31st October 2017
Swindon Symphony Orchestra
Yes listeners. We DO have our very own symphony orchestra! Who knew?! Not me until relatively recently. Yet it’s been here for twenty-eight years! We also have people performing chamber music recitals in Swindon too. Who knew that?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: WHAT are people looking for when they say there’s nothing to do, nowhere to go, nothing to see and no culture in Swindon? Aside from big West End plays and musicals – and get real this is a town not a city – what is out there that’s not here? I truly don’t understand it.
‘Did you know Swindon has it’s very own Symphony Orchestra? Described by the organisers of Swindon175 last year as “Swindon’s best kept secret”, the orchestra has been performing in the town for twenty-eight years!
A brief History
The Swindon Symphony Orchestra performs two concerts each year, with members who are talented musicians from Swindon and surrounding areas. They play because of their shared love of music, their desire to be something bigger than just a lone person practising at home and because they want to do some good for local and national charities whilst providing entertainment for people in and around Swindon.
This is how it all began . . .
The orchestra was the brain-child of late, enthusiastic local musician John Birkin. His original plan was simply to bring high-quality musicians together for a one-off concert at the Wyvern Theatre in 1989, to raise funds for what was then the Wiltshire Youth Orchestra. However, the music-making was so popular, with audience and musicians alike, that John was persuaded to continue running the orchestra. The initial concert had been a huge undertaking, organised solely by John, so a committee of willing volunteers was formed to spread the workload, and that is how the orchestra still functions today.
Despite its roots reaching back to the 1980s, there have been surprisingly few conductors of the orchestra over the years. Malcolm, our current conductor, has done much to increase the range of music and composers that the orchestra tackles, helping to increase and retain membership in addition to stretching the abilities of the orchestral members and occasionally filling the hearts of the players with fear owing to the sheer number of notes on the page!
There have been many memorable concerts over the years (very often because the previous concert venue, a church, was so cold!). On one occasion a brave, local conductor Jonathan Trim had to be enlisted to conduct the orchestra with only a few hours’ notice on the day of the concert without prior sight of the programme, as Malcolm had put his back out. One sell-out occasion was a concert at Bath Road Methodist Church when the orchestra performed Peter and the Wolf with the very entertaining and greatly missed Jonny Morris, of Animal Magic fame. On the basis that ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’ the orchestra invited him along, cheekily adding that it had no money to pay him a fee but hoped he would perform anyway as the concert was to raise money for charity. Sometimes, being cheeky pays off!
Concerto soloists are often regular members of the orchestra, with flute, clarinet, bassoon, horn, cello and violin works performed in recent years. Other recent guest instrumentalists have added trumpet, oboe and piano works into the mix.
The orchestra’s repertoire not only includes the standard classical and romantic composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and Shostakovich, but also lesser known works by Suk, Rautavaara, Khachaturian, Reinecke, Horowitz, Arutiunian and Kodaly.
In Autumn 2016 the Orchestra were proud to performed to a sell-out audience in the Great Western Hall at STEAM, Museum of the Great Western Railway, as part of the Swindon 175 celebrations, with the very talented soloist, Daniel Lebhart, delighting us with his skilful performance of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 2.
Although he is no longer with us, hopefully John Birkin would have been proud of the progress and development made by the Swindon Symphony Orchestra, and the orchestra members are grateful for his insight and unrelenting hard work in founding the Orchestra all those years ago.
Our next concert
Our next concert is this coming Sunday, 5th November 2017, 7:30pm at St Joseph’s Catholic College where you will be able to hear two of our members, Nikki Young (viola) and Ruth Foxman (clarinet) play Bruch’s Double Concerto for Viola and Clarinet. Other works in the programme are Johann Strauss Jr’s Die Fledermaus Overture, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Serenade No. 2, Sibelius’s Finlandia Op. 26. and Shostakovich’s – Symphony No 9.
Join the orchestra or follow us
We are always very interested to hear from musicians who would like to play with the orchestra, especially advanced string and brass players.
If you would like enquire about playing with us, or keep up to date with the orchestra, including concert dates, you can use the ‘Contact Us’ page on our website www.swindonsymphonyorchetra.org.uk and you can follow us on Twitter @SwindonSymph and Facebook facebook.com/swindonsymphonyorchestra.