Ulster Orchestra chief is gone overnight

Ulster Orchestra chief is gone overnight


norman lebrecht

March 06, 2014

Rosa Solinas, a former Arts Council flak, was supposed to save the orchestra.

The following has just been posted by another ex-CEO of the troubled band:

I rang Rosa Solinas at the Ulster Orchestra this morning and was

shocked to be told that she’s gone. “She’s achieved everything she set

out to achieve and has moved on to new challenges.” 




UPDATE: Rosa was in the job just 13 months. She cleared out a lot of staff and appointed a new chief conductor, Rafael Payare. He now faces a period of uncertainty until a replacement is found.

In other news, it was reported today that Northern Ireland’s arts minister Caral Ni Chuilin has not been to hear the orchestra once during her three years in office. The Ulster Orch consumes one-third of the province’s arts budget. Where the heck has she been?


  • Helen Henderson says:

    Hardly an exclusive Norman. Classical Music published the story this morning complete with the David Byers quote. And the UO gets nowhere near “a third of the province’s arts budget”. And, while we’re on it, the last time any part of the UK was a “province” was when the Romans were in occupation!

    • I believe we published it first.

    • Glenn Hardy says:

      And while we’re on it, is Mr. McBride mistaken in his use of the word, “province” in the following quote?

      “The clip ends with Irish rugby legend Willie John McBride warning Saracens they’ll be playing “the whole province of Ulster” when they come to Ravenhill next month.”

  • Helen Henderson says:

    “exclusive” is clearly an elastic term… but what about the claim that the UO takes “a third of the province’s arts budget”? It’s nowhere near that. If anything, it’s closer to around 10%.

  • Edna Welthorpe says:

    “Clueless bully”

  • Edna Welthorpe says:

    “Track record for picking up arts admin jobs, getting into problems and then moving siftly on”

  • Edna Welthorpe says:

    “the loose cannon”

  • Edna Welthorpe says:

    PRIVATE EYE (31 October-13 November 2014)


    It’s crunch time at the near-bankrupt, Belfast-based Ulster Orchestra (Eyes passim), whose chairman Sir George Bain declared this month that it was likely to fold unless someone bails it out before its AGM on 15 December.

    In the arts world, musicians, led by luminaries such as Sir James Galway, have rushed to launch petitions and express outrage. But the slowness of the political establishment to react to Bain’s threat has been instructive.

    Belfast city council has discussed the matter but postponed a decision, sending Bain away to put together a better case for survival. Then last week the Northern Ireland Arts Council (NIAC) released a curious statement that appeared to step back from the whole matter. While the NIAC “aims to support any client organisation through difficult times”, it said, “it is not and cannot be responsible for the governance and corporate affairs of the Ulster Orchestra. These are rightly the responsibility of the Board.”

    The message seems to be that the UO got itself into this mess and must therefore get itself out. There’s some substance to that view.
    The immediate problems relate to funding cuts for which the orchestra cannot be blamed: a drop of 28 percent, with more to come, that will leave it £500,000 in the red by year’s end. But the orchestra’s administration has been chaotic for some time and resulted in some very bad business decisions.

    There has been no chief executive since March when the last one, Rosa Solinas, resigned after only 13 months in a job many thought she should not have had in the first place, having previously been the boss of the NI Arts Council.
    It looked incestuous (it was); and when she left, the chairman who appointed her – Sir G. Bain – took over her executive powers (which also looked incestuous).

    Solinas’s achievements amounted to little beyond sacking so many support staff the orchestra became all but paralysed, and threatening to boycott the Ulster Hall which had recently been refurbished to the orchestra’s requirements at a cost of £9m. She made few friends in Northern Ireland’s higher places; and those in lower ones didn’t stick around either when the orchestra scrapped its subscriber system (losing more than £80,000 in the process), relocated its box office ill-advisedly and persisted in scheduling expensive concerts on days that were traditionally bad for attendance.
    Given all this, it’s no wonder Bain’s desperate cap-in-hand approaches of recent weeks have so far failed to get anywhere. The desperation is obvious from the way he’s gone to Belfast council and offered to make the orchestra more city-focused (with a change of name) if Belfast offers money, while he’s also gone to Stormont promising to make the band more Ulster-wide if the legislative assembly bails him out.

    No one emerges from the crisis well. Northern Ireland pleads poverty but still manages to find cash when political expediency dictates. Its culture department has just allocated £5m to promote Irish and Ulster Scots language groups; and £12m has been spent in the past year policing Belfast’s Union flag demonstrations.

    That the Ulster Orchestra has a proud record of standing apart from sectarian squabbles only encourages politicians to ignore it. Not long ago the NI culture minister Caral Ni Chuilin said that during three years in office she’d never once been to a UO concert. In fact she had been – she’d just forgotten.
    Lunchtime O’Boulez

  • Edna Welthorpe says:


    Crisis? What crisis?

    Word of the Ulster Orchestra’s financial difficulties has struggled to cross the Irish Sea

    Reaction in the media to the financial troubles of the Ulster Orchestra (see News, p8) has been interesting. Strongly covered in Northern Ireland – where the Belfast Telegraph ran substantial and high-visibility pieces and BBC Northern Ireland has covered it extensively – the story has (at least at the time of going to press) largely failed to register with media on the mainland. Here, CM’s coverage, a post by the Guardian’s Tom Service and characteristically incendiary coverage by Norman Lebrecht on his Slipped Disc blog have been the lone voices.

    Whether this is a form of inverse parochialism on the part of mainland media or a feeling that Northern Irish politics is just too complicated – even if that is the relatively simple matter of an orchestra running out of money and getting out the begging bowl – is not clear. Another explanation could be that rather than write something negative about an orchestra which has been going through chief executives (both permanent and interim) like clarinettists through Rizlas, commentators have chosen to write nothing at all rather than be forced to draw attention to the turbulent management of recent times.

    Another explanation still – and perhaps this is most likely – is that broadsheet newspaper journalists are hideously stretched, and the possible loss of the only professional orchestra in Northern Ireland is not enough, regardless of its fascinating and important history: only its death will be enough to merit a notice. The relatively sparse mainland coverage of the £100bn bailout for Northern Ireland’s executive, sanctioned by chancellor George Osborne last month and part of the wider context of the orchestra’s financial woes, perhaps adds further weight to this theory.

    But whatever the explanation for the lack of coverage, either the orchestra will survive or it won’t. If it doesn’t, the bones will be picked over and there will be apportioning of blame.
    If its future is secured, then questions will immediately be asked about its past.

    Since the resignation in March of its last permanent chief executive, Rosa Solinas, the orchestra has been led by chairman Sir George Bain as interim chief executive, for the second time in his tenure. There is a reason for the separation of board and executives in organisations such as the Ulster Orchestra: where public money is being spent it is important that it is spent responsibly; this requires oversight, which requires perspective, which requires distance. A chairman who is required to get his hands dirty in rescuing his organisation is open to the charge of not doing his job properly up to, and possibly including, that point. Certainly Lebrecht has called for Sir George’s resignation as a prerequisite for the orchestra to be saved, as well as a public enquiry into the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

    But the heightened sense of jeopardy in the situation was summed up by Tom Service: ‘In the context of debates about how many orchestras other parts of the UK have or should have, Northern Ireland’s situation is simpler and starker. There is only one full-time professional orchestra there, so without the Ulster Orchestra, you’re not just talking about a reduction in orchestral provision, opportunity and possibility: the instant and irreversible effect would be the destruction of orchestral culture … the question is whether there’s the time, the will, or the money to save the orchestra.’
    The exponential growth of the ‘Save the Ulster Orchestra’ campaign on Facebook and on petition website Change.org, at least in the campaign’s early stages, suggested that there is a strong and committed bedrock of support for the orchestra. Whether that is enough to convince those who hold the purse strings to at least give the orchestra a stay of execution to sort itself out was at the time of going to press unknown.