Currie, the pioneering percussion soloist, makes a return trip to Belfast this Friday (3 February) when he performs James MacMillan’s spectacular percussion concerto Veni, Veni, Emmanuel in a special 20th anniversary Ulster Orchestra performance at the Ulster Hall.

The concert, Nordic Connections, which is conducted by the Ulster Orchestra’s Principal Conductor, JoAnn Falletta features music from more northerly nations and opens with the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s elegant Holberg Suite and includes the Finnish maestro Sibelius’ powerful and evocative Symphony No.5 and the pre-eminent Scottish composer of his generation, James MacMillan’s spectacular percussion concerto.

Speaking in advance of the concert, Colin Currie said, “The MacMillan concerto is a very powerful and dramatic work that becomes very thrilling indeed when performed live. It’s music that is abundantly lyrical and extremely engaging.”

The concerto was first performed at the BBC Proms in August 1992, five years later Colin Currie was in Belfast to record it with the UO, “so it feels great to return to perform the piece in Belfast once again,” he said.

Colin will be playing an array of percussion instruments, 17 in total comprising 45 different elelments, in a piece that requires a careful balance and integration between the soloist and orchestra. “We will be working in tandem rather than one dominating the other, so I need to be quick-witted and sharp-eared during the concert to react to the various tempo changes and make sure things are truly locked in. It’s a blast!”

Looking forward to the concert, JoAnn Falletta said, “I adore these three pieces, and they are all completely different. The MacMillan Veni, Veni Emmanuel is a stunning modern work based on an ancient Advent melody, and the piece could not have a better advocate than our soloist Colin Currie.

“Grieg’s Holberg Suite is one of his masterpieces, and will give our Ulster Orchestra strings a chance to shine in extraordinary music, while Sibelius’ Fifth Symphony is an unforgettable portrait of the uniquely beautiful Finnish landscape, complete with the haunting song of the swans that so fascinated the composer.

Colin Currie will also be giving a Masterclass in the Ulster Hall on Thursday evening (2 February) at 7.30pm, part of the Ulster Orchestra’s ongoing education and outreach work. Four young percussionists will be taken through their paces by Colin. Tickets for the Masterclass and the concert are available from the Ulster Orchestra on 028 9023 9955 or at