Burgess Hill Symphony Orchestra offer first concert in two years

Burgess Hill Symphony Orchestra will face a live audience for the first time in two years on November 20 at 7.30pm at St Andrew’s Church, Burgess Hill.

Conductor Michael Stefan Wood
Conductor Michael Stefan Wood

The concert includes Symphony No 9 Dvorak From the New World, The Overture to The Magic Flute and a medley from The Sound of Music.

Conductor Michael Stefan Wood is delighted at the way the orchestra has survived the toughest of times.

“November 2019 was our last live concert and it jolly well seems a long time ago. We started rehearsing in 2020 in January for our next concert and continued until we got to the beginning of March and then that was it.

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    “It shut down.

    “We had started preparing for the May concert. It was tough but at the time we had no idea how long it was going to last. Initially we began looking forward to what we assumed might be things resuming and getting back to some sort of normality in the summer.

    “We started planning a summer concert. That didn’t happen.

    “We made plans for November 2020 in various different guises, from a small-scale concert to the full works, but that didn’t happen.

    “There was always a huge amount of planning but it was all speculative. None of us knew how long it was going to last. I guess by planning it gives you a feeling of control, that you are managing your own destiny!

    “The first thing that I decided was that we had to keep the group spirit of the orchestra together somehow and in the early stages of April (2020) we started making plans for using Zoom and getting the technology ready. And then in May I recorded a video of me conducting the second movement of Mahler’s First Symphony, on the day of the concert that we should have been giving. I made the recording and it went out to all the members. They played along with it on their own so that they had some kind of remote sense of performing.

    “It was literally each member playing in front of their computer screen and hearing themselves and the recording.

    “But I got them to send me a photograph of them doing it and I put together a compilation of the photographs, a montage, and it gave a good sense of what we have done.

    “People were still perplexed as to what was happening and they were saying how much they missed the playing but obviously people were more concerned about all the day-to-day stuff of coping with families and work and so on.

    “Then in the summer of last year we started doing a quiz, a fortnightly quiz on the Wednesdays that would have been orchestra.

    “It kept that thing going of thinking it’s Wednesday, it’s orchestra. And then in the summer we had a social. We got together outdoors to meet each other which was great”.

    Things continued online over the autumn and into this year, finding a way still to play.

    “Proper rehearsals began again in September. There was an element of trepidation because people are still a little bit wary about being in enclosed spaces in large groups, some of the members more than others, but there was also such a great sense of joy of being back together making music, doing something that we all love.

    “I think there was also a great sense of what we have achieved in still being together.

    “So many organisations have just fallen by the wayside over the last two years. It was lovely to feel that we had managed to keep it all going and to have maintained the thrust of the orchestra.

    “And actually there have even been some advantages to doing it remotely. People download the music from websites and we managed to get through more music in the last couple of years than we would have done otherwise.

    “We played through more than 20 works from small scale to full symphony during that time. In normal times we would have done less than that.

    “We usually do three to four concerts a year and that would be 15 to 16 pieces maybe but in these past couple of years we have done more than 20 pieces which has been great.”

    Tickets £12.50 (accompanied under-16s free) are available from the website www.bhso.org,uk/box-office, Burgess Hill Help Point, or by calling 01444 232067. Tickets on the door £15.