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Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra: Making classical music for everyone

by Now Then Sheffield
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Classical music is alive and well in Sheffield and the Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra have been making an invaluable contribution to the scene for almost 75 years.

We chatted to SPO's Musical Director, George Morton, to find out more about the orchestra and what they've got coming up in the next year.

Tell us a bit about the background of the Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra and who's involved.

The SPO is Sheffield's oldest amateur orchestra, giving classical concerts across the Steel City since 1945. We're based in the magnificent Victoria Hall on Norfolk Street, opposite the Crucible, and we generally give five or six performances a year.

The orchestra has three main concerts each year, in November, March and June, plus a family Christmas concert each December, which usually sells out well in advance, and, for the last ten years or so, we've headlined Music in the Gardens in the Botanical Gardens in July.

The ensemble comprises musicians of all ages from across the region who come together each week to rehearse a huge variety of exciting and challenging classical music. I think our youngest member is 17 and our oldest is 88 years old! It's a super mix of talented people. We've got professional musicians, teachers, university professors, engineers, consultants, architects, GPs, students and retirees amongst our ranks, all coming together to make a fabulous symphonic sound.

Which upcoming events would you recommend to people coming to see you for the first time?

Classical music is something that we think everyone should try at least once in their life, but be warned you might get addicted and want to come back for more!

Every concert we give has got something interesting and exciting for our audiences. If you want to hear one of the top soloists in the country, come to our March concert where we're joined by superstar violinist Fenella Humphreys. If you're looking for an epic and stirring tune, come along in June to hear Elgar's first symphony. And if you want to get into the Christmas spirit and see us really let our hair down, then join us for our family concert in December.

It's really exciting to know we'll be creating something new

Your 2019-20 programme features a really exciting and varied repertoire. Can you tell us about the season's theme?

This season the SPO are exploring lots of exciting pieces of music that are rarely performed in the North of England, if ever. Alongside concert favourites such as symphonies by Brahms and Elgar you can hear little-known pieces by Tchaikovksy (Serenade Melancolique) and Mendlessohn (Fair Melusine).

We're also giving performances of music by some kick-ass female composers, including music by Louise Farrenc, Fanny Hensel (Felix Mendelssohn was her brother) and Clara Schumann (Robert Schumann was her husband). A personal highlight of the season, for me, will be performing Lili Boulanger's D'un Soir Triste in June. It's a tragic but beautiful piece, and it was the last work she completed before a devastatingly young death at the age of just 24.

How important is it to the SPO to support the creation of new music?

Very important. We've got a really forward thinking committee at SPO and we've committed to commissioning one new work each season, preferably by local composers and arrangers.

Last year, we premiered a piece called 'Mad Meg' by Tom James (one quarter of 'Platform 4', Sheffield's contemporary composers collective), and this year they've commissioned me to arrange Clara Schumann's Quatre Pièces Caractéristiques. I'm just in the process of planning for next season and it's really exciting to know we'll be creating something new in Sheffield.

What have we got to look forward to at your opening concert on 9 November?

Our next concert features music by some huge names with some equally massive tunes throughout. As well as a beautiful piece for solo violin by Tchaikovsky, featuring our very own Charlotte Pinder, you can hear music by Lousie Farrenc and Brahms.

This year also marks the 200th anniversary of Clara Schumann's birth, so we're celebrating this remarkable woman's life by giving the world premiere of a new arrangement of one of her pieces. The concert has something for everyone, so we'd love for lots of people to come and share the music with us.

Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra's Autumn Concert is on 9 November at Victoria Hall. Get £2 off tickets with the Now Then App.

Flick Jackson

by Now Then Sheffield

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