Choir - Estd. 1874


Media Links

06/05/15: James Whitbourn in conversation with Stephen Doughty (video)


07/06/15: Sing Out.  From 15mins 

Interviews and music on Radio Ulster


31/05/15: Sunday Sequence.  From 1hr 22mins

Michael Ward interview on Radio Ulster


29/05/15: Good Morning Ulster.  From 2hrs 22mins.

James Whitbourn interview on Radio Ulster 

The Seven Heavens

Listen To The Phil Online


WORLD PREMIÈRE of James Whitbourn's The Seven Heavens

World Première 30th May 2015 recorded in the Ulster Hall, Belfast.  With Belfast Philharmonic Choir, Belfast Philharmonic Youth Choir, Ulster Orchestra.  Conducted by Stephen Doughty.


Highlights of our Gala Concert from the Ulster Hall on Radio Ulster's Classical Connections (broadcast 28/06/15)

includes Zadok The Priest, Seek Him That Maketh The Seven Stars, Blest Pair of Sirens, Serenade to Music plus Venus and The Sun from James Whitbourn's The Seven Heavens and Choir Notes features on Belfast Philharmonic Choir and Phil Kids.

The Belfast Philharmonic Choir (affectionately known as "The Phil") was founded in 1874 which means we have been enhancing life through choral singing for 140 years!


Led by music director Stephen Doughty, the 120+ strong chorus is Northern Ireland's only symphonic choir and performs at least four concerts per year, many alongside the Ulster Orchestra.   This includes the traditional performances of Handel's Messiah which we have undertaken each Christmas since 1886!


…"Throughout the Philharmonic Choir is superb, with their rhythmic attack, precision of diction and varying dynamics …  They excel in crisp marcato and staccato phrases …  How refreshing to hear Handel sung with such variety of tone colour and dynamics…"

Nuala McAlister Hart, Messiah Review, Dec 2014 © Culture Northern Ireland



Season Review

Well, that's it for another year, but what a season it has been!  We have celebrated our 140th Anniversary in some style!


Back in September we kicked off with something familar, Beethoven 9, or Ode To Joy as it is popularly called, as part of The Ulster Orchestra's Grand Opening Concert.


We followed that with quite a contrast, Britten's War Requiem part of the World War I centenary commemorations. An amazing collaboration between ourselves, Leeds Philharmonic Chorus

and St Anne's Girl Choristers plus soloists Elizabeth Artherton, Benjamin Hulett and Gavan Ring, the Ulster Orchestra and RTÉ Concert Orchestra.


Next up was our traditional Christmas programme - two performances of Handel's Messiah, conducted this season by Stephen Layton, which received great reviews.


Our most succesful Come & Sing event was held in January when singers came from far and wide to practice choral favourites old and new ready for a performance that very evening.


March was busy as we had two shows.  On  March 7th we had the first of two concerts put on by Belfast Philharmonic in celebration of its special birthday.  For this we were joined on stage by the Philharmonic's young Chamber Choir.


Two weeks later we were back in the Ulster Hall as part of the Ulster Orchestra's Sci-Fi Weekender bringing the music of Star Wars to life.  Although we were all dressed in our concert gear there were ewoks, storm troopers and a couple of jedi knights running around!


The whole season culminated in our Gala Concert in the Ulster Hall on May 30th.  The highlight of this was the world première of The Seven Heavens by James Whitbourn, music we had commissioned especially for the occasion and included our Youth Choir, Colm Carey on the Mulholland Organ, soloists from NI Opera and the might of the Ulster Orchestra.  The whole evening was a resounding success and we ended to rapturous applause and a standing ovation!  Highlights from this concert were broadcast on Radio Ulster's Classical Connections on Sunday June 28th and you can listen again here.  The recording of The Seven Heavens will be available online soon.


We wound down that night with a post-concert reception in the Ulster Hall and a chance to say a big "Thank you" to all the people who have worked so hard behind  the scenes and supported us in so many ways to make this season go with a swing!  Not least to James Whitbourn for writing such a lovely piece for us to sing.


Next season's programme is now online so please visit our concerts page and see what's coming up.  We hope you have a lovely summer and will come along and see us in concert next season.



Praise for The Phil

I wanted to put in writing my sincere congratulations on a wonderful concert on Saturday – a truly fitting celebration of 140 years and all that is good in music, and choral singing in particular.

Stephen, you did a fantastic job in directing orchestra, choir and kids in such an unassuming way, to create an artistic whole of the highest standard.  (And I loved your arrangement of the Dove!).

Barbara McKinley

Senior Executive Assistant

Ulster Orchestra Society Limited


Dear Belfast Philharmonic,

I wanted to send a message as I didn't get a chance to chat to everyone after your performance at the weekend.


I was delighted with your performance of my 'Et clamabant'.  I'm well aware of the challenges in the piece (you're not the first choir to find it tricky!) and you did a great job of overcoming them.  Thank you for your evident hard work and perseverance.  It sounded wonderful.


Special thanks to Stephen for programming the piece.  What a co-incidence that he lives so close to Hawick!


Congratulations, again, on your wonderful performances,

Seán Doherty

Composer Et Clamabant


I thoroughly enjoyed the concert and felt the Phil was in truly fine form, well-disciplined in the presentation and the performances. Rhythmically alert and, in general, clarity of diction and good blending. Congratulations on a successful evening (and for Stephen’s really effective orchestration of the Jonathan Dove).

David Byers


What a wonderful evening - I loved it!!

Naomi Patrick

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