Chamber Babies 2017

Live Classical Music for Little Listeners

“What a lovely way to share a Saturday morning with my Grandson Finn”

“Super – loved it. Looking forward to future similar events.”

Chamber Babies is a new venture initiated by BMS in 2014, designed to offer the best live classical music to the youngest listeners (and their mums and dads). We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Crescent Arts Centre on this venture, and concerts take place in the relaxed setting of the CAC’s Cube venue.

The concerts are very informal, and the short programmes are designed for babies and adults alike. You can walk, sway, crawl, roll, dance or just chill out to a careful selection of short classical pieces designed both to engage and enchant (or soothe to sleep!). Concerts are aimed at babies from 0-18 months old.

All Chamber Babies concerts are performed by professional classical musicians from Northern Ireland. We welcome all listeners, no matter how young (including mums with bumps!). Take time to enjoy coffee and cake at the Crescent Arts Centre’s cafe before or after the concert.

Belfast Music Society has brought out a CD of classical music for little listeners. You can listen to extracts and purchase the CD here

Richard Douglas flute

Darren Baird piano

Saturday 25 February 2017 10.30 am & 11.30 am
Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast


Richard Douglas is a flute teacher and conductor who also enjoys performing at various venues throughout the province as a soloist and entertainer. He has appeared with various ensembles as a soloist, performing concertos by Mozart, Vivaldi, Mercadante and J S Bach. Richard plays on a 14K gold flute made for him by the Miyazawa flute company of Japan.

Darren Baird is an accomplished musician and pianist whose talents and versatility keep him extremely busy. With over twenty years’ teaching experience, Darren’s current commitments include tutoring piano at Methodist College, Bloomfield Collegiate and both the College and grammar schools in Carrickfergus. Darren also directs the Junior Choir in Methodist College, and is in demand as an accompanist for soloists, choirs and music festivals throughout the year.


Gillian McCutcheon clarinet

Jonathan Rea piano

Sunday 12 March 2017 10.30 am & 11.30 am
Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast


Gillian McCutcheon began playing the clarinet at the age of 10. On entering Edinburgh University to read music she travelled to London to study with Thea King at the Guildhall School of Music. Whilst at Edinburgh Gillian won numerous awards including the Tovey Memorial Prize for Performance and the Frazer Scholarship which enabled her to continue her studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London, studying with Richard Addison. Since graduating with an M.Mus in Performance, Gillian has been in demand not only as a performer, giving numerous recitals for the BBC both as a soloist and chamber musician, but also as a teacher and festival adjudicator.

Jonathan Rea studied music at Cambridge University.  He then spent 15 wonderful years teaching music in Bangor Grammar School before beginning a new career as a freelance musician.  He is now active as a conductor, pianist, composer and producer, with a wide range of clients including BBC and RTE.  He has produced and conducted commercial recording sessions with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra as well as several more intimate albums with local performers.  Occasionally he speaks at seminars and workshops, focusing on worship, music and church life – with a particular interest in the creative use of choirs.


Arco String Quartet

Saturday 24 June 2017 10.30 am / 11.30 am
Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast

Walk, sway, crawl, roll, dance, or just chill out to a careful selection of short classical pieces designed to engage and enchant the youngest listeners (and their mums and dads).

Designed specifically for babies up to 18 months old.


Members of the Ulster Orchestra, husband and wife team Richard and Clare Hadwen
formed Arco String Quartet 14 years ago.
Arco String Quartet is renowned for pushing the boundaries of string tradition with a
contemporary and unique take on classical music. They specialise in the arrangement and
performance of all music genres, particularly rock and pop. Their own string
arrangements, as well as collaborations with other leading Irish composers and arrangers,
have led to them recording and performing with many exciting artists.
They enjoy a varied schedule, dividing their time between the recording studio and the
concert platform, as well as performing at private events.
Recent highlights include Foy Vance’s “Joy of Nothing” and “Live at Bangor Abbey”
albums, Duke Special “Under The Dark Cloth” tour, Villagers “Awayland” album, Beoga
“Before We Change Our Mind” album, David C Clements “The Longest Day In History”
album, SOAK “Before We Forgot How To Dream” album, and in concert with Bookends
(the stunning musical tribute to Simon and Garfunkel).
The Quartet were delighted to have recorded Brian Irvine’s short film score “Peter Lilly
and the Nose” which won the Audience Favourite Award at the Capital Irish Film Festival,
Washington, USA.


Laura McFall mezzo soprano

Kristine Donnan piano

Saturday 5 August 2017 10.30 am / 11.30 am
Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast

Walk, sway, crawl, roll, dance, or just chill out to a careful selection of short classical pieces designed to engage and enchant the youngest listeners (and their mums and dads).

Designed specifically for babies up to 18 months old.*


Mezzo soprano Laura McFall and pianist Kristine Donnan make up the uniquely refreshing classical duo, Voice and Verse. Voice and Verse were artists in residence for Creative Centenaries in 2016, and also perform regularly as guest soloists throughout Ireland and the U.K, most recently performing at the Ballymoney Male Gospel Choir concert in Dalriada school and the Dungannon Choral Society concert in the Burnavon Theatre, Cookstown, in April 2017. Voice and Verse also work with Live Music Now.  Live Music Now nurtures young musicians at the beginning of their professional careers by providing them with regular performance and training opportunities, and gives live performances to people that are isolated from live music, such as people living with dementia and children with special educational needs. The girls have taken specialist training in music and well-being in London and Dublin with professionals such as John Webb, Joseph Middleton, Jenny Cooper and Ros Hawley.

These young musicians both enjoy varied and busy careers as individuals. In 2015/16, Laura was a NI Opera Young Artist, where she attended masterclasses from the opera industry’s finest coaches and performed regular recitals throughout Ireland. Kristine holds the position of chief organist and choirmaster at St. Bartholomew’s, Stranmillis, and is in regular demand as an accompanist, répétiteur and organ recitalist.

Laura and Kristine have won places on the prestigious vocal studies and piano accompaniment masters courses at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland for September 2017, and are very excited about this next step in their professional development.



Gemma O’Keeffe violin

Donal McCrisken piano

Saturday 30 September 2017 10.30 am / 11.30 am
Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast

Walk, sway, crawl, roll, dance, or just chill out to a careful selection of short classical pieces designed to engage and enchant the youngest listeners (and their mums and dads).


Donal McCrisken is a Belfast-based musician with many years experience as a pianist, accompanist, conductor, examiner and adjudicator. Since 1999 Donal has been conductor of Cappella Caeciliana, one of Ireland’s most exciting chamber choirs. He works extensively with Northern Ireland Opera as repetiteur, accompanist and workshop facilitator and teaches classes in performance in the music department of Queen’s University Belfast.

Donal was for six years, 2005 – 2011, head of music in St Malachy’s College, Belfast – Northern Ireland’s first specialist music school, whose students he led in concert tours to Washington DC, Philadelphia, England and Rome. A qualified British and International Federation of Festivals adjudicator, Donal has adjudicated festivals throughout Northern Ireland, Republic of  Ireland and the UK.Donal was the choral director and repetiteur for the exciting Belfast Opera project which culminated in performances in June 2016.  For his work with this project he was awarded the Classic FM/ Musicians Union Inspiration Award and the whole project was nominated for the best Classical Music Education Initiative Award.

Born in Belfast, Gemma O’Keeffe studied French and Music at Trinity College Dublin before completing a Postgraduate Performers course at the Royal Academy of Music, London, studying with Maurice Hasson. She has played with many professional orchestras around the UK including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, RSNO, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Halle Orchestra, RTÉ Symphony Orchestra and Ulster Orchestra. She has worked with Ronan Keating, Russell Watson, Cliff Richard and Chris de Burgh and on albums with Daniel O’Donnell and Shanaia Twain. Her theatre experience includes touring with Chicago and Riverdance and performing in London’s West End. Gemma is also a member of the Scottish Tango Ensemble which
 specialises in music by Piazzolla. She currently holds a Tutti Violin 1 position at Scottish Opera and lives in Glasgow with her husband and six-year-old son.

Their programme will include music by Kreisler, Poulenc, Schubert, Ravel, Bartók, Elgar and Copeland – something for everyone!


Gavin Forde bassoon

Mary McMullan piano

Saturday 25 November 2017 10.30 am / 11.30 am
Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast

Walk, sway, crawl, roll, dance, or just chill out to a careful selection of short classical pieces designed to engage and enchant the youngest listeners (and their mums and dads).


Born in Belfast, Gavin Forde was awarded a scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music, London, with Andrea de Flammineis and Martin Gatt. During his time there, he won the RCM Chamber Music Prize and was a recipient of the Sir John Barbirolli Memorial Foundation from the Royal Philharmonic Society.

Gavin has appeared with many orchestras throughout the UK and Ireland including the Ulster Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Welsh National Opera and most recently the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland with Maxim Vengerov. In 2012, he lived in New York, touring and performing with a critically acclaimed musical.

Gavin is a teacher of music at Belfast Royal Academy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there changing facilities?
Yes, the Crescent Arts Centre has baby changing facilities in the ladies toilets, situated on the ground floor of the building near to the Cube.

Can I feed my baby during the concert?
Of course. There is a mixture of seating, from chairs to bean bags to play mats on the floor, so you can choose the most comfortable spot for you and your baby.

What if my baby cries or makes a noise during the concert?
That’s fine. Don’t feel embarrassed if your baby joins in with a few squeals. We only ask that adults don’t talk to each other during the performance, just as you wouldn’t during a ‘normal’ concert – you can save the chat for the cafe!

What is Chamber Music?
Chamber music is classical music written for small groups of instruments (usually fewer than 12). Typical examples are String Quartets, Duos such as violin & piano or voice & piano, and Trios (usually piano, violin and cello). We also include solo instruments such as piano, concert harp or guitar, and many other small combinations of instruments including wind (e.g. flute, clarinet) and brass instruments (e.g. trumpet).

Is my baby the right age for classical music?
We have designed these concerts for a mainly pre-walking audience. You are never to young to enjoy classical music, and we know babies can hear music in the womb. Most of the music is gentle, though there are livelier pieces too. If you would like to know what will be in the programme, drop us an email at

Is there somewhere to leave my buggy?
Buggies can be left safely in a separate room adjacent to the Cube.

How long is the concert?
The concert lasts 40 minutes. Our first two concerts have been designed with a 20 minute gap between them, so there is time to enjoy a coffee before or afterwards.

Where is the Crescent Arts Centre?
The Crescent Arts Centre is situated at 2-4 University Road, next to the Crescent Church, just before the junction with the Lisburn Road.

General enquiries: