The 2015-16 Season: Tony Houghton looks back on another successful year
This has been a momentus year for the Orchestra – big challenges, big changes, great and exciting music making and successful
The season began in grand manner working on Vaughan Williams’ wonderful London Symphony and this along with the Rutter Gloria and Tsunami
Requiem by another Williams, contemporary composer Chris, received powerful
performances in November. The orchestral comtributions to the Christmas concert
were well received, especially the Coppelia Ballet music and I was proud to
have my Orchestral Christmas Suite of Tchaikovsky’s Op. 37a music programmed and played so well by you all. This concert was
tinged with the sad knowledge that we were loosing our valued Leader of two
years, Jac McKeigh, who we had taken to our hearts and had developed the string
team with great sensitivity and charm. We thank her for all her hard work for
the Orchestra and remember her with affection.
So the New Year began with the search for a new Leader. I felt it was time for
this position to be upgraded and to be put on a more professional basis and so
as to get it right and not to rush into an immediate appointment, I set a
timetable to have someone in place for the beginning of the 60th season. This
left the opportunity for first Robert Shaw and then Dianne Knowles to sit up
and experience the responsibility and lime-light for the two remaining concerts
of the season. Both threw themselves into the role with great skill, energy and
creativity – I was most impressed by their commitment and grateful for their generous
collaboration, in their own ways they were a delight to work with.
Our March concert, with Rob leading, was a great success – the popular programme of Romantic classics attracted our largest audience to
date and they were given magnificent performances from everyone and especially
our charismatic soloist Adam Swayne in the Rachmaninov. It really was a night
to remember. Then with Dianne taking over from Rob on the Leader chair we began
rehearsing Brahms’ glorious Requiem score. It was a delight to work on this masterpiece along with
the Song of Destiny and Mendelssohn’s Fingal’s Cave Overture and Ian was very pleased with the performance; the Choir and
Orchestra inspiring each other in this great music.
Most of us were able to take part in the February Orchestral Workshop Gerald had
organised again this year. The move to earlier in the year seemed popular and a
big orchestra enjoyed working on and performing Strauss’s Rosenkavalier Suite and Enscu’s Romanian Rhapsody. It was a pleasure to have Nicola Bright guest leading for
the day and the charity benifitted considerably from everyone’s generosity.
The season concluded with three Tuesday repertoire rehearsals in May in which we
explored the early Tchaikovsky’s symphonies. These rehearsals were led each week by one of the three very able
and charming candidates in line for the vacant full-time Leader’s post, an ideal opportunity for them to try us out and for us to assess them in
action. These were most enjoyable sessions, a chance to get to know these
mostly neglected gems from this Russian composer.
Our leader hopefuls were all excellent but one stood out as being particularly
special and the right fit for us. Emma Rushworth was offered the job, accepted
and will be leading the Orchestra from our first rehearsal in September. I am
looking forward to working with her and to her building a lasting and creative
relationship with us all.
Thank you all for your loyalty, comitment and enthusiastic playing over the year
– you have risen to all the challenges and given your all – Bravo! Special thanks go as always to Ruth Hughes for her amazing efficiency
and hard work as librarian, to Ruth Kendon for strings fixing and general
mothering of us all, and especially to Tim Ward for being such a positive
manager for the Orchestra and for the support he gives me personally.
The coming season, our 60th, promises to be fuller than ever of great music,
artistic challenge, new projects and promise of musical collaboration,
excitement and fullfilment.