Choirboy Ken returns in triumph
A former Belfast choirboy has returned home to take over the top musical post in Northern Ireland.
Kenneth Montgomery, the first local man to be appointed Principal Conductor of the Ulster Orchestra, will return literally and musically to his roots later this month when he opens the season in St Anne's Cathedral, Belfast, where he sang as a choir boy more than 50 years ago.
He will conduct the Orchestra in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, which is sold-out, with a long waiting list.
He told the Belfast Telegraph: "I went back to the cathedral a few days ago, and it rekindled a host of memories from my boyhood. I remember in particular the organist and choir-master Captain CJ Brennan. He was then an elderly man, and still a great musician and communicator. He was a gentle, warm person and I found him to be encouraging and inspiring.
Kenneth Montgomery's late father worked in Shorts, and his mother Lily is now 96. He said: "She is amazing, though unfortunately she is deaf and cannot hear my music making. When I told her I had been appointed Principal Conductor of the Ulster Orchestra, she held up her finger as if to say 'I told them so. All that travelling across Belfast with you as a boy to attend music rehearsals has paid off '!"
Kenneth's early promise as a musician was fulfilled, and he made his name as an opera specialist and conductor in the Netherlands, and extended this to a varied and highly successful international career.
He was delighted to be appointed to the Ulster Orchestra, with which he has worked on many occasions.
He said: "This is one of my favourite orchestras, its members are very gifted. The Ulster Orchestra is one of the best."
Montgomery had a busy summer as music director of the Santa Fe opera season, and recently conducted the Ulster Orchestra at Clonard Monastery, and at Carrickfergus Castle for the BBC's Proms in the Park.
He is working on the score for the opening concert in St Anne's on Friday, September 21.
He added: "Beethoven's Ninth Symphony is an enormous challenge, which has lots of layers, and I am looking forward enormously to performing it again, this time with the Ulster Orchestra and the Belfast Philharmonic, and the distinguished soloists."<br>
The chorus master is Christopher Bell, another Ulsterman.
Kenneth Montgomery and the Ulster Orchestra are embarking on an ambitious new season, and expectations are high that this former Belfast choir boy will hit all the right notes with the music-makers and the public.
His second concert in St Anne's on September 28 features the Fifth Symphony by Bruckner, and is also selling well.
"This is also a great challenge, with wonderful blocks of sound, and all that contrast between darkness and light," he said.
Alf McCreary / Belfast Telegraph, 13/09/07