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 six when he took up the piano before going on a year later to take up the violin. Growing up in Belfast Paul was a member of both the City of Belfast Youth Orchestra and the Ulster Youth Orchestra (UYO). After leaving school Paul opted to study biology at Queen’s University Belfast but whilst at Queen’s Paul became very involved in the musical life of the university, conducting the Music Society Choir in their 2008/2009 season before then conducting the Queen’s University Symphony Orchestra from 2009–2011, during which time he helped to lead the orchestra on its inaugural tour to Glasgow and Edinburgh.
In 2011 Paul began conducting lessons with Garry Walker and in 2012 conducted UYO during their first film music concert in Victoria Square and in a string orchestra concert. He rekindled his relationship with the Queen’s Orchestra when he conducted the orchestra during their 2013/2014 season which saw a busy time for the orchestra, culminating in a performance of Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy with soloist Joanne Quigley, followed by a UK tour. In 2015 Paul worked with UYO's play-in day and directed a UYO chamber orchestra at the Hillsborough Oyster Festival. Paul has also conducted the Esker Festival Orchestra in film music concerts in both 2015 and 2016. Having completed his PhD in biology Paul is now working at Queen's as a post-doctoral researcher in molecular parasitology.
Piano - Fionnuala Ward
Fionnuala holds a First Class Honours degree from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, studying under Korean pianist, Sinae Lee. Born in Co. Derry, she began playing piano at the age of 4, under tuition from Irish concert pianist Ruth McGinley. At 15 she was named Northern Ireland Young Musician of the Year, and was subsequently requested to play for the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at a lunch and evening reception at Hillsborough Castle during Her Majesty's visit to Northern Ireland in 2008. Since then, she has performed on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio Ulster, and reached the Category Auditions at the Royal College of Music for the BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2010. She was a finalist in the Catherine Judge Memorial Award in 2011, and has received masterclasses from Peter Donohoe, John O’Conor, Roy Howat, Pascal Roge, Barry Douglas, Richard Goode and Philip Kawin.
During her studies at the Royal Conservatoire, she won the Peter Lindsay Miller Prize for piano duo, and received Highly Commended in the Governors’ Recital Prize. She has featured with her piano duet partner in the 'Monday's at One' concert series, the Commonwealth Concert, and the Piano Festival 2015 at the Conservatoire. She was also selected to perform the world premiere of 'RITE' by J Simon van der Walt at the annual RCS Piano Festival in 2013, and was invited to perform Saint Saens ‘Carnival of the Animals’ with Ballymena Chamber Orchestra. She performed with the Red Note Ensemble at the Plug Festival 2014 under the baton of Garry Walker, and represented the Conservatoire at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, with a solo recital at the Brunton Theatre. In 2013, she spent a semester abroad studying at the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Poland with Zbigniew Raubo and Piotr Banasik, and in 2015 she was invited to attend the Young Artists Programme at the Clandeboye Festival, receiving private lessons with Barry Douglas. In the same year she competed in the City of Cantu International Concerto Competition in Italy, and this year she was selected as the first recipient of the Peter Rankin pianist internship for Northern Ireland Opera’s Festival of Voice at Glenarm, working with Iain Burnside. She recently moved to London to pursue a Masters degree at the Royal College of Music, studying with Ashley Wass and Sofya Gulyak.
For five years, Fionnuala was the official accompanist for Les Sirenes Female Chamber Choir based in Glasgow, who were named Choir of the Year 2012. She has performed with the choir live on BBC Radio Scotland, and at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow Cathedral, the Mackintosh Church, Newcastle Theatre Royal, the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester and the Royal Festival Hall in the Southbank Centre, London. The choir have released their debut CD ‘There Is No Rose’ with Nimbus Records, and will soon be releasing their second album ‘Sing Willow’ with Albion Records.
Also a keen violinist, she has played in various youth orchestras since a young age. Recently she has performed in NI Opera’s production of Noye’s Fludde, with the Ulster Youth Orchestra and Ulster Orchestra at the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall, and has recently toured Italy with the opera company ‘Raucous Rossini’, as well as appearing regularly with the Laganside Sinfonia
Violin - Patrick Rafter
"belong amongst the greatest violinists, except for names such as Maxim Vengerov, Itzhak Perlman and Nigel Kennedy, I cannot think of those with whom I can compare you! .. This is passionate abandoned playing, full of excitement, risks and drama... a dangerously virtuosic ability which seems to feed off itself."
Alexander Bailie, RDS Music Festival
Regarded as one of Ireland’s most promising musicians, international award winning violinist Patrick Rafter has toured Europe, Asia and America as Concert Violinist, Chamber and Orchestral musician, and currently studies under Maxim Vengerov and Oleg Kaskiv at the International Menuhin Music Academy Switzerland.
Most recently, Patrick was awarded 1st prize at the Valiant International Violin Competition in Switzerland 2016. In 2011 Patrick was awarded a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) London, where he graduated with first class honours and was awarded the highest mark in his year group. At RAM, he was concertmaster of the Symphony, Concert and String Orchestra and was also selected as a member of the RAM’s elite string ensemble ‘Sainsbury Royal Academy Soloists’ with whom he made his Wigmore Hall debut in January 2015. During his time at the RAM, Patrick was a recipient of a host of awards including the Foundation Award, the Sir Curtis Price Award, Roger and Sarah Bancroft Award and the J E Reckitt Award.
Patrick has performed as a soloist with multiple professional orchestras including RTE Symphony Orchestra, Mannheim Chamber Orchestra, Camerata Ireland, Kiev Soloists amongst others and this season will see debuts with London Mozart Players, Prague Philarmonia among others. In October 2015, Patrick was personally invited to study under Maxim Vengerov at the International Menuhin Music Academy (IMMA), Gstaad Switzerland and has performed as soloist and concertmaster with IMMA’s elite chamber ensemble.
During his career, Patrick has studied with and performed alongside some of the greatest performers and teachers in the world today, including Maxim Vengerov, Schlomo Mintz, Barry Douglas, John O’Conor, Igor Ozim, Serjei Krylov, Reiner Honeck, Maurizio Fucs and Graf Mourja. He has also worked with some of the leading composers of the world today, such as Arvo Part, and performed with some of the greatest conductors including Semyon Bychkov, Marin Alsop, Sir Mark Elder and Gianedra Noseda.
As a conductor himself, Patrick has directed the RTE Concert Orchestra in the finals of the RDS Feis Ceoil Conducting Competition and has taken choral masterclasses with distinguished names such as Zoltan Pad, Maxim Vengerov and Volker Hempfling. Patrick is incredibly grateful to play on a Georges Chanot violin kindly supported by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.