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.

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:-

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…


New to Sheffield?
August 28, 2008, 4:43 pm
Filed under: Classical Music, Concerts

String players new to Sheffield who want to join an orchestra are welcome to come along to one or two rehearsals to see if we are the right orchestra for you. Rehearsals start on Tuesday 2nd September and subsequent tuesdays at 7.30 pm in the Victoria hall (opposite the Crucible Theatre in the town centre). If you are late, you may need to hammer on the door and dance up and down in the street to attract attention, alternatively phone 07778 240419 and I will gratefully put down my horn and let you in!

You will find us a friendly and enthusiastic bunch. The orchestra is ‘on the way up’ with a great musical director but you won’t be ‘put on the spot’ and you are welcome to come for a drink (or 2) afterwards in the Ruskin and cadge a lift home if necessary. Bring a music stand if possible.

Most brass and wind places are occupied, but we are always on the lookout for extra players in ‘one off’ concerts, also deputies, bumps etc so if you are interested, leave your e-mail address by typing a comment in “contact us” (see panel opposite) or e-mail me ( and I will forward it in the appropriate direction. Percussion players are always in demand and we would love to hear from you, and if you want to play the harp with us you must be an angel.

The SPO is great fun and good value. Do seriously consider contacting us. Read the review of our last concert here.

The orchestra is currently trying to fix up a week of music making in Sardinia, at the end of July 2009.


Proms rant
August 23, 2008, 3:16 pm
Filed under: Classical Music, Concerts

No apologies for using the orchestra’s blog for a personal rant. I am referring here to the newly commissioned works for the 2008 Promenade Concert season. Now I regard myself as being genuinely receptive to new music: I thoroughly enjoyed the works by Stockhausen this year (as did our cat, whose musical tastes must command considerable respect. He purred continuously throughout Stimmung). Stockhausen, and many other 20th-21st century composers, have created a sound world that is interesting, stimulating, challenging and often startlingly beautiful. What a disappointment then to be presented with a litany of pretentiously titled pieces that, in the words of Peter Cooke, ‘lacked everything’. Above all, they lacked interest, sounding as one particular piece did, as though the composer was sitting on a cactus sucking an unripe lemon. Never mind: as my father once said, “the Proms’ audience is the least critical you will ever find. They will applaud anything, even if it hasn’t finished.”

I suppose it is all a quetion of fashion, and I admit that I did not listen to every new work, so I may have missed a masterpiece. But what I heard suggested to me that the commissioners were going for a particular sound palatte. It is a shame that unfashionable composers, even if they are extremely good, don’t get a look-in. Take Christopher Brown, for instance, who recently wrote a piece for our orchestra. He is a craftsman who has steadfastly ploughed his own furrow to create genuinely magical music in a style (simultaneously modern and traditional) that is recognisably his own. He has received commissions world wide from prestigious choirs, orchestras and chamber groups. Nothing from the Proms, of course.

Anyway, still 3 weeks to go and some mouth watering concerts to anticipate. There are some new works, too, and perhaps one will turn out to be a real gem. Then, yet again, I will be looking for that edible hat of mine. Click here to see what’s on this week .


Over and Out
July 6, 2008, 8:42 am
Filed under: Classical Music, Concerts, News

With the Botanic Gardens concert behind us, the orchestra can look forward to 6 weeks rest before we kick off again with rehearsals on September 2nd. Full marks to the hardy Sheffield public who braved a (rightly) pessimistic weather forecast to support us and the Rotary Charities last night. Despite conditions more akin to the South Col the loyal revellers stayed on till the end, which was well past 10pm. The organisers are already talking about next year when hopefully global warming will have got back into its stride.

Ewa has one more concert in London before a well earned brake in her native Poland. She has 10 concerts with the Halle next year, so watch her web site for dates and venues which include Wigan, Bradford and the Bridgewater Hall (also linked from this Blog). People may wish to read the revue of her most recent concert in the Bridgewater Hall to get some idea of what is in store!

Keep an eye out for infrequent posts here (to while away the long balmy summer ahead). The SPO wishes that, in the coming weeks, visitors to this Blog will enjoy a few precious moments of relaxation from those pointless treadmills we all seem to have jumped on. (Sorry about the preposition at the end of the sentence).

Finally, I understand that the Botanic Gardens concert was recorded. More information about this will be posted as it emerges.


PS Note change of date for the Christmas concert. Saturday 13th December, not Sunday 14th. There is a straw in the wind suggesting the programme might be built around the theme of ‘trains’. Anyone know any good train music?!

Mozart Requiem
March 22, 2008, 2:05 pm
Filed under: Classical Music, Concerts, Uncategorized

Visitors to the this blog may be interested in a performance of Mozarts Requiem (by The Escafeld Chorale and the SPO), to be performed in Sheffield on April 12th. Full details can be found on Escafeld’s website :

This is our second association with Escafeld. Ewa will be conducting the Requiem and Escafeld’s musical director, Peter Dutton, will start the concert off with 2 ‘a capella’  (whoops! they were not a capella, but were very nice anyway) pieces.

The history of the Requiem is every bit as devious and fascinating as the totally mythological account in ‘Amadeus’. Wiki gives a reasonable introduction to this extraordinary work I have to admit that some of my favourite bits seem to be those written by Sussmayr, but I suppose Mozart gave him a flying start (for example, the first 8 bars of the Lacrimosa, widely accepted to be the last music Mozart ever wrote).

Performing this work poses special challenges to an amateur orchestra, not least being the orchestration itself. The horns, oboes and flutes get a day off, but not the 3 trombones (alto, tenor and bass), who cop it for a hair raising solo in the Tuba Mirum. And where do you find 2 basset horns? Our clarinet duo were most insistent that we provide them, and they duly arrived this week. Then the orchestra will have to balance with the choir and tune in with the organ.

We confidently expect all these problems to be solved and look forward to a memorable performance, once again in St John’s Church, Ranmoor.

Easter greetings to all.


PS. Another great audience. Thanks to all for coming. See you at the Broomhill festival.