Rotherham Symphony Orchestra

Excitement is building in Rotherham, ahead of its newly-formed orchestra’s debut concert. Rotherham Symphony Orchestra will perform in Clifton Park, Rotherham on Saturday 9th September.

The orchestra, which has been rehearsing since May, is made up of both professional and amateur players of all ages. It has been set up by Rotherham Music, and in the autumn members of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra will be coming to work alongside the new group and offer guidance.

George Morton is the orchestra’s musical director and is thrilled to be involved in the project: “I am very excited to be conducting the inaugural RSO performance in September. Rotherham (and the surrounding area) has a thriving music scene with a huge pool of fantastic orchestral musicians and it’s wonderful to be part of the area’s brand new orchestra. Our opening concert will be a celebration of music from around the world, culminating in the traditional ‘Last Night of the Proms’ festivities!”

The programme includes popular favourites such as Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March no. 1 and The Dambusters March by Eric Coates. Solo singers Charlotte Kenny and Rosie Thicket will also be performing with the orchestra.

Orchestra leader Hannah Thompson-Smith, who is also Strings Co-ordinator at Rotherham Music, is proud to be involved in the venture: “It’s such a lovely thing for Rotherham to have and is a wonderful way of bringing the community together. All ages are involved, including students, and it’s a great opportunity for them to be able to play alongside more-experienced musicians.”

More information about the orchestra can be found on Rotherham Music website and on the orchestra’s Facebook page. To buy tickets visit the Rotherham Theatres website.


Open Garden Fundraiser

On Sunday 25th June the beautiful gardens of Park Hall, Chesterfield will be open to the public to raise money for Music in the Round’s Bridge scheme and Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice. I will be giving short recitals throughout the afternoon, at 2.30, 3.30 and 4.30pm. The programme includes The Lark Ascending and music by Frank Bridge and Edward Elgar. There will be plants for sale, and light refreshments, and some very special sculptures by Vivien Whitaker MRBS will also be available to purchase.

The Bridge scheme supports a promising young string quartet with a three-year bursary as well as mentoring, performance opportunities and advice on developing and succeeding in the world of professional music making.

The garden at Park Hall is two acres in size and surrounds a 17th century farmhouse. It’s a historic garden, laid out in the 1920s by a Chesterfield industrialist. There’s a south-facing terraced garden with water features, a parkland with forest trees which are at least 200 years old, a croquet lawn and a new millennium garden which was created in the year 2000.

Tickets will be available on the gate and cost £5. Under 12s go free.

Scherzo Diabolique

On Friday 2nd June, as part of the summer lunchtime concert series in St Mary’s Collegiate Church, Warwick, Mark Swinton and I will give the world premiere performance of Scherzo Diabolique, composed for us by David Briggs. David is one of the foremost concert organists of his generation and is in demand both as a performer and composer.

“It is a privilege to have been asked to write a new piece for brilliant violinist Lucy Phillips and her accompanist, Mark Swinton. Works for Violin and Organ are actually quite few and far between: we have the beautiful Epistle Sonatas of Mozart (strings and organ obligato), a stunning work by Karg-Elert (for violin, female voices and organ) but that is about it. My new Scherzo Diabolique is intended to be a showpiece for the virtuosity of both performers. The violin part is fast and mainly rather furious, exploring the extremities of the instrument. The work is over in between four and five minutes, rather like the kaleidoscopic finale of a firework-display. I hope performers and audience will enjoy it!” (David Briggs, 2017)

The full concert programme is:

J.S.Bach – Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring and Erbarme dich

Biber – Passagalia

Mascagni – Intermezzo

Karg-Elert – Sanctus

Vaughan Williams – Pastorale

Briggs – Scherzo Diabolique

The concert begins at 1.15pm and entry is free. Visit the website of St Mary’s Church, Warwick for more information about the concert series.


The Lark in Derby Cathedral

Following the release of our CD ‘The Lark in the Chapel’ last year, Mark Swinton and I will perform two recitals this spring which will feature music from it.

On Friday 19th May we will give a lunchtime concert in Derby Cathedral. The programme will include Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, voted the nation’s favourite for several years now in Classic FM’s Hall of Fame; the beautiful, airy nave will be the perfect setting for it. There will be an opportunity to purchase the recording at the end.

On Friday 2nd June, 1.15pm, we will perform in St Mary’s Collegiate Church, Warwick, where Mark is assistant director of music. Alongside works from the CD, this programme will feature the world premiere of ‘Scherzo Diabolique’ composed for us by David Briggs. It is an exciting and energetic piece which we are very much looking forward to performing.

Entry to both concerts is free, with a retiring collection.

Music for Springtime

I am delighted to have been invited to perform in this year’s Belper Music Festival, part of Belper Arts Festival 2017. Beate Toyka, the festival director, and I will entertain you with light classical music, perfect for a spring evening. The concert will take place in St Peter’s Church in Belper, and before it begins a traditional, fruity ‘May Punch’ will be available on the terrace. The start of the concert will be announced by a trumpet voluntary, inviting you into the church.

Following on from our recent performance of Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata at the Classical Weekend in Sheffield, Beate and I will be including movements from his Sonata in F major, ‘Spring’ Sonata. The programme will also include Mendelssohn’s Spring Song, Elgar’s Chanson de Matin and Chanson de Nuit, Liszt’s ‘Un Sospiro’ and the theme from Ladies in Lavender, by Nigel Hess.

Tickets are £10 for adults, £8 for over 60s and £1 for under 16s. Tickets and more information can be found on the Belper Arts Festival website.

Concerts in the Belper Music Festival 2017 run from 29th April to 2nd June and include a varied and exciting line-up. Highlights include a performance by ‘The Younger Kanneh-Masons’, the very talented siblings of Sheku Kanneh-Mason, winner of BBC Young Musician of the Year 2016, and the Belper ‘Last Night of the Proms’ starring Opera Babe Karen England.


Beethoven Violin Sonatas: The Grand Finale

After spending a year and a half working my way through this fabulous collection of sonatas, I have reached the final performance. In planning the series, the decision of which sonata to end with was an obvious one: the Kreutzer.

Beethoven composed the ninth of his ten violin sonatas in 1803, persuaded by the young violinist George Polgreen Bridgetower, who was keen to premiere a piece with him. Bridgetower had recently arrived in Vienna, and is said to have been an exciting violinist with an impulsive and brash personality. Beethoven was given very little time to compose the sonata, and on the day of the concert some of the movements were only just finished, the ink barely dry on the page.

The finale of the ninth sonata, an energetic tarantella, is the original last movement of the sixth (Op. 30 no.1), which Beethoven had set aside, considering it to be too long for that piece. It became the basis for the creation of the first two movements of the new work. The style of the sonata has shifted even further from the model of Mozart’s, and it is written in a style ‘like that of a concerto’. Both piano and violin parts are extremely virtuosic.

Following the premiere, Beethoven and Bridgetower had a quarrel, and so when the sonata was later published the dedicatee was changed to Rodolphe Kreutzer. Beethoven wrote that ‘As the sonata is written for a competent violinist, the dedication to Kreutzer is all the more appropriate.’ In spite of this Kreutzer never performed the work, saying to Hector Berlioz that it was ‘outrageously unintelligible’!

I am delighted to have the opportunity to perform the Kreutzer as part of the Classical Weekend in Sheffield. I will be joined by pianist Beate Toyka and the concert is at 1.30pm on Saturday 18th March, in the Upper Chapel, Surrey Street, Sheffield. Tickets cost £5 and will be available on the door, although advance booking is recommended. Visit the Classical Weekend website for more information.

Musical treats during a cold November

As the temperatures drop there are a number of musical events to look forward to. This evening I will be performing in the beautiful setting of Worksop College Chapel in a candlelit Solemn Eucharist for St Cecilia. The service will be led by Rev’d Paul Finlinson (Chaplain of Worksop College) and the music directed by Timothy Uglow. The main work will be Haydn’s Little Organ Mass and it will be performed by a small ensemble of musicians (strings and organ), as originally intended. The mass dates from around 1775 and is a concise work, which was necessary for practical reasons at the time. Haydn manages to compress the Gloria and Credo by allowing different vocal parts to carry different lines of the text simultaneously. In the original version the Gloria is only 31 bars, which is quite an extreme example of the practice, so Michael Haydn (his younger brother) later composed a longer version of the movement. The service will also include Purcell’s Rejoice in the Lord Alway and Puccini’s Requiem. The service begins at 8.45pm and entry is free.


On Tuesday 15th November I’m delighted to have been asked to give a short solo performance as part of the Sheffield Year of Making Showcase at the Crucible Theatre, coordinated by Sheffield Culture Consortium. It will be an afternoon celebrating local creativity and talent and there will be presentations from all sectors. Tickets are free and can be reserved through the Sheffield City of Makers website. I look forward to presenting some joyous Bach and Monti’s fiery Czardas.