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Queen’s and Ulster University collaborate with inclusive ensembles for Ulster Orchestra Performance

Queen’s and Ulster University came together with two inclusive music ensembles and the Ulster Orchestra for a performance, ‘Zoom Time - Over and Out’.

The unique performance took place on Friday 27 October to celebrate inclusivity in classical music as part of the Belfast International Arts Festival.  

The groups performed alongside Belfast International Arts Festival Featured Artist 2023 Nicholas McCarthy and the Ulster Orchestra at the new Ulster University Belfast campus. 

The collaborative work was co-created and performed by musicians from ensembles “Performance without Barriers” (PwB) research group based at Queen’s and “Acoustronic,” based at Ulster University in Derry.  

Created in online Zoom sessions during the pandemic, the work featured voice recordings of the musicians, portraying the constantly changing emotions that they experienced during the pandemic, with newly recorded voices that portray life as the musicians experience it now. Layered onto an orchestral score, composed by Professor Frank Lyons, are musical components by the Acoustronic and PwB musicians. 

Professor Franziska Schroeder from the School of Arts, English and Languages at Queen’s is the lead of the “Performance without Barriers” research group and Co-Investigator on the Future Screens NI project.  

Speaking about the collaboration and performance, Professor Schroeder said: “The inclusive design work, where we collaborate and design together with disabled musicians to develop new, inclusive, and accessible musical instruments, is at the heart of my own research. It is work that my research team “Performance without Barriers” has been doing for almost ten years here at Queen’s and we were extremely delighted and proud for our musicians to be part of this collaborative journey that involved the Ulster Orchestra, musicians from Derry’s Acoustronic Ensemble, as well as a musical score by Professor Frank Lyons and a film by Professor Paul Moore from Ulster University.” 

Christine Williamson, PwB musician said: “I never thought playing music was possible for me. This has been such a positive experience.” 

Gary Wylie, PwB musician commented: “Playing music has opened up my life. New horizons have appeared for me.” 

The musicians used specifically designed new, inclusive, digital musical instruments, including instruments that had been created as Accessible Virtual Reality Musical Instruments (AVRMI) by Damian Mills from PwB; “With Feel VR Instruments” by Dr Lewis Smith from Ulster University, an Accessible Long Cane Instrument (ALCI), created by PwB researchers James Cunningham and Dr Alex Lucas, as well as specifically created virtual environments, rendered in UnrealEngine 5 by PwB researcher Leonid Kuzmenko. 

James Cunningham, PhD student at Queen’s and PwB musician commented: “I am so excited to be a small part in such a vast collaboration that foregrounds the voices of disabled people in our communities.” 

Professor Frank Lyons, from Ulster University said: “It is wonderful to see this beautiful new campus come alive with the strains of this remarkable ensemble and with Nicholas. Music is a great leveller but access to instruments for those with disabilities has traditionally been difficult - this is where VR technology has really enabled incredible inclusion and in turn, beautiful music. Acoustonic are so passionate about music-making and they were just so excited to be able to perform their original pieces for a big, sold out audience.”

The research groups are part of the Future Screens NI project which is a collaboration between Queen’s, Ulster University and a number of key industrial partners central to the creative economy in the region, including NI Screen, BBC, Belfast City Council, Belfast Harbour, Causeway Enterprise Agency, Digital Catapult, Catalyst Inc., RTE, Games NI, Kainos, Invest NI, Techstart NI, Matrix and Tourism NI.  

The PwB project is also a partnership with Drake Music Northern Ireland and the charity, Brain Injury Matters. 

You can watch the full performance here

Find out more about the Belfast International Arts Festival here:  


Media enquiries to Zara McBrearty at Queen's Communications Office on email: