60-second interview: Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra

We sit down (virtually) for a quick-fire interview with member group Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra (SPO), who worked with Making Music award-winning music arranger George Morton.

Describe your group in three words

Progressive / Welcoming / Dedicated

How long has the group been running, and how many members do you have?

Running since 1945 (75 years!). We currently have around 75 members at the SPO – and we are looking for a few more to join our ranks on double bass!

What’s the age range and what do people do in their daily lives?

We have an age range between 16-89, which is huge! Our members cover a range of professions, including doctors/nurses, musicians, IT specialists, teachers and arts administrators.

What sort of music do you play?

We are a progressive orchestra, so we do perform a wide range of classical music from Haydn and Beethoven to Leonard Bernstein and new commissions from Sheffield-based composers. We enjoy performing a selection of works from different periods – so there is never a dull moment at the SPO!

What was the most significant thing the group learned from working with award winner George Morton on his arrangement of Quatre Pièces Caractéristiques

We were very lucky to work with George, and having him as our conductor made the process even more exciting. We all learned a lot about the piece and its composer, Clara Schumann, through rehearsals. George is very knowledgeable and made the experience enlightening.

Has the group been able to rehearse or meet online during the pandemic?

During the first lockdown we conducted Zoom rehearsals where we worked largely on Elgar’s First Symphony. We chose this work as we were set to perform it as part of our summer concert, so we put lots of work into these sessions to get the most out of the music. We mostly ran sectionals so that each section got the most out of both George and the music. We went back to in-person rehearsals in September but have since ceased these from November. We split the orchestra into two teams and were able to rehearse a set of music arranged largely by George again. These rehearsals were absolutely fantastic, and everybody got a lot out of them. For the team not at rehearsals, we livestream the rehearsals so people can play along and listen, which has also been an invaluable tool. 

What are your plans for when you are able to meet again?

After the announcement about a new lockdown on 4 January, we have obviously halted all rehearsal plans again. We are hoping to get back up and running as soon as possible in person as it has been some months now since we last got together to rehearse. That said, we did make a fun Christmas video with our friends at the Sheffield Youth Orchestra, which you can view on YouTubeOur committee will be meeting again soon to discuss plans going forward, though they're all dependent on restrictions in England. In any case, we're hoping to be back soon! 

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