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HISTORY

Over 40 years of classical music

"Great Heart & Good Will"

Waveney Sinfonia's first concert on 10th September 1978 featured Rossini's Overture "An Italian Girl in Algiers", Mozart Clarinet Concerto, Britten Simple Symphony and Haydn Symphony no 104 and was under the direction of a youthful Adrian Brown. Much of this inaugural programme is to be revisited in the 30th birthday season.

"...The concert had great heart! The clarinet concerto went off well...There was a lot of good will from the local community and musicians" (Richard Featherstone)

The orchestra at the inaugural concert was led by its founder, Richard Featherstone, who had seen the need for an opportunity in Lowestoft for advanced pupils, peripatetic instrumental teachers and other local musicians to play together under the direction of a professional conductor. He had found that intensive rehearsing and performing on consecutive weekends had produced excellent results in other parts of East Anglia and hoped that such a format would encourage pupils to continue to play after leaving school.

He envisaged a pattern of about three such concerts a year mixing early Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn symphonies and classical concertos, with the hope that 20th century and specially composed pieces could also be included. Richard brought a professional insight and enthusiasm, and continued to lead the orchestra until 1981, when he left Suffolk to teach in Wolverhampton.

 

The soloist at the first concert was John Catchpole, who, like Richard, was a local instrumental tutor and freelance musician. John recalls a general feeling of excitement and expectation at the first concert. He continued as loyal member of the orchestra's woodwind section for many years and comments that the Sinfonia had "a feeling of friendship and creative enjoyment, like an orchestra family".

 

When Richard Featherstone departed, it was very fortunate that Peter Youngs was able to step forward to guide the orchestra through a key phase, as leader from 1981 to 1988.

As well as being a talented violinist, Peter Youngs had a breadth of musicianship that extended through instrumental tuition, coaching of orchestras to playing the organ.

Up until 1984, the Waveney Sinfonia engaged a number of conductors who generally, were only able to work with the orchestra for a few hours on the weekend of the concert. Peter spent many hours laying the groundwork in rehearsal during the weekends prior to the concerts.

He was responsible for recruiting many new players - his little yellow book of local musical contacts resulted in bringing some key players to Lowestoft for the first time - not least our current leader, David Adelson.

His sudden loss in 1988 was a great blow to Waveney Sinfonia, and he is still sadly missed.


"We start rehearsing where other orchestras finish" (Adrian Brown)

Whilst Waveney Sinfonia has been constant to Richard Featherstone's vision and retains the same timetable of rehearsal and concert weekends, the formula has changed gradually, and the standard of playing has undoubtedly improved.

Although Adrian Brown had conducted the first concert, between 1978 and 1983, about six different conductors directed the Waveney Sinfonia. Fundamental to the success story is Adrian's continuous commitment since 1984.

After Peter Youngs' untimely death in 1988, Adrian doubled the number of visits he made to Lowestoft to take all rehearsals. In doing so, he has developed an approach and style which the orchestra has been able to carry forward from season to season, resulting in higher standards of performance and a reduction of rehearsal time from 17½ hours in 1984 to 12 hours in 2008.

"Adrian's rehearsals are very focused and informative. As he says 'we start where other orchestras finish'. He brings things out of the music and players that we didn't know were there. He explains clearly what he wants and how you can do it. There is a great feeling of teamwork." (David Adelson)

"The pace and depth of rehearsal gives a professional musicianship… afterwards I am physically exhausted, but musically refreshed and inspired" (Andrew Ross)

Our audience will know that Adrian has a wealth of musical knowledge and stories, which he shares in concerts, and, last year, in his fundraising talk "The Art of Coarse Conducting". Over the last 25 years Adrian has become a close friend to all in the orchestra. Players travel from across East Anglia and plan their musical diaries around Waveney Sinfonia to work with Adrian. As well as being an enormously talented musician, his practical approach and experience are vital to the running of the orchestra and planning of concerts. In rehearsals his knowledge and humour are expertly used.

"He knows exactly when to give the orchestra a rest with an anecdote and when to get us back to work; when to insist on a higher standard and when to allow players to correct themselves." (David Adelson)

"I am grateful for the friendships forged, the humour we enjoy and a patient music teacher who set me on this wonderful musical road" (Maurice Manning)

"Tight but unobtrusive organisation" (Crispin Warren)

Crucial to the establishing of Waveney Sinfonia as one of East Anglia's leading amateur ensembles has been the hard work and dedication of its committee.

Because of the fluid nature of the orchestra's membership and the variety of programmes performed, the fixing of players can occupy much time behind the scenes - hunting for that elusive 4th horn for the "Eroica" or harpist for Debussy "L'apres midi d'une faune". Begging for the loan of a keyboard or finding obscure percussion instruments can be just as stressful - on one occasion a car wheel hub from a local breaker's yard was required to get just the right sound for the anvil in Josef Strauss "Feuerfest" polka.

For much of the orchestra's history, Pat Nicholson, our librarian, has scoured the library service and music publishers for orchestral parts. She, along with other committee members, have then spent hours marking up the music with bowings, phrasing and dynamics. This has resulted in focused and economical rehearsals - the envy of most other amateur orchestras.

Ensuring the orchestra's financial survival has required the committee to make some tough decisions. In the early years particularly, musical ambition at times had to be tempered by the reality of balancing the books. The committee and particularly the treasurer had to take into account the cost of not only performers and venue, but also music hire. Following a line of dedicated Chairmen including Dr Wilfred Wren, "Chad" Chadwick, and Michael Marriott, Elizabeth Canham contributed to Waveney Sinfonia's financial stability by securing a substantial grant and establishing a tradition of a summer fundraising event, continued this year by Dick Houghton. Margaret Porter's hard work in securing the loyalty and advance ticket sales from the orchestra's 'Friends' adds some financial security when the committee plans for future concerts.

The lead-up to concerts is a period of frenetic activity for all committee members - advertising, ticket sales and writing programme notes, for which Michael Marriot's knowledgeable prose is sadly missed. On the concert day, fetching and erecting lighting, music stands and instruments, stage building, front of house duties, and hospitality add to the burden.

Roy and Olive Jenner - Olive joined the committee in 1979, having been asked by Richard Featherstone to help with publicity. Roy soon followed and served as secretary for over 23 years. Olive fixes the violin and viola sections, as well as manning the "ticket hotline". She has provided buffet teas and accommodation for players, nervous soloists and an occasionally tense conductor. Peter Youngs, the connoisseur of orchestral teas would invite people back to the "Park Road Canteen", whilst ensuring he was at the head of queue for Olive's chocolate sponge on concert days.

As secretary, Roy's efficient businesslike approach predated the age of computers. Adrian fondly remembers our society being the last to send handwritten letters despite the advance of e mail. For many years he fixed the brass and percussion sections of the orchestra - it is reputed that he had the telephone number of every horn player within a 60 mile radius of Lowestoft. Until Bruce Rayner took over in 2000, Roy spent many concert days at the wheel of a Transit van ferrying timpani, staging, percussion instruments, music stands and the vital tea urn.

It is impossible to list all of the vital jobs that Roy and Olive have taken on during the last 30 years, but there are no prizes for guessing which couple were spotted, tape measure in hand, debating the size of the average Lowestoft bottom to calculate the capacity of Trinity, when faced with a sell out for the Eric Gruenburg concert in 1988.


"Like an orchestra family" (John Catchpole)

For six weekends a year players are absorbed in intensive music making, and inevitably family members are drawn in. A number of younger audience members have progressed over the years to joining mum or dad on the platform. In the case of Carol Skinner (flute), both Joseph (keyboard/percussion) and Lucy (cello) have recently played, whilst her partner Dick has thrown himself into the organisation of the orchestra as publicity officer.

Adelson Family - Christine Adelson (nee Jenner) daughter of Roy and Olive recalls wanting to play in the first concert. She was inspired to practise hard and was "squeezed in" on second flute. She continues to play regularly, often alongside her sister Catherine Ross (oboe), and has given up much of her spare time to the running of the orchestra, first as woodwind fixer and now as librarian.

She met her husband David in 1987 who had been enticed to Lowestoft to play in Kodaly "Dances of Galanta" by Peter Youngs. They married in 1989 (in Trinity) in the same year that David first led the orchestra. David is also busy behind the scenes fixing brass and percussion sections, managing stage assembly and advising the committee on programming.

Their daughter Naomi, first played in the cello section in 2005, having graduated from programme selling with her brother Jonathan and cousins Anna and Eleanor, all of whom aspiring players.

 

Warren Family - "I think someone suggested I come and play. . . . . It was 'Nuits d'Ete and after that I was hooked" (Crispin Warren)

Crispin has lead the cello section since 1996 and he brought his son Joshua along to join Waveney Sinfonia when he was approaching Grade 8. Joshua was already a member of the Norfolk County Youth Orchestra but comments that playing in Waveney Sinfonia doubled his orchestral experience including working alongside adults. Whilst studying at the Royal Academy of Music Joshua was invited back to perform Mozart G major Concerto and Bach Concerto for violin and oboe and last season returned to play the Beethoven violin concerto.

"I was really grateful when Adrian suggested that I play the Beethoven violin concerto last January . . . . . I was nervous as I didn't want to let Adrian and the orchestra down, and I was really pleased to pull it off" (Joshua Warren)

This year Crispin's wife Pat joined the cello section and to complete the family's involvement eldest son Oliver Warren had a starring role playing triangle in Brahms' Variations on a theme by Haydn.


In the Spotlight

Waveney Sinfonia always takes great delight in inviting soloists to perform and a concerto or other solo item has featured in almost every concert.

John Catchpole, clarinet soloist in the first concert, was the first of many to step forward from the orchestra's ranks. Since then there have been a number of performances by leaders Richard Featherstone, Peter Youngs and David Adelson. Other soloists have included Lynne Roberts in the Strauss horn Concerto, Catherine Ross on oboe in Albinoni and more recently many heard the Stanford Clarinet Concerto for the first time performed by Steve Johnson. James O'Toole and Elizabeth Skinner have given the orchestra a greater insight on achieving an authentic style in the performance of their concertos. Players from the orchestra have been put in the spot light in the Sinfonia Concertante by Haydn, and Bach Brandenburg Concertos.

The orchestra and conductor, Adrian Brown, have a happy knack of spotting those destined for musical success and are always on the look out for talented students and young professionals who are willing to brave the A12 for the opportunity to perform with orchestra and professional conductor.

In 1990 Nell Catchpole followed in her father's footsteps when she joined the orchestra as soloist performing a violin concerto by Vivaldi. She has mark her mark internationally combining theatre and violin as a founder member of "The Gogmagogs".

Between 1995 and 2003, Andrew Storey joined the orchestra on three occasions in Bruch and Mozart violin concertos. He has pursued a successful career in chamber and orchestral music and most recently was spotted as principal second violinist in RPO. His brother, Martin, our cello soloist in the Rococco Variations in 2000, has made a name for himself as soloist and chamber musician on both sides of the Atlantic.

The success of soloists can pose problems: our oboe soloist in June 2008, Louise Hayter, after being booked to play with Waveney Sinfonia, secured a professional contract in Hong Kong and had to fly back (fortunately not at the orchestra's expense) to perform in Lowestoft.

Waveney Sinfonia shares its 30th birthday with the BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition. The orchestra has been pleased to perform with past winners, Anna Markland (piano) and Alan Brind (violin), and looks forward eagerly to working with 2008 finalist, Erdem Misirlio?lu's with the Beethoven Emperor Concerto in 2009.

Thanks to Adrian Brown's connections, we have been very fortunate in bringing world class violinists, Eric Gruenburg and Hugh Bean to Lowestoft. It was a real privilege to work with such great musicians and the people that packed out the church on those occasions certainly appreciated their wonderful performances.

"An enjoyable evening of music for both players and audience" (Olive Jenner)

"We have never been disappointed with the programme as our tastes are very varied"  (Richard & Pat Morling - friends and supporters for at least 25 years)

"I like playing old friends or something new, a challenge"(John Catchpole)

"Excellent choice of repertoire" (Crispin Warren)

When founding the orchestra Richard Featherstone was keen to mix classical repertoire with 20th century and specially composed pieces. Getting the balance between "old friends" and "something new" has taxed the committee and conductor throughout the orchestra's history. There is however no question that Waveney Sinfonia has given the people of Lowestoft the chance to hear a very large and varied repertoire.

The committee is always pleased to receive suggestions for future programmes from players and audience alike. Choice of repertoire is often governed by practical considerations such as the availability of players and whether the venue can accommodate the necessary players and instruments. Prohibitively expensive music hire can also affect choices. Adrian Brown brings a wealth of musical knowledge and practical experience to help the committee.

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Vital Statistics

It will come as no surprise that Mozart makes more appearances on our programmes than any other composer, appearing 53 times in 94 concerts. Beethoven and Haydn take second and third places respectively with 25 and 23 appearances.

The orchestra has performed about 50 different symphonies, including all Beethoven apart from the ninth (Choral). Rossini's "Italian Girl in Algiers" Overture will be performed tonight for the fifth time tonight, making it the most frequently performed piece.

The violin is top of the table when looking at concerto performances, with Bruch and Mendelssohn concertos appearing three times each.

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The slightly more informal style with Adrian introducing the programmes proved successful in the first Viennese concert in January 1989. It was decided to continue with this style of presentation as the audience appreciated the additional information that Adrian brought to the music. More recently programming of "light" music, such as "Calling all workers" and "By a sleepy lagoon" by Coates, has proved popular with both young and old.

"My abiding conducting memory of course is ...when Paddington Bear took the baton in 1992!" (Maurice Manning)

Family concerts have featured Peter and the Wolf (narrator Brian Cant), Paddington's First Concert (narrator Helen McDermott) and the unforgettable performance of Johnny Morris in his own piece "Juanita the Spanish Lobster".

The orchestra has eased local audiences into the twentieth century by including works by Debussy, Ravel, Vaughan Williams, Martinu, Stravinsky, and Poulenc amongst others. It has not neglected Lowestoft's own Benjamin Britten by the inclusion of his Sinfonietta, Simple Symphony and Soirées Musicales. Shortly after its foundation, Waveney Sinfoina collaborated with Lowestoft Choral Society and Sir Peter Pears in a performance of St Nicholas.

Works by contemporary local composers, including Kenneth Cowburn, Stewart Green and Christopher Wright have been performed. Richard Featherstone still recalls from 1979 our conductor Adrian's excellent arrangement of Bach's B minor suite and it was with great pleasure that the orchestra performed his "A Rhapsodic Journey to Love" with Vetta Wise in 2003. We are delighted to be including movements from Michael Peck's "Waveney Suite" in our thirtieth anniversary concert.

Michael Peck - After studying at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music, Michael, now a violin teacher was encouraged to join Waveney Sinfonia by Peter Youngs and has demonstrated a musical versatility alternating between violin and viola for at least twenty years. With characteristic modesty, he concealed his talents as a composer until recently.

He had been friends with Roy and Olive Jenner for many years and decided to write a piece for violin and piano as a gift. This was sadly at about the same time as Roy contracted his final illness and it was felt that the original piece "Reverie" might make a gentle tribute to all Roy gave the orchestra if it were orchestrated. The piece was performed in October 2005.

When asked about his inspiration and whether playing with the orchestra gave him ideas he wrote: "To be right inside the glowing engine of an orchestra in full flight is a wonderful experience, full of colours and wisps of sound and many surprises. There is so much in people, places, events and the beauty of nature to inspire - and the orchestra is a marvellous means of communication"

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Taken from 30th Birthday Gala Concert Programme, 4th October 2008

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