Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra Blog


The Birth of Sheffield Philharmonic

The Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra (SPO) gave its first public performance on Sunday the 22nd of April 1945 in Sheffield City Hall, conducted by Hermann Lindars, founder of the orchestra. The audience included the Lord and Lady Mayoress of Sheffield and the Master and Mistress Cutler, Lord and Lady Riverdale.

At the time the orchestra was known as the Sheffield Amateur Symphony Orchestra. A year or so later it was incorporated into the Philharmonic Concerts Department of the Sheffield Corporation, taking on the name by which it is known today.

Over the next forty years, the SPO regularly gave concerts at City Hall, performing with distinguished soloists and guest conductors. During the 1980s the orchestra played many concerts in St. Johns Church, Ranmoor under the heading ‘Music at Ranmoor’, and at other venues in the area such as Beverley Minster, St Marie’s Catholic Cathedral, The Octagon Centre and in Buxton Pavilion Gardens. Family concerts were usually given once a year in the City Hall with well known personalities such as Johnny Morris and Anthony Hopkins.

Following a few years of decline, the orchestra started rebuilding its membership and prestige under the baton of Andrew Lucas and its fortunes were further revived when John Pearson took on the role of musical director. Membership continued to increase and the quality of performance improved. During this period the Orchestra played a highly successful concert in Birmingham  Symphony Hall featuring the music of folk guitar virtuoso, Gordon Giltrap, followed by a commercial recording of his symphonic work, The Eye of the Wind. When John left, his good work was continued under the charismatic leadership of the Polish born Ewa Strusinska. For three years (for much of which time she was also deputy conductor of the Halle orchestra) she coaxed ever improving performances from the players and introduced them to a challenging new repertoire. She established a link with the Royal Northern College of music in Manchester, which has continued with the appointment of an energetic new musical director, Jonny Lo who has joined the RNCM after a distinguished start to his career in Oxford.

The SPO Ethos

The orchestra’s ethos and spirit has stayed the same throughout – it provides a medium for amateur players of all ages and backgrounds to flourish. The SPO has so far played a total of 35 pieces never performed in the city before – including a piece composed for the orchestra’s fiftieth year by local composer and guest conductor Martin Thiselton, an SPO commission from the British composer Christopher Brown for our 60th year, and several little known but wonderful compositions from our previous musical director’s native Poland.

The orchestra’s policy has always been to play music selected to suit both the concert guest and player, choosing music from the classical, romantic and modern periods. It is also a priority of the orchestra to help to support and encourage talented Sheffield musicians in their development. Local soloists have included violinists Melody Cooper, Scott Cooper, and Martin Cropper, and harpist Rhodri Davis as well as more established figures such as Rohan da Saram and Benjamin Frith.

The SPO has received support from Making Music (formerly the National Federation of Music Societies), enabling us to feature many of the organisation’s ‘Musicians of the Year’ – to date this has included the cellist Richard May, and pianists Roderick Chadwick, Phillip Moor, Ron Abramski,  Mark Nixon and violinist Dmitry Torchinsky.

<!––>Tours and Summer Schools

In the summer of 2000, the orchestra was invited to take part in a music festival in Heraklion, Crete and gave three concerts there. The performances received a very good reception from the local people.

In 2001, the orchestra held a summer school in Durham, concluding with two short concerts, in the Cathedral and St. Johns College.

Closer to home, the orchestra also gave a short supporting concert during the Graves Art Gallery presentation of Five Artists of Imagination in Sheffield, in January 2001.

In 2002 the orchestra held a summer school in Cambridge where a variety of orchestral and chamber music was played, finishing with a concert in the Chapel of Fitzwilliam College.

The orchestra travelled to Malta for the summer of 2003 and performed a series of concerts on the main island and at the Victoria festival in Gozo.

2007 saw another successful concert tour to the island of Sardinia, as guests of the Istituto Musicale Giuseppe Verdi. A fertile partnership with the Italian baritone, Antonello Arca, was fostered during this tour, and he has sung three times with the orchestra since.

The orchestra, in partnership with the local Rotary club, has given four open air charity concerts in Sheffield botanical gardens which we hope will become an annual event. They are regularly attended by an audience in excess of 2,000.

The activities of the orchestra continue to diversify with additional concerts with local choirs, chamber music events and an invited concert at the Howden festival and, at the time of writing,  future looks exciting and challenging.



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