Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra Blog

Next Concert
January 5, 2012, 2:14 pm
Filed under: Classical Music, Concerts, News

Our next concert includes the Norfolk Rhapsody by Vaughan Williams, Borodin’s exciting Symphony 2 and Brahms Violin Concerto. The atmospheric Vaughan Williams piece continues our theme of having an English  component to each of our concerts this year.

Kay Stephen is our soloist for the Brahms. Don’t worry that she is playing the viola in the pic. She plays both!

Kay Stephen was born in Aberdeen and studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama with Katie Hull, graduating with 1st Class Honours in 2009. During this time she was the recipient of numerous prizes and awards including the Bessie Spence concerto prize for her performance of Walton’s violin concerto with the RSAMD Symphony Orchestra.
Kay recently completed her Masters at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester where she studied with Pavel Fischer. She regularly led all of the RNCM’s ensembles including the resident Symphony Orchestra at the 2010 Cantiere Festival in Montepulciano, Italy. As a soloist Kay was awarded the Eric Nicholson prize, as well as the Hirsch and Barbirolli prizes for chamber music.
As violist with the Gildas Quartet, Kay has given recitals across the UK and in festivals throughout Europe. Next Winter the quartet will be touring Scotland as winners of the 2012-2013 Tunnell Trust Award .
Elsewhere, Kay has appeared in concert with the Brodsky and Maggini Quartets, Ilya Gringolts and as part of the 2011 Mendelssohn on Mull Festival, alongside Ronald Birks and Stephen Orton. Last year she played in the contemporary ensemble Red Note for their Autumn tour, performing in venues across Scotland and including broadcasts for BBC Radio.
As an orchestral musician, Kay performs with the Halle Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the BBC Philharmonic and Sinfonia Cymru. She is currently receiving further training as this year’s violin scholar on the Halle Leadership Scheme.
Kay is grateful to the Donald Dewar and Riga Heesom awards which allowed her to complete her Masters studies.

Sheffield: City of Culture but no Concert Hall!
April 2, 2010, 8:17 am
Filed under: Classical Music

Browsing the web this morning I came across the following two pages and Well done Sheffield for being shortlisted for UK City of culture 2013 (along with Norwich, Birmingham and Derry). Sheffield certainly has masses to offer and full marks to Paul Scriven and Sylvia Dunkley for getting us this far.

Sheffield is blessed with a vibrant popular music scene, and an international reputation for its festivals of classical chamber music but, almost incredibly, no professional orchestra and no concert hall (the two go hand in hand). There is no shortage of amateur music making. Indeed there can be few cities with so many amateur orchestras, choral societies, opera companies and every other possible musical interest and the simple fact that they survive tells us all we need to know; BUT, once again, no professsional orchestra and no concert hall. The City Hall, despite its refurbishment, is an acoustic joke and too big. It simply wont do. Sheffield needs, and should demand, a truly modern hall along the lines of the Birmingham Symphony Hall, Gateshead’s ‘Sage’, or Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall. There is no need to match the capacities of these iconic buildings (2,200 and 1,800 respectively), 800 seats would do nicely, but in terms of facilities and quality these should be our inspiration.

There is a huge amount of new development around the Moor and other city centre sites The time has come to plan and build Britain’s  finest concert hall in Sheffield, UK City of culture 2013! Nothing ventured, nothing gained.


Postscript: Quotation from the Sheffield City of Culture website:- “1. International: we will develop a programme of international quality, scale and profile. We will attract international artists, organisations and creative businesses to create and make in the city. We will combine large-scale events with far-reaching education programmes….”  To my mind, ‘international scale’ must include a modern concert venue: and do look at the Bridgewater’s site for news of their excellent ‘far-reaching education programme’.

Post postscript. Congratulations to Derry and commiserations to Sheffield on the final result.

Ave Maria at Porto Conte. Antonello Arca.
January 12, 2010, 3:02 pm
Filed under: Classical Music, Concerts, Links, Uncategorized

Thanks to Steve and Julia for this offering. The open air concert at Porto Conte, Sardinia was notable mainly for the contribution of the cicadas. Surprisingly, they blended in reasonably well once you had got used to them!

Antonello Arca is a tenor in the true Italian tradition, and it was an unexpected privilege to accompany him in this beautiful version of Ave Maria, hastily orchestrated three days previously. It is notable that he sang it in Algherese, closely related to Catalan. To view the video just click on the red text below.

Please encourage others to visit this link.


Ave Maria
plena de grassias
nostru Sagnor
es ama tu
i benaira ses Tu
mes de tottas las donas
i benaitu sighi lu fil tou Jesus

Santa Maria
Mara de Deu
prega pels probas
peccarol che t’adoran
ora y nell’ora
della molt nostra

As a postscript, I note the words are ‘ by’  Mario Salvietti and the music by Isabella Montanari. Listen to another extraordinary version here:-

Festive greetings
December 20, 2008, 6:42 pm
Filed under: Classical Music, News

Well, that’s it for 2008. I really enjoyed the Christmas concert and the feedback was excellent. Even Pacific 231 had a certain rugged quality, noticeably absent during the dress rehearsal. Many thanks to Martin for keeping up the interest and to our two percussion players who added an extra crucial dimension to the performance. Anyone interested in playing percussion on a regular basis? We would love to hear from you.

It seems that currently no post on the Blog is complete without a rant. How many of you received a ‘PC’ card this year wishing you ‘Winter Greetings’?  Perhaps it is just a variant on ‘compliments of the season’, but I think not. Anyway, rehearsals start on 6th January with a deputy conductor. Ewa will be with us the following week.

Until then we wish everyone a peaceful and happy Christmas.

D n C

Recent Radio Programmes. Ewa Strusinska / Christopher Brown.
December 7, 2008, 10:20 am
Filed under: Classical Music, Links, News

Two radio programmes of interest to SPO bloggers. First, our musical director found herself on Woman’s Hour, magnificently negotiating the feminist agenda. When asked if women can conduct Mahler, the gist of her reply was, ‘You will have to listen to me and make up your own mind’. ‘Why so few women conductors?’ ‘Conducting involves a lot of travel. Women are very busy’. Sadly, she was not asked much about conducting itself. Hopefully we will soon reach the stage when gender matters are of little interest and subordinate to the real issues of musicianship and conducting skills. Ewa certainly seemed to think so.

Last thursday, Radio 3 broadcast two choral pieces by Christopher Brown, (who has previously written music for the SPO),  in celebration of his 65th birthday. First a work from the past: To Musik Sing. A short piece with a spine tingling soprano solo in the slow middle section. Then a setting of some poems by the Scottish poet Henry Marsh. The four songs that make up ‘Sunlight on a Pale Green Ocean’ include a humerous evocation of the poet’s search for a corncrake and a gloriously peaceful representation of Spring in South Uist.  Rush to to hear these pieces on BBC iPlayer. I am not sure how long they will stay available; only a week I think. (I tried today, 20.12.2008 and the link is now down. Sorry).

PS The Cristopher Brown pieces are at the beginning, shortly after a few irrelevant bars of piano music.


Workshops and other playing opportunities.
September 21, 2008, 9:41 am
Filed under: Classical Music, News

At the last rehearsal various leaflets were on offer. For those who did not get them and for visitors who might be interested, here are much edited details.

  International Chamber Music Summer School. Tonbridge. 22 to 29 August 2009. Coached sessions of chamber music for wind and strings in a lovey setting.

 Jackdaws Chamber Music Summer School. Sat 22nd to Thu 27th August 2009. Delme String Quartet plus wind tutors. Workshops in a lovely Somerset venue.

 Contact Natalie or Bridget for more details.


The Year Ahead
September 3, 2008, 12:23 pm
Filed under: Classical Music, Concerts, News

The programme for the rest of the year is more or less finalised. I say ‘more or less’ because there are still a few issues about music hire and additional players (you will understand what I am getting at when you see the programme). I am sure all the problems will be sorted soon, so here it is in all its glory.


1) Szymanowski – Etude for Orchestra

2) Poulenc – Stabat Mater , with Escafeld Chorale

3) Brahms – 4th Symphony


Shostakovich – Festive Overture

Karlowicz – Eternal Songs

Lutoslawski – Dance Preludes (With solo clarinet)

Rachmaninoff – Symphonic Dances

It looks a fantastic programme to me, but do you agree? Surely now is the time to click on that ‘comment’ button. I should say that there is also a move to give ‘Star Song V’ a second performance, but the schedule above looks somewhat congested. Perhaps next year…