Originally set up to accompany the KEMS Choir, a role that is still central to its activities, the Orchestra has progressively established itself as a performing orchestra in its own right.
It has attracted eminent conductors over the years; in recent years they have included such figures as composer Colin Touchin (former head of composition at Chetham’s School of Music and Director of Music at Warwick University); Martin Milner (former leader of the Hallé Orchestra); and Stephen Threlfall (former BBC Philharmonic cellist, now Director of Music at Chetham’s).
Since the 2001-2 season, the Orchestra has been conducted by Anthony Houghton, who for many years was Principal Clarinet of the Northern Ballet Theatre and Manchester Camerata Orchestras and who was a regular player with the Hallé Orchestra and BBC Philharmonic.
Anthony has played a major role in expanding the Orchestra’s repertoire in recent years. A few examples will demonstrate the range and styles of music played during the past few years:
l COPLAND Rodeo
l GERSHWIN Rhapsody in Blue
l BRAHMS Symphony No 2
l MILHAUD Suite Provencale
l DELIUS Brigg Fair
l DVORAK Symphony No 8
l TCHAIKOVSKY Violin Concerto
l RIMSKY-KORSAKOV Scheherezade
l ELGAR Symphony No 1
l BRUCKNER Symphony No 6
l SAINT-SAENS Organ Symphony No 3 l VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Sea Symphony
l KARL JENKINS The Armed Man
l BRAHMS Symphony No 4
l DELIBES Coppelia
l PROKOFIEV Peter and the Wolf
l BRITTEN Young Person’s Guide
l PROKOFIEV Peter and the Wolf
l SIBELIUS Symphony No 1
l BERNSTEIN Candide Overture
In 2011, the Orchestra gave the premiere of Christopher Swithinbank’s composition ‘June Unfolding’ recorded for BBC Radio 3.
In 2013, the Orchestra joined KEMS Choir for an acclaimed north-west premiere of Jonathan Dove’s ‘There was a Child’.
The Orchestra always welcomes enquiries from prospective players; in the first instance, please e-mail Sue Hudson giving brief details of your playing experience and we will let you know if any vacancies exist at the present time.
The 2017-18 Season: Tony Houghton looks back on another successful year
Another great season that has seen the Orchestra rise to big challenges and produce wonderful performances once again.
The season’s opening November concert had us tackling major 20th Century repertoire. Bernstein’s Candide Overture, Divertissement and Chichester Psalms and Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments. These were hard works to get to know but the Orchestra applied itself with dedication and commitment and the strangeness of the music was eventually assimilated and relished. Copland’s gentle ‘Down a Country Lane and Vivaldi’s Gloria which completed the programme were much more familiar in idiom and style giving some welcome relief to the intensity. Our performances in the concert fully justified all the effort of preparation and the playing all round was very impressive.
Our Christmas concert with its familiar content of audience carols and seasonal choir elements was given a novel contribution from local composer Bill Connor and his ‘Christmas Revisited’ in which the composer reinvented several well-known carols as short orchestral show pieces. They are full of wit and humour and the very large orchestra sparkled and dazzled and great fun was had by all.
Our Orchestral Concert in March included familiar and favourite mainstream music, which everyone loved and played their hearts out in, making the concert one of our most memorable. The well-know tunes of Grieg’s Peer Gynt music framed the lovely Sinfornia Concertante by Mozart with our leader Emma and her College friend, violist Rebecca the excellent soloists. In Sibelius’s wonderful 1st Symphony the Orchestra were on top form.
The April Concert ‘Magnificent Mozart’ featuring the incomparable Requiem, his Soilemn Vespers and Eine Kleine Nactmusik, although not involving our full orchetral forces was music was wonderful to work on and resulted in another great musical evening at St Michael’s.
The final orchestral project of the year was very different. A special Family/Children’s afternoon concert featuring Benjamin Britten’s ‘Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (Young Person’s Guide), Saint-Saëns’ ‘Carnival of the Animals’ and Elgar’s music to a Child’s Play – ‘The Wand Of Youth’. This was somewhat of an experiment in that it was staged in the Concert Hall of Fallibroome Academy. Those that were with us on that Sunday afternoon were given a treat. There was brilliant playing in Britten’s YPG, in which the audience were introduced to all the instruments followed by the visit to the Zoo via the Carnival of the Animals. Elgar’s delightful Wand of Youth Suite completed the programme but the sustained and insistant applause gained an encore – The Teddy Bear’s Picnic, which proved very popular and beautifully rounded off our concert from which there was a little learning and a lot of fun!
MARIA BECKER (leader)
Maria Becker has performed in a great variety of Ensembles in the North West of England and across Europe. She is at home in most musical styles as her career has given her the opportunity to perform extensively with her baroque violin (Academy of Ancient Music under Christopher Hogwood and Andrew Manze), as well as on her modern violin with the Northern Sinfonia, Northern Chamber Orchestra and the 18th Century Concert Orchestra.
In Germany she freelanced mainly with the “Hamburg Symphony Orchestra” and the “Basel Sinfonietta” in Switzerland, which focussed on 20th century Music and different performance practices.
Before moving to Manchester in 1995, Maria Becker held a permanent orchestra position in Stralsund. She is also a committed teacher, chamber music player and coach, which worked out well with her family life in Manchester and allowed her to settle in one place.
ELLIS THOMPSON (co-leader)
Ellis grew up in Gloucestershire and is now based in Manchester, graduating with an MMus from the Royal Northern College of Music in 2017 under the tutelage of Julia Hanson, and with a BMus (Hons) degree in Music from the University of Birmingham in 2012.
Between the two, he continued his musical studies in Innsbruck (2012-14) and Vienna (2015) whilst working as an English language assistant for the British Council.
Alongside the violin, he has studied viola with Heather Wallington and Baroque violin with Pauline Nobes and Caroline Balding.
Ellis is currently a freelance performer, teacher and arranger. Away from the violin, he has accompanied improvised comedy shows with the ‘Watch This’ Improv Troupe on piano, and played for shows and jazz bands on drums and bass guitar.
Lesley Farmer Christine Gibbs