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The Ulster Orchestra has announced the death of its sub-principal double bass of 37 years, Michele Strong.
’We will miss Michele because she was such a lovely person whose contribution was never ending,’ said Ulster Orchestra chief executive Auveen Sands in a statement on 19 December. ’Our heart goes out to Michele’s partner Kevin, her family and her friends at this devastating time.’
Strong died in hospital on Saturday 17 December 2022 following a short period of illness.
Strong was born in Australia to two professional cellist parents. She initially studied cello at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music specialist high school in Sydney. After completing high school, she switched to double bass and won a scholarship to study at the National Centre for Orchestral Studies at Goldsmith’s College, London.
Upon graduation she moved to Scotland, where she lead the basses in the Scottish Ballet orchestra and freelanced with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. She joined the Ulster Orchestra in 1985 and took an active part in the orchestra’s education activities, as well as teaching the bass in schools such as St Malachy’s College, the City of Belfast School of Music and Ulster College of Music.
Strong taught bass pupils from primary age beginners to advanced, professional level students. She was a bass tutor for the Belfast Youth Orchestra and performed to nursery and junior primary age children with the educational trio Big Bad Bass. As a member of the Musicians’ Union, Strong volunteered teaching music to youths in disadvantaged communities. Strong also performed as a recitalist and chamber musician with the Rosemount Trio.
In addition to her work as a musician, Strong was also an environmental activist, working as a member of the Green Party Northern Ireland, a campaigner for Rights of Nature and a member of The Gathering, a collaboration of environmental campaigners, groups and activists across Ireland.
’Michele was a stalwart of the party,’ Green Party NI leader Mal O’Hara told Belfast Live. ’She was a long term member of the Executive. She was a candidate in numerous elections. Many will have stood with her at protests, rallies and marches.
’She was a regular at canvass sessions all over and gave her time, energy and passion. She was gentle and humble with a steel core of committed and passionate activism.’