Hanover Band join exciting Festival of Chichester concert series

Arundel-based period orchestra The Hanover Band join an exciting series of concerts at the University of Chichester as part of this year’s Festival of Chichester.

Stephen Neiman
Stephen Neiman

The University of Chichester Conservatoire Summer Season will bring together around 200 music students to give them some of the performance opportunities they have missed out on during the pandemic.

Events will be under the Giant Festival Canopy with the audience on the university’s Festival Field.

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Among the events will be a concert entitled Basically Beethoven on June 23 at 7pm when the principal players of The Hanover Band will join orchestral students from the University of Chichester in a showcase concert including Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony.

Conducted by Stephen Threlfall, former head of music at Chethams, the concert marks the culmination of an intensive course exploring the works of Beethoven and the techniques of historical performance.

As Hanover Band general manager Stephen Neiman explains: “Over the last four years, the band has been visiting the university to teach on a specific module that we designed, to teach the Beethoven Symphonies to the students. This year it has been a bit hit and miss as to whether we could do it because of Covid. We would not normally do a concert in June, but the university said ‘Why don’t you come down for three days and end up as part of our university festival?’ The principal players of the Hanover Band will come down, 12 of them.

“What is interesting is that the tutoring that we are doing is part of the course, part of their contribution, part of the students’ understanding of working with professional musicians and part of their final marks. It is an integral part of their education at the university, and they are the only university in the country that has a module like this.”

The concert comes as we begin to emerge from the pandemic. It finds the Hanover Band in good heart.

“Cultural people are very robust in being able to move around and adapt. All of our musicians are freelance and they have been hit pretty hard, but I am delighted that help has come through for them from various organisations.

“I don’t think they have been disheartened at all. There was a general feeling that we will get through this. I have had a lot of conversations with people that live alone, as do I now, that for people living alone it has been very, very difficult. But if you look at what is being put out there in terms of orchestras getting together online via Zoom and so on, there has been an awful lot happening. And I do think there has been quite a camaraderie between them all.

“We have had to be aware of what help there has been out there, but going from the members to the band, we have got not insignificant grants all the way through from Arun District Council and we have been able to furlough office staff and we got Arts Council Recovery Fund money. We have been able to keep going and we have been able to spend our time planning.

“We are financially robust and we are able to look ahead and we are being offered engagements for next year.”

Inevitably things have changed: “I certainly think prior to Covid there were so many things that we had not tested properly, and certainly no one had realised the power of the digital platform. Look at how many performances are now available for people to download at their will. Those Beethoven symphonies that we recorded last year, 71,000 people have viewed them, and because we had the funding, we were able to offer them on a complimentary basis.

“But I do think it is true that you can never replace live performance, and I hope to God we never have to. But I do think there will be a wariness in coming together in a church or a small hall. I went to the Dome in Brighton the other day for a concert, and I reckon there must have been 170 people in a place that usually seats 1,800. But what was interesting was that the acoustic in the place was superb. There was enough space for the music to come through. But far more important was the grin on people’s faces to be hearing live music again.

“Where it is possible for people to be in a Covid compliant performance hall, then I think people will flock there. But I do think there will be nervousness to come to a concert where you are all huddled together in church pews. I do think that is going to take time.”