Arundel's Hanover Band celebrates Beethoven in 250th anniversary year

The Arundel-based Hanover Band has almost completed a major recording project which will celebrate the genius of Beethoven leading up to the 250th anniversary of his birth this December.

Hanover Band founder Caroline Brown
Hanover Band founder Caroline Brown

Hanover Band CEO Stephen Neiman said it is also a project which will honour Hanover Band founder Caroline Brown (1953-2018).

Before her death two years ago from cancer, Caroline had planned, from her hospital bed, a key series of Beethoven concerts for the band’s and Beethoven’s own anniversaries in 2020 as the Hanover Band marks 40 years.

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And then coronavirus stepped in: “The project that Caroline devised was to have the Beethoven symphonies played in the halls that Beethoven himself would have expected his music to be played in, ie in the livery halls of London. He knew nothing of the O2 or the Barbican or the South Bank!

“We organised nine concerts over nine months in various livery halls for this year, and we had arranged to play all nine symphonies again during the Arundel Festival this year. All of that work had to be curtailed. We had to refund about £30,000 worth of tickets to people, but a lot of people were kind enough to send me a cheque to say that they didn’t want their money back and to put it instead towards the development of the band.

“And that meant, with the sponsorship we had raised, that we were able to bring the band together to record eight or nine symphonies. We did two full weeks of recording, and we have now recorded eight of the nine symphonies. We couldn’t do the ninth because of the singing it involved. Singing wasn’t allowed because of the COVID restrictions.”

The hope is somehow to record the ninth in time for what will be Beethoven’s birthday in December.”

For the recording, 42 musicians gathered: “And people were just overjoyed to be getting back to work. I think it means number one sanity to them and number two it means a bit more financial stability. Musicians are self-employed. There was no furloughing for them. They had to rely on the rather transitory grants for self-employed people. They managed to get through, but they were just overjoyed to be back together again.”

The recordings will now be released online.

“We have got our own broadcast channel on YouTube and the videos will be embedded on other social media platforms.

“We are not charging. At the end of each stream, there will be a call to action where people are asked if they would be kind enough to donate to the orchestra.

“The major costs of the programme have been underwritten by our supporters, so we are now raising money for the next innovative project for next year which will probably be doing the same thing with Schubert. It just depends how long this terrible pandemic continues for.

“Concerts like you and I know them won’t be taking place until there is a vaccine or this whole thing subsides, and I don’t think it is going to subside. We have just got to hope it can be sorted out.”

The broadcast schedule (directed by Benjamin Bayl; leader Jorge Jimenez) continues: Nov 25 premiered online 8pm – Symphony No. 6 Op.68 ‘Pastoral’; December 2, 8pm –Symphony No. 7 Op.92; December 9, 8pm – Symphony No. 8 Op.93; Dec 16, 8pm – Symphony No. 9 Op.125 ‘Choral’.