New directions and new challenges for Chichester Symphony Orchestra

Chichester Symphony Orchestra’s new conductor Simon Wilkins celebrates a year with the orchestra this month – by taking them in a new direction.

Simon Wilkins Chichester Symphony Orchestra
Simon Wilkins Chichester Symphony Orchestra

He and the orchestra are offering a family concert on Saturday, January 26 at the Millennium Hall, Westbourne House School, Coach Lane, Chichester, PO20 2BH, an afternoon event starting at 3pm and lasting around an hour with no interval.

They will be performing the complete Star Wars suite, ABBA, Night on the Bare Mountain, Jazz Pizzicato and Gershwin in Hollywood.

Sign up to our daily SussexWorld Today newsletter

“It is exactly a year,” Simon says. “My first rehearsal was January last year, and this is my fourth programme with them, and I think the orchestra has really improved. We have got to know each other now. I know what I want to do with them, and they are used to my conducting style and I have done a few projects now that have been new to the orchestra. We have had a very, very positive reaction from the audiences and from the orchestra, and we have got other exciting things lined up.

“I think any conductor or artistic director is always going to have particular ways of doing things, technically and musically, but on another level, I think every conductor is going to have a particular philosophy or ethos with regard to their thoughts on music generally. There will be programmes they want to do and ways they want the music played.

“This afternoon concert is one of the changes I have put through, introducing the idea of a family concert which is something which is new to Chichester Symphony Orchestra. Lots of other orchestras do them. It is all film music, and also doing it during the day time our aim is to get a different audience, hopefully a younger audience and also to give the players something new to do as well. A lot of it is repertoire that Chichester hasn’t done in the past. It has tended to be much more symphonic repertoire and the occasional different thing. I am also interested in how the orchestra sounds. There are things that you can do to play different composers from different periods of musical history, but there are also ways you can give the orchestra its own style. Professional orchestras might have a different style of vibrato or how they play around with speed. Every group is different, and you can give every group its different style, and that is something that I am working on with Chichester now.

“The players know that I am going to ask for a certain sound for a particular piece of music, but the other thing is achieving a balance, getting an orchestra to play less loud. It is very easy to play too loud. It is not a fault of the players. They want to be expressive, but some of the performances which I have enjoyed most when I have been in the audience have been when the conductor has really insisted on taking it down, which means that you can really save the loud for when it is needed. It is something that I am wanting to work on and improve for Chichester.

“And they are very responsive. Their playing is pretty tidy anyway. It is not often that you have to stop to fix the rhythm or anything like that. Any bits that need tidying up are usually very small. All the basics are there, which is good because it means that you can go into detail quite early in rehearsals rather than having to fix the technical issues. I am enjoying it!”

Adults £7.50, children £2.50 from the Chichester Box Office at The Novium online or on 01243 816525; from an orchestra member or on the door.