Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra Blog

New Concert Season
August 31, 2014, 10:21 am
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Welcome back everyone to our new concert season. Our first performance will be on November 8th, which builds on the Richard Strauss theme in this the 150th anniversary  of his birth. In the first half we play two Strauss pieces, Til Eulenspiegl and the Horn concerto number 2 (Soloist, Bob Ashworth). Second half comprises Shostakovitch Symphony 5. (No prizes for guessing what instrument our chairman plays!). The rest of the programme for the year has now been finalised and details appear in the forthcoming concerts section of the blog.

The orchestra is always on the lookout for string players, especially double basses. There are also often opportunities for percussion players. Other sections are reasonably stable at the moment, but if you are new to Sheffield and want to get involved, there may be opportunities for deps or bump players. We are approachable and friendly.

Here’s to a great new season of music making.



September 29, 2013, 9:20 am
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Welcome to everyone at the beginning of the new academic year. 2014 represents more than one anniversary.

Richard Strauss was born in 1864 so this is the 150th anniversary of his birth. You will find two works by him in our programme for the year. He once said, I believe, “I know I am not a first rate composer, but I am a first rate second rate composer”, or words to that effect. After a recent visit to Vienna where we went to Der Rosenkavalier I am not sure that I agree with him.

Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was born in October1813, so we need to play a work by him in our November concert to catch his 200th birthday, though, to be fair, we also included him in the Botanic Gardens concert.

2014 is not a particular anniversary for Rossini, but he did die on Friday 13th November, which is near enough the day of our next concert. Rossini was born on 29th February 1972, so taking a Gilbert and Sullivan approach, he age would now be just over 44!

Here’s to a happy year of music making

New Website
March 28, 2013, 11:11 am
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After months of being attacked by hackers we are pleased to have our new website up and running. Many thanks to Maria Ellmore for this. The new address is , and there is a link to the site in the ‘links’ section of the blog. Anyone who wants to contact us can do so via the new site, or via this blog. Both are monitored frequently.

Happy Easter to everyone.

What connects all these images????
March 26, 2013, 1:24 pm
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Find out Saturday June 1st!



4 Bars in Sardinia
March 26, 2013, 11:48 am
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“Isn’t the horn the hardest instrument in the orchestra to play?” French horn players like it when people say this. But despite the ego-massage, I have no idea where this concept came from, or whether it is true. I cannot conceive of ever being able to play the violin or the piano. It is very hard to play any instrument well. Indeed, of all the things I have attempted to do in a very full life, playing the horn is undoubtedly the hardest. Despite hours of practice, it is a constant and frustrating struggle.

hornThe difficulty of the horn lies in its length. At 12 ft, if I unraveled my instrument I could tickle my wife’s neck in the second violins. It needs a lot of wind to make the wretched thing work. Even worse, in its normal range the harmonics available for any fingering are closely spaced, so anything can (and does) come out. So playing the horn is essentially an exercise in risk management, followed closely by an exercise in damage limitation (manifest by accusing looks at neighboring players, examination of the instrument’s bell with an expression of incredulity and incomprehensible mutterings about transposition).

Which brings me to Sardinia, where our orchestra played two utterly enjoyable concerts three years ago. I had been practicing hard and the small, but intrepid, group had made good progress under the baton of Robin McEwan, despite the oppressive heat of the rehearsal venue. Towards the end of the week, we got ourselves bussed out to a prison that had been converted to a National Park centre where we were to perform, al fresco, that evening. In the courtyard, accompanied by a chorus of cicadas, we set about rehearsing Mozart’s clarinet concerto with soloist Roberto Meoni. It was in the lovely slow movement that the moment occurred. For four bars I hit every note dead centre and absolutely in tune. My tone was warm and strong and technique faultless. I swear no professional player could have played those four bars any better. Nobody noticed; it was an orchestral tutti, but that is not the point. To be completely at one with your instrument is something to hang onto and remember in difficult future times.

And why do I recount this trivial event? First because I believe others will have had similar experiences and will recognize what a special thing it is to play an instrument well, even if it is only for a brief time. Secondly, it gets to the heart of why I go on playing and why I love the SPO so much.

A Boy was Born
January 24, 2013, 9:14 pm
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ImageBenjamin Britten was born in 1913 and, in celebration of his centenary, the musicians of Sheffield are putting on a year long celebration of his work. We will be contributing The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra in the summer. Do visit the website of the festival.

Christmas Concert. 3 pm on Saturday 15th December. Victoria Hall, opposite The Crucible.
November 25, 2012, 2:35 pm
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Saturday 15th December. Take a break from your Christmas Shopping in the City centre, and enjoy an hour of  music for all the family with the SPO in the Victoria Hall. Click on the image to see further details.

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