Royal Philharmonic Orchestra relishes Crawley live return

Benjamin Cunningham, chairman of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and a member of its double bass section, is delighted to be back.
RPO StringsRPO Strings
RPO Strings

Renewing a long friendship with The Hawth, the RPO will be offering a socially-distanced Spotlight on Strings at the Crawley venue on Friday, June 11 7.30pm – a programme comprising Grieg’s Holberg Suite; Mendelssohn’s String Symphony No 10; and Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings.

They return just over a week later for RPO: Noisy Kids (June 20), a family concert, packed full of tales of the great caped crusaders, engaging activities and well-known tunes including Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King (from Peer Gynt), Rimsky-Korsakov’s scurrying Flight of the Bumblebee and Delibes’ Flower Duet (from Lakmé).

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Benjamin said: “It has been a very challenging 18 months for everybody in the arts, the artists, the backstage people, the techies, everybody. The doors shut in March and there was this awful period of ‘What do we do?’

“And then we have just managed to claw our way through. We were very lucky to be supported by the Arts Council through the Cultural Recovery Fund, and this has allowed us to create a lot of work online.”

And now they are back live.

“Last night we were at the Cadogan Hall for our first concert since the start of December. It was quite emotional. I am chairman of the orchestra and I was talking to members of the orchestra, and I think the experience just brought home to us just how important the members of the audience are. I see music-making as a three-way experience between the composer, the performers and the audience, and they are all essential to the mix.

“And when you see the audience it brings you such a boost in terms of energy. It just lifts you. There is just nothing like it. You don’t get that online. It was a great experience.

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“All of our management team were incredibly supportive in terms of keeping everybody safe, and all our musicians were just absolutely chomping at the bit. We have had this strange period of time of just playing to a camera in empty rooms. That’s not what this is all about. That’s not why we do this.

“I am a music lover. I spend a lot of my time watching performances, watching other people perform in concert, and there is nothing like live entertainment. There is something so special about that collective experience, all those people in the same place and experiencing these things together.

“We were in Mexico and a native Mexican leader came to one of our concerts. We met him the next day and he took us on a tour. He said ‘I am a shaman. I do ceremonies.’ And he said to us ‘What struck me is that you are you are also performing a ceremony. You cleanse souls.’

“Music is a process. We all go on a journey together, and it is vital. Last night’s concert showed that. Everybody queued politely. Everybody observed the restrictions that they had to observe.

“They did everything that they had to do with grace and patience, and it brought home to us that you just cannot recreate that energy online.”