Conductors for our 2023-24 season

During our 2023/24 season, we are looking forward to working with three different conductors.

Autumn Concert and Orchestral Masterpieces Concert - Tanya Houghton
Originally from Birmingham, Tanya studied in Cambridge, London and Paris before embarking on a freelance career based in the UK and Ireland. A harpist, singer, musical director, teacher and examiner she enjoys a diverse schedule with an unending variety of engagements and experiences.

Tanya has recently been appointed the inauguaral Musician in Residence at Rosemary Street First Presbyterian Church, Belfast and is looking forward to performing and curating musical events for them over the coming year.

As a singer and conductor, she directs and sings in Melisma, the Belfast-based 8 voice choir, appearing regularly on Radio Ulster and in concert across Northern Ireland. Melisma also recorded the backing vocals to The Priests' album "Alleluia" under her direction and have featured on Songs of Praise. She is part of the newly-formed Ulster Consort, and is looking forward to their various upcoming performances and recordings. Her conducting skills have been increasingly in demand with the Belfast Bach Consort in their monthly Cantata series, including recent performances of "Ein feste Burg" for the anniversary of the Reformation.

Qualified as a music teacher both in the classroom and for instrumental lessons, she has a growing private teaching practice in Helen's Bay, Northern Ireland. She teaches all ages and abilities, with current pupils studying both pedal and lever harp, piano, theory and music history. She is a keen participant in orchestral education and outreach projects, and has enjoyed a close relationship with Aurora Orchestra's Learning and Participation department. With flautist Jane Mitchell she worked for Live Music Now!, giving concerts across a huge range of community venues.

Tanya works as an examiner for the ABRSM, has been external examiner at the Royal Northern College of Music and Birmingham Conservatoire and was, for five years, the editor of harp, the magazine of the UK Harp Association. She is also increasingly in demand as an adjudicator, having appeared recently in the Bromley, Reigate & Redhill and Bristol Festival harp classes.

You can read Tanya's full biography at

Christmas Concert - Philip Walton

Philip Walton has been a member of the Ulster Orchestra for 40 years playing Viola. For many of those years he has been associated with the Studio Symphony Orchestra, taking many rehearsals and conducting several concerts. He has also appeared with the Orchestra as a soloist (Rubbra Viola Concerto) and as Leader on some occasions, usually when Ottoline Maas was performing as soloist.

From 1983 until 1995 he was conductor of the St. Malachy’s College Orchestra leading them in many major symphonies by Beethoven, Haydn and Schubert. Philip has been Conductor of the Ballylone Flute Concert Band for 20 years, and is Conductor of the South Ulster Sinfonia since 2019.  He occasionally conducts the Bach Cantatas at St Thomas’ Church in Belfast, and has been Leader of the Armagh City Choir Orchestra for 20 years.

Philip is also a composer and his Violin Concerto “In Passing” was given its first public performance in Bellaghy by Ioana Petcu-Colan, and it will be performed in the Netherlands on November 12th 2023 by Annemieke Corstens (wife of the conductor Jac van Steen).

Summer Concert - Paul McCusker

Paul began studying music when he took up the violin and piano at the age of seven. Following school, he opted to study zoology at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), but while there he became heavily involved in the musical life of the university, conducting the Music Society Choir and then the QUB Symphony Orchestra.

Having completed his PhD in molecular parasitology in 2014, Paul worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the School of Biological Sciences at QUB before leaving in 2017 to study conducting at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with Garry Walker and Alasdair Mitchell. 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 December 2018 he conducted an Ulster Youth Orchestra 25th Anniversary Alumni concert and subsequently headed the Esker Festival Orchestra Concert Tour in Summer 2019. While working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Medical College of Wisconsin, USA (2018 – 2020), he established an orchestra before returning to QUB in 2020.

In recent years Paul has studied with Garry Walker, David Brophy and Jac van Steen. Jac invited Paul to take part in a conducting masterclass with the Ulster Orchestra in June 2022 which subsequently led to an opportunity to work with the orchestra, recording a commission by Philip Hammond in March 2023.

Over the last ten years Paul has also worked with the Ulster Youth Orchestra and founded/directed Laganside Sinfonia, a Belfast based charity orchestra that has raised around £20,000 for local charities since its establishment. In January 2024 Paul will make his debut with the Hard Rain Ensemble, a Belfast based contemporary group.



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