Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra Blog

November Update
November 20, 2012, 1:15 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

There’s no harm in congratulating ourselves on the last concert which drew a good audience and favourable feedback. One couple had gone to the Prague Symphony Orchestra the previous night at the City Hall. Whilst admitting that they were a bit more accomplished than us, for overall musical enjoyment they reckoned our concert was the better (by a considerable margin).

No time to rest, however with the Christmas concert and a busy 2013 coming up. The section on concert dates (top left of the blog) has been updated. This now includes a number of program ideas for the next 18 months, bearing in mind that 2014 is the 150th anniversary of Richard Strauss’ birth. These are obviously not ‘cast in stone’ at this early juncture.

Andy Beard has also put together a very enticing proposal for the orchestra to visit Cornwall for a week towards the end of August 2013. Details will be put before the orchestra in the new year when we will see if there is enough interest to make the trip viable, but a sneaky preview of the programme gets my vote.

The blog is now approaching 20,000 hits, but there are a disappointing number of comments. During 2013 we will be publishing short pieces by orchestral members. These can be about their experience with the orchestra and what they get out of it, or personal rants or just anecdotes. Volunteers would be nice, but if none are forthcoming the press gang will be summoned. I will kick off with “4 bars in Sardinia”! Watch this space.



September 16, 2012, 9:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I can offer only apologies and no excuses for the lack of activity here over the summer. The Botanic Gardens Concert miraculously managed to find a dry evening in an otherwise sodden week. The Gardens themselves were a quagmire, but just about inhabitable due to the heroic efforts of the Rotary team (all other outdoor events in Sheffield that week were rained off). Many thanks to the 2000 or so hardy folk who came and supported us and the Charities so enthusiastically.

Rehearsals continued sporadically over the summer with a concert in Howden Minster on September 1st, memorable for a fantastic performance of Brahms violin concerto by Kay Stephen.

Now we are knuckling down to Stravinsky and Rimsky-Korsakoff with a huge Mahler symphony looming on the horizon.

New musicians in Sheffield sometimes contact us about vacancies. I can redirect enquiries to section leaders from this blog. We have settled woodwind and horn sections, but there is often opportunity for bumps and deps. Violins are welcome to attend a rehearsal or two to see if we are the right orchestra for you. You will find us enthusiastic and friendly.

This year, I would like to invite players to write some short pieces about themselves and the orchestra. Volunteers please!


E-Mail from Julie Dore
February 1, 2012, 7:30 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

What have the following in common, I ask myself?

1. A recent concert given by the European Doctor’s Orchestra in Gateshead.

2. A last minute skiing trip to France.

3. An e-mail from Sheffield Councillor Julie Dore.

Well, the EDO concert took place in the fabulous Sage concert hall in Newcastle/Gateshead, home of the much loved and patronised Northern Sinfonia. Doctors from all over Europe participated. Some flew in directly to Newcastle airport. The hall is wonderful. The whole complex is now self funding; a focus for performance and musical education in the North.

Our last minute skiing trip was only possible thanks to an excellent cheap flight from the efficient and friendly Liverpool airport to Geneva. ‘Well done” Liverpool, home of the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

The catch all e-mail from Julie Dore (addressed impersonally to sir/madam in response to my carefully worded query) explained that the South Yorkshire Music Lending library is being reprieved for a further 6 months while alternative funding is being sought. Failure to succeed means the service will have to go. She points out that the draconian government cuts are to blame. I would have more sympathy with this view if the savings from cutting the SY music library would make any difference, but the budget for this service is small (and certainly trivial compared to the costs of Sheffield’s failed bid to become UK City of Culture!)

So the common feature is ‘missed opportunity’ and meager civic vision. With all the rebuilding in the City centre we could have a modern concert hall and, who knows, a professional orchestra. We could have an international airport (Docaster Robin Hood airport simply does not count as anyone who has tried to get there by public transport will testify). What we do have is a remarkably vibrant amateur music scene one of whose major supporting services is about to be withdrawn. As someone who has tried to balance the books of an amateur orchestra for 10 years, I can reassure everyone that this will be a major blow.

These issues are, of course, full of complexities which I am unlikely to understand. There are, no doubt, very good reasons why Sheffield should not emulate the substantial achievements of smaller cities such as Liverpool and Newcastle. But, as anyone who has actually done anything important, who has made a significant impact, will tell you, “Where there is a will, there is a way”. The question now becomes, “is there a will”?







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.

Happy New Year
January 4, 2012, 9:33 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Happy New Year to everyone from the SPO. The committee spent an enjoyable (?) 3 hours yesterday chewing over a host of matters, many of which were fairly tedious! We did, however, start to think about dates, venues and programme for next season. Watch this space to be kept up to date. Next year is the centenary of Benjamin Britten’s birth and there is a move for all the Sheffield orchestras to include pieces by him in their schedule and we would like to join in. Other possibilities ‘in the mix’ are Shostakovitch 12, Rachmaninov piano concerto 3, Scheherazade, and Mahler 5 (yes, your eyes do not deceive you). None of this is official, but there is no harm in speculating.

We have also been invited to play in the Botanic Gardens again.

It should be an amazing ride.


PS. The following dates and venues have now been booked, so players should put them in their diaries.

10th November 2012. Ecclesall Church

15th December 2012. Christmas Concert. Victoria Hall

16th March 2013. Ecclesall Church

8th June 2013. Victoria Hall

July ‘In the Gardens’ Concert. Date to be confirmed.

PPS. The rehearsal schedule is now online. Click the appropriate line in the top left corner of the blog.

Nepotistic Post
November 14, 2011, 12:42 pm
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Whats the point of doing the blog if you can’t resort to a bit of old fashioned nepotism now and again!

SPO playing in Sheffield Botanic Gardens, July 2011 in front of an audience of 2,500. Soloists are Sardinian tenor/baritone Antonello Arca and vet student Charly Oakley.

Musical Director. Jonny Lo
November 14, 2011, 12:21 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

As Jonny Lo’s contract has been extended for another two years, now is a good time to update his profile. Here is a link to his site which contains all the latest news.

Thanks to Jonny for the concert  last Saturday (Nov 12th). The ‘respectful pause’ at the end was more what you expect after a requiem mass but the encore made it abundantly clear how we should have finished! There has been lots of great feedback. We are all looking forward to Borodin and Brahms.