Retiring chairman leaves Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra in fine fettle

Thomas Gould will perform
Thomas Gould will perform

Nicolas Chisholm steps down after five years as chairman of Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra on Sunday, December 1 – the day which sees the second concert in their 2019-2020 season.

He is confident he is handing over an orchestra in excellent heart despite challenging times.

Sunday’s concert will see Natalie Murray-Beale conduct the Brighton Phil with Thomas Gould (violin) at Brighton Dome, 2.45-4.45pm when the programme will comprises Haydn Symphony No.49 in F Minor (Passione); Vaughan Williams Five Variants of Dives and Laza-rus; Vaughan Williams The Lark Ascending; Mozart Eine kleine Nachtmusik Serenade K525; and Haydn Symphony No 45 in F Sharp Minor (Farewell).

The first concert in the season proved a huge success, and Nicolas is hoping for more of the same as he bows out: “We have done some really wonderful concerts over the past five years, and I have been pleased to introduce one or two initiatives like our education programme that takes some of our instrumentalists into schools in Brighton & Hove.

“I have always tried to ensure that we look after our Friends and offer them an interesting programme. We have organised trips up to London, for instance, to see Barry Wordsworth, our conductor laureate, conduct at the Royal Opera House.

“And we have been doing some experimental things this year. Like everything, finances are very tricky and we are always looking for new sponsorship and trying to balance a programme that wider audiences will like while also appealing to our Friends. I am pleased that our last concert (featuring Christian Garrick) went down so well. It was fantastic.

“But it is certainly hard to run an orchestra. What makes it hard is that professional musicians are expensive, and trying to maintain an audience that will bring us ticket income is so important while trying to raise the rest through Friends or sponsorship or foundations and trusts. It is getting more and more difficult. With such low interest rates, trusts are finding it difficult to make enough money to continue to be able to give widely, and there has been more call on their money. And we don’t have an Arts Council grant. Trying to find sponsorship is hard. But we are very fortunate that we have a lovely loyal bunch of Friends that support the orchestra and also sponsor instrumentalists or concerts, and some people also remember us in their will. We just about manage. This last year has been a struggle. We didn’t quite make the financial target last year which had implications for this year. We are going to do six concerts rather than eight concerts, but we are trying some different things. Society is moving so fast that you have got to keep up with it.

“But the orchestra is certainly in good heart, and as I say, we have had some wonderful concerts over the past five years.”

For the concert on Sunday, December 1, British violinist Thomas Gould takes to the stage for Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, a regular Classic FM top ten that depicts the soaring song of a skylark over fields of English corn. Another Classic FM favourite is Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik, a string serenade written while Mozart was composing his opera Don Giovanni. It was almost certainly a commission though not published until well after Mozart’s death. The programme starts and ends with two Haydn symphonies both from his Sturm and Drang period. Symphony No.49 gained its title Passione as a direct result of the movement. Haydn’s Farewell Symphony is perhaps best-known because of the circumstances of its composition, with Haydn appealing to his employer to allow the court musicians to return to their families. In the final movement the players leave the stage one by one until only two violins and the conductor remain. The point was taken and the court returned the next day.

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