Orchestra celebrates anniversary in style
LEICESTER Symphony Orchestra will be celebrating its 90th anniversary with a gala concert at De Montfort Hall that features celebrated percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie.
It will be the first concert for John Andrews since taking on the role of principal conductor.
Although John is new to the role, his associations with the orchestra go back to 2007, when he stepped in at short notice.
He says: "The conductor had to pull out on that occasion and I took over.
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"That started my relationship with the orchestra and when this job became vacant they asked me to take it on permanently."
Now, John has signed up for at least the next three years and will be with the orchestra for a trio of concerts during the forthcoming season, beginning with the gala event featuring Dame Evelyn.
John says: "It's a really exciting season.
"Dame Evelyn in the first; a more symphonic concert in February featuring Sibelius and Grieg, and a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the coronation in May."
John is particularly looking forward to working with Dame Evelyn, who featured in this summer's London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony.
He says: "She's played with the orchestra before but I haven't worked with her although, of course, I know her by reputation.
"It's very exciting. She is an icon, nothing short of that. An icon of inspiration for a whole generation.
"It's also slightly daunting working with her. As a percussionist, what she specialises in is rhythmically challenging. She commissions a lot of new work and so, by definition, it is not that familiar to us. So there's that lovely excitement and the challenge of the fresh and unknown."
The concert will also feature a completely new piece, the winner of a competition held to coincide with the anniversary (see below). John was part of the judging panel.
He says: "We don't hear nearly enough new music any more.
"If you look back 100 years, the proportion of a concert that would have been new would have been good and healthy. Now, it's a tiny minority, so it's wonderful to be bringing new work to the public. I particularly think they will enjoy this piece which is wonderfully ceremonial and dignified and absolutely caught the spirit of what we asked for – something celebratory for this anniversary season."
Leicester Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1922 by Sir Malcolm Sargent as a showcase for talented Leicester musicians. It has stayed true to those roots and boasts a proud history.
John says: "It's one of the longest-standing, non-professional orchestras in the country. Working with them will be very different from what I usually do, which is to come in and do one-off concerts, where very quickly you have to build up a working relationship. You only look as far ahead as the concert you are doing together. Now, I'm looking forward to building a completely different relationship, working to give the orchestra new and exciting challenges. I can get to know them in a much more intimate way. It's a very collaborative process.
"The orchestra has a strong committee and a programming group, so it's a very collective way of working. I can recommend, and hopefully guide, on what would be suitable and hopefully exciting."
John is also looking forward to being back at De Montfort Hall.
"It's one of the most fabulous places to play," he says. "It's a daunting job filling it as it has such a large capacity but, acoustically, it's a glorious sound and a beautiful building."
Away from the orchestra John, who is based in London, is in demand for a whole host of concerts and events.
He says: "I'm extremely busy. It's a very pleasant mixture of symphonic work, opera, choral … a real variety, but a logistical nightmare to manage. I have worked with 15 companies in the last 12 months and that maybe as little as one afternoon rehearsal and concert to a long relationship. The Leicester Symphony Orchestra fitting into that is just part of a lovely rich tapestry of being a freelance musician. That's the plus side of having the unpredictability. It's nice to have a long term and stable relationship and a different challenge from just dropping in for a day."
And John believes that the November concert will be something special.
He says: "The concert is going to be unbelievable. An excess of a wonderful things – to have a new piece, the orchestra's anniversary and Dame Evelyn. I can't think of a better way to start my relationship with the orchestra."