2014 was a year of celebrations. The orchestra completed its 10th season, and we were delighted to welcome back founding conductor Madeleine Venner to conduct our 10th birthday concert, during which I played Beethoven’s Romance in F. This completed a set, as I played the Romance in G in our inaugural concert.
A personal milestone was opening St George’s Festival for Beckenham with the final recital of my Bach Sonatas and Partitas series. It was my way of celebrating my 40th birthday as well as a decade of leading the orchestra. I wanted to set myself a challenge, and with its musical and technical demands, it had to be the complete set of Bach works for unaccompanied violin.
The Orchestra closed the festival with an especially demanding programme for which it was joined by international young talent including Maxime Tortelier, grandson of legendary cellist Paul Tortelier, and then Young Conductor in Association at Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, who made his SGCO debut conducting the new chamber version of Mahler’s 4th Symphony. Australian Soprano Sky Ingram (who has since made her début at the Royal Opera House!) sang exquisitely, and Sarah Kim joined us from Paris to play the harmonium. Every player on stage had a virtuosic solo part, which showed off the extraordinary talents of SGCO members.
We ended the year celebrating variety again with some seldom heard pieces of English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish music. A beautiful unpublished piece by Joan Trimble, loaned to us by the Ulster Orchestra, stole the show. I also made my very first arrangement, specially for this concert, of Sir Alexander Campbell Mackenzie’s Benedictus. I was delighted to receive emails and comments from many of you saying how much you enjoyed these beautiful pieces, and I was thoroughly relieved that my arrangement worked!
We also took part in another’s celebration, being engaged as a 20-piece orchestra to provide an hour of music at a wedding in Holy Trinity Square last month, which included accompanying the church’s professional choir in Zadok the Priest.
It was a fun year for the SGCO Quartet too. Our first ever performance at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in November was a sellout with clarinettist Barry Graham, father of the quartet’s leader Peter Graham, performing the Mozart and Brahms clarinet quintets with us. Earlier in the year members of the Allegri Quartet (which is celebrating its 60th birthday!) joined us for Brahms’ Bb Sextet. We had such a great time playing together that we are planning to complete the set with the Sextet in G, hopefully in 2016. The quartet tours Crete every autumn, and we have also been invited to perform in Finland next year.
SGCO is backed by a small but passionate team of local volunteers, who work incredibly hard to make each event come together. Richard Fielder, our Operations Manager, manages our finances, runs our box office, front of house and venue set-ups, helps design our flyers and spends days distributing them all around Beckenham and surrounding areas. Chie Elliott joined us this year to handle our online publicity and marketing; she produces promotional videos, manages our social media accounts, writes press releases and blogs, runs online campaigns and competitions. I am also still involved, often on a daily basis, with administrative tasks and I am very grateful to our team for now taking many of those off my hands. Being a self-funded ensemble we always welcome any offers of help!
Finally, and most importantly, we are most fortunate to have in you a fantastic audience, who has been loyally supporting us for the past 10 years. On behalf of all members of St George’s Chamber Orchestra, I would like to say a big thank you and wish you all a very Happy New Year.
The Dulwich on View magazine recently referred to us as “South London’s leading ensemble”, so we have a reputation to live up to. We stand firm in our resolve to continue delivering beautiful music of the highest standard to your doorstep and to make you proud of Beckenham and its orchestra!
Our first concert of 2015 will be on the 7th March with the Quartet playing, among other pieces, Schubert’s Death and the Maiden, one of the most famous quartets ever written. The orchestra will return for a baroque concert on the 9th May, in which I will be playing one of Vivaldi’s most virtuosic violin concertos, La Tempesta di Mare.
I hope you will be there to hear us and cheer us on.
Musical Director SGCO