Vernon Handley

Classical music community mourns the passing of Ulster Orchestra conductor laureate

Vernon Handley, the Ulster Orchestra’s Conductor Laureate, has died at the age of 77. 

Handley had been the orchestra’s principal conductor and artistic director from 1985 to 1989 and made many distinguished CD recordings with the orchestra over the years, pursuing his great passion for British music.

Last year, in 2007, Handley was honoured with a lifetime achievement award at the Classical Brits. 

Previous accolades included being named twice outright winner of the Gramophone Record of the Year, as well as runner up twice and nominated eight times.

'He was known to everyone as Tod. He was a wonderful musician and his championing of unjustly neglected composers was one of his real strengths,' said David Byers, chief executive of the Ulster Orchestra. 

'Players held him in the highest respect for his conducting technique, his insightful interpretations and, above all, his rapport and sense of humour. 

'Vernon's ability to balance the orchestra and communicate the ebb and flow of his music-making to the orchestra came from his studies with, and his admiration for, Sir Adrian Boult. 

'He gave several pre-concert talks and interviews for us and the wealth of his stories, his ability to communicate so easily, and the warmth of his personality always shone through. He’ll be deeply missed.'