This is an edited version of the Havant Orchestras newsletter which is provided in printed form (or e-mailed in PDF format, if requested) to players and Friends of the Orchestras.
This month we have TWO concerts for you to enjoy –
HCO at Ferneham Hall, then Yeomen of the Guard at Portsmouth Guildhall
From the Chairman …
I’m very pleased to announce that we have made a big step forwards for the future of Havant Symphony Orchestra. Following the November concert, there was such strong approval among the players for Jonathan Butcher as conductor that we have decided to appoint him as principal conductor of HSO for next season, on a trial basis, to be renewed mid-season if both sides are happy to continue, and potentially extended to the full role of musical director.
The committee were impressed not only with his excellent conducting but also with his clear understanding of the practical issues involved in running an amateur orchestra. The players are looking forward to working with him next season, and he is already working with the committee to plan future concert programmes and select soloists.
Although we have been enjoying working with a varied selection of guest conductors for recent concerts (and for the remaining two HSO concerts of this season), we are looking forward to the stability of having a regular conductor.
Another step forward is that with Jonathan Butcher’s appointment, we can now resume the Bob Harding bursary award for Young Conductors for next season. We have had the pleasure of working with many excellent and inspiring student conductors through this scheme in the past.
The way the scheme works is that the London music colleges are each invited to nominate one candidate, then after an audition in July, the successful candidate is invited to attend rehearsals and to rehearse and conduct one work in each HSO concert during the next season, with support and advice from the regular conductor, and with travel expenses being paid from the bursary fund. Jonathan Butcher is keen to mentor students in this role. The student is then usually invited to plan and conduct the Hayling ‘Popular Classics’ concert at the start of the following season.
Returning to the current season, the focus is now on Havant Chamber Orchestra, and their February concert, featuring a local young violin soloist, Ed Daniel, whose father Richard plays the viola in HSO.
When the HCO programmes were being finalised last year, it was suggested that perhaps we could encourage new people to join our audience by having a season where we highlight some of the best-known works for the classical symphony orchestra, and we worked with Robin Browning to adjust the programmes accordingly. (We are also aware that many of our audience appreciated our wider variety of works, and hope to resume including some lesser-known works in future seasons).
The programme starts with Beethoven’s dramatic and tragic Coriolan overture, whose mood is strongly reminiscent of the opening of his Symphony No 5, written around the same time. It then brightens up with the delightful and exuberant Mendelssohn violin concerto, one of the best-loved works in the violin repertoire. After the interval, we escape to the refreshing sounds of the countryside with Beethoven’s picturesque Pastoral Symphony.
Please help us to make good use of this opportunity by spreading the word and bringing along friends to enjoy the experience of a live orchestral concert of favourite works performed by local players, with a talented local soloist.
After this concert, watch out for our next event which is only two weeks later. On Saturday 22nd February, HSO is taking part in a joint event at Portsmouth Guildhall, performing Colin Jagger’s new concert version of The Yeomen of the Guard by Gilbert and Sullivan. See the back page for more details.
Saturday 8 February's Programme
at Ferneham Hall, Fareham
Pre-concert Talk6:30pm in the auditorium
Arrive in plenty of time and take the opportunity to listen to Peter Rhodes giving a talk about Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony in the auditorium at 6:30pm.
Upbeat!6:30pm in the Meon Room
We are hoping to have an Upbeat club meeting in the Meon room at 6:30pm, but we don’t have any details yet. If we get any details before the day, we will put them on the website.
Pre-Concert Interlude7:00pm in the Octagon Lounge
Enjoy our pre-concert interlude in the Octagon Lounge. The music will be provided by pupils from year 6 at Portsmouth High Junior School, playing a variety of instruments including piano, recorder, clarinet, violin and flute.
Thoughts from the podium…
As I write this item for the Newsletter, I have just been reading about the sad passing of that truly great conductor, Claudio Abbado. He was such an inspiring musician, for all of us – not least for me. I was lucky enough to meet him, spend some time with him, and watch him at work rehearsing the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, in the summer of 1995, in Paris. They were working on Bruckner 9. Claudio Abbado showed us all how music can be chamber music, if we only engage our ears differently, and truly listen. One comment he often came out with in rehearsals was a simple "why?" – implying that, if you were truly, deeply listening, then you wouldn't be able to play something like that. His spirit, humility, plus that incredible sweep of legato only he could achieve – all inspire me to this day.
It struck me that this HCO programme is one that Abbado would be very much at home in, with all this Beethoven! Coriolan has long been one of my favourite Beethoven overtures – dark, rich and passionate. I've performed it so often, yet never, ever tire of it. I particularly love the extreme simplicity with which he allows the second subject to shine out from behind the otherwise constant wall of rhythm. Simple yes, but no one else could have ever done this.
The Mendelssohn, too, is also a masterpiece. I used to dabble with playing it as a teenager – badly, stumblingly, in my former life as a violinist. I think it wasn't until long after I stopped trying to play it that I grew to appreciate its great qualities, not least the light: I'm always struck by the way Mendelssohn uses light, colour and shade, as a composer. There's so much air in his music, and he allows light to shine through the texture, too, like the finest artists. Air and light – a nice contrast after Coriolan!
And we finish with the Pastoral. I often get the impression that this is a bit of a "marmite" symphony – you either love it, or, just like marmite, you hate it. Tchaikovsky's "Manfred" is another example. I admit that, once upon a time – probably the same time as I was dabbling with being a violinist – I didn't get along with this symphony. I loved most of the others, just didn't really like this one. Nice tunes, yes, but nothing really seemed to happen. How WRONG I was! One performance, one recording, was what it took to open my eyes and encourage me to see this wonderful piece in a different light. Carlos Kleiber's son made a "bootleg" recording of the Pastoral, whilst his father conducted the Bavarian Staatsorchester in 1983, which was released sometime after the great man's death. Apart from a million other little Kleiber-esque things, one of the main things to strike me was how close to Beethoven's metronome marks Kleiber is. If this symphony is performed at the right speed, suddenly so much more of it makes sense. It has a flow, a line of drama, and – yes – a naive simplicity too: completely necessary after the intensity of the 5th symphony. Suddenly it all made sense to me. Now, I can't for one moment claim that our HCO performance will come close to those greats such as Kleiber, or Abbado – but I will certainly have a jolly good try, and I sincerely hope you enjoy it.
CDs for this concertSourced by Gordon Egerton (Clarinet)
Beethoven – 'Coriolan' overture and Symphony No.6
Mendelssohn – Violin Concerto
Saturday 22nd February 2014, 7:30pmat Portsmouth Guildhall
The Yeomen of the Guard
Havant Symphony Orchestra and Portsmouth Chorus together with the finest student soloists from the Royal College of Music and special guest narrator Sheila Hancock will perform a sparkling new concert version of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Yeomen of the Guard. It combines their usual tremendous wit with a true-life and touching story which is widely regarded as their best work.
The concert will be conducted by Colin Jagger, the Director of Music at the University of Portsmouth, and will include ‘lost songs’, most notably the fabulous Shadbolt number ‘When jealous torments rack my soul’, and the never-before-heard original ending to ‘Rapture, rapture!’ It also includes an enormous number of corrections to what has become the ‘standard’ text, some quite major (changes of notes and harmonies), and others more minor.
The concert version presents ALL of the music, but replaces the dialogue with a brief narration between each song, and will be published by Oxford University Press in the autumn 2014.
Tickets are available from the Portsmouth Guildhall box office on 0844 847 2362. More details are available via the events listing on the Portsmouth Guildhall website:
Saturday 29th March 2014, 7.30pmat Ferneham Hall, Fareham
Havant Symphony Orchestra
Leader: Cathy Mathews
Overture Hansel and Gretel – Humperdinck
Tickets £20.00; £17.50; £14.00;
Other Musical Eventscompiled by Geoff Porter
Friday 21st February, 7.30 pm.
Thursday 27th & Fri 28th February, 7.30 pm,
Thursday 6th March, 7.30 pm
Friday 7th March, 7.30 pm.
Saturday 8th March, 7.30 pm.
Sunday 9th March, 7.30 pm
Thursday 20th March, 7.30 pm.
Friday 21st March, 7.30 pm.
Saturday 22nd March, 7.30 pm.
Society contact information can be found on the Contacts page within this web site.