The Ulster Orchestra is the only full-time professional symphony orchestra in Northern Ireland and is looking forward to celebrating its 50th anniversary season in 2016/17. The orchestra plays the majority of its concerts in Belfast, also giving concerts regionally across Northern Ireland and cross-border across the island of Ireland. Since 1985, the Orchestra has been a regular visitor to The Proms, with their next appearance planned to take place in 2016. The Orchestra appointed Rafael Payare as Chief Conductor in 2014, and in the same year appointed Jac van Steen as Principal Guest Conductor. Under the guidance of Chief Conductor Rafael Payare, the Ulster Orchestra is about to commence its second year of cycles of Beethoven and Tchaikovsky symphonies and concertos, with the 2015/16 Season including Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, Beethoven’s Second and Third Piano Concertos and his Third Symphony, the mighty Eroica. 2015/16 will also include work such as Shostakovich’s 9th Symphony, Berlioz’s masterpiece Symphonie fantastique, and Bach’s epic and dramatic St John Passion (conducted by Jac van Steen). The season will see the Ulster Orchestra welcome soloists such as Chloë Hanslip, Vikingur Ólafsson, James Crabb, Alexander Gavrylyuk, Jonathan Biss, Inon Barnatan, Annelien van Wauwe and Ailish Tynan. The Ulster Orchestra undertakes a wide range of outreach projects, including workshops in schools throughout Northern Ireland, pre-concert talks and instrument Masterclasses. The Orchestra received the Royal Philharmonic Society's first award for an education project (in West Belfast). Major cross-community projects involving Belfast schools in areas of social deprivation have included Gulliver in 2005, A Marvellous Medicine in 2007 and The Pied Piper in 2009 (these last two projects were created by the Orchestra’s Associate Composer at the time, Brian Irvine). The Pied Piper project was awarded the Inspire Mark of the 2012 London Cultural Olympiad. In 2014, under Payare’s direction, the Paper Orchestra project took place in North/West Belfast. The Paper Orchestra aims to familiarise children with orchestral instruments and how to take care of them, as well as giving them an opportunity to perform for family and friends. It comes from the original El Sistema programme which runs in Venezuela, a programme from which Rafael Payare is a graduate. The Ulster Orchestra records regularly, and its most recent recording commitments have been for the Naxos label under the baton of former Chief Conductor JoAnn Faletta. 2015 saw the release of a second volume of John Knowles Paine’s Orchestral Works, and volume one is also available on the same label. The Orchestra have also recorded work for Chandos, Hyperion, SOMM and Toccata Classics.