Laganside Sinfonia began performing in 2012 with the aim of providing high quality performances of major and popular symphonic repertoire in Northern Ireland whilst raising money for local charities with both local and global impacts. Over the last five years the orchestra has grown from strength to strength and has performed major works including Rachmaninoff's Second Symphony, Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony, Rimsky Korsakov's Scheherazade and Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto! Membership of the orchestra is not fixed but around 60 players take part in each concert. Membership is drawn form a wide background with musicians, students, doctors and many more taking part. All of the performers in the orchestra give up their time for rehearsals and concert in return for no fee so as to maximise the amount being raised for charity. Many members are former members of the City of Belfast Youth Orchestra and the Ulster Youth Orchestra so the concerts are a chance to get together with old friends, play some great music and raise money for good causes.
Conductor - Paul McCusker
Paul began studying music at the age of seven when he took up the violin and piano. Growing up in Belfast Paul was a member of the City of Belfast Youth Orchestra and the Ulster Youth Orchestra. Upon leaving school Paul opted to study Zoology at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) but whilst there he became heavily involved in the musical life of the university, conducting the Music Society Choir in 2008/09 and then the QUB Symphony Orchestra from 2009-11, during which time he took the orchestra on its inaugural tour to Glasgow and Edinburgh.
In 2012 Paul conducted an Ulster Youth Orchestra outdoor film music concert and later that year founded Laganside Sinfonia, a Belfast based charity fundraising orchestra that performs annually in Belfast. Having completed his PhD in molecular biology in 2014 Paul worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the biology department of QUB, where he had research and lecturing roles, before leaving in September 2017 to study conducting at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with Garry Walker and Alasdair Mitchell. Whilst there he won the Hugh S Roberton prize for orchestral conducting, participated in a workshop with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and conducted the Red Note Ensemble in concert.
In March 2018 he won the panel and orchestra prizes at the Feis Ceoil Conducting Competition with the RTE Concert Orchestra which led to a lunchtime concert performance with the RTE Concert Orchestra in August 2018. In December 2018 he conducted an Ulster Youth Orchestra 25th Anniversary Alumni concert in the Ulster Hall, Belfast and subsequently led the Esker Festival Orchestra Concert Tour in Summer 2019. He is now working as postdoctoral researcher at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee where he has also established an orchestra.
Conductor - Niall Catney
Niall is currently an F2 doctor in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast with a keen passion for music. Throughout his time attending St Malachy’s College he studied cello with Morag Griffin and was an active musician in school and with the City of Belfast School of Music. He was privileged to travel to the USA and around Europe representing St Malachy's and the City of Belfast Youth Orchestra. During his time studying medicine at QUB he took on the role of conductor of the Queen’s University Symphony Orchestra. Here he was given the opportunity to conduct and undertake the duties of planning and funding orchestral tours. He also took part in conducting workshops in the Royal Irish Academy of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music.
More recently he has managed to combine music and medicine as conductor for the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust Staff Orchestra. In his spare time he very much enjoys working for the City of Belfast School of Music conducting the Junior Strings and coaching the string quartets. Niall is very grateful for the opportunity to work with these extremely talented musicians tonight.
Cello - Eva Richards
Eva Richards graduated with a First Class Honours degree from the Royal Northern College of Music in 2018, where she studied with Nicholas Trygstad. She is currently pursuing her MA in Cello Performance with Anthony Arnone at the University of Iowa, where she also teaches cello and coaches chamber music. In November 2018, Eva performed Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor with the Ulster Orchestra in the final of the Flax Trust Music Awards and has performed in the Wigmore Hall, as well as premiered works in Manchester, Iowa, and the Midwest Composers’ Symposium in Cincinnati.
Eva has participated in the Ulster Orchestra Professional Experience Scheme and the RTE National Symphony Orchestra Mentoring Scheme, and has been a member of the Ulster Youth Orchestra, National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland. Eva also has a keen interest in chamber music and was awarded a ‘Playing for Peace’ Scholarship to the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music in New Hampshire. She has participated in masterclasses with Alisa Weilerstein, Paul Watkins and Steven Doane and studied with Andrès Díaz as part of the 2016 Camerata Ireland Academy at Clandeboye Festival. In 2013 Eva was the winner of the Northern Ireland Young Musician of the Year Competition.