Worthing Symphony Orchestra hoping to welcome the New Year
There aren’t many things that stop Worthing Symphony Orchestra from performing – World War Two and Covid-19 being the exceptions.
Music director John Gibbons is delighted to announce the return of WSO’s most popular concert of the season, its annual New Year celebration on Sunday, January 2 at 2.45pm at the Assembly Hall, Worthing (wtam.uk or 01903 206206).
John said: “The Viennese Concert of 2019 was the penultimate concert WSO performed before lockdown. It was a wonderful occasion as always and a complete sell-out, with not a spare seat to be had.
“In the midst of all that joyous music, little did we know then what was around the corner, nor that it would be a full two years before we would be able to return to play all those traditional Viennese favourites that the Worthing audience have come to love.”
The concert features the immortal New Year classics from the Strauss Family and their contemporaries including the Blue Danube Waltz, Radetsky March, Thunder and Lightning Polka, Lanner’s New Year Galop and Lehar’s Gold and Silver Waltz. John also adds a few less familiar items to the repertoire to keep things fresh.
It comes at a tricky time for everyone, as John says.
“The difficulty is rebuilding our audiences back up to the levels that they were at. Just before the pandemic we were absolutely flying. We were averaging 600 people and we were looking really good for our model of sustainability which is basically running a professional orchestra on the tightest imaginable shoestring. But we were managing to achieve that and then the pandemic hit. I think the problem is the terror. It is the fear that is affecting people and that’s completely understandable. Our demographic is tending towards the elderly but it is not completely elderly at all. We have done remarkably well with getting young people into our education concerts and so on.
“We did our first concert back in October and we had the Assembly Room seating so that the back half of the stalls had a feeling of a bit more space. It gave an option to people that wanted to have more space around them but it is hard to convince people that we’ve got a huge airspace there.
“We are solvent because of the model that we have and the fact that we have not been spending during lockdown.
“We don’t have employees to pay, so yes, we are very stable, I’m pleased to say and I have to say that the joy in the concert when we first came back was just over the moon amongst the players. They had not been able to play anything like a Beethoven Symphony for two years and they were just so thrilled.
“And the response from the audience was amazing too. I walked onto the stage and it was like a ticker tape reception. It was like I was walking out to fight Mike Tyson in the ring! You just wouldn’t have believed the noise, the whooping and the shouting. I was worried that I hadn’t done my flies up!
“But I think what came across was really just the terrific importance of music to people. And then we had up to 400 people for Remembrance Sunday and that was very successful. Everyone was very pleased with that and now we’ve got the Viennese concert coming up as well. We’re just hoping that everyone will have a great time. I’m not worried that it will be called off. I’m just worried that audiences will be terrified.
“There will be people who are brave and who want to come out and there is a feeling that if we have the manic craze now and get the boosters done then perhaps things will be quieter in the New Year, but the problem is public perception and public perception is everything.
“We are playing our next concert in February and we will have four.
“We will do February, March, April and May and that’s what we want to really go for but who knows what is going to happen.
“But there is part of me that says we need to be defiant. Whilst we’re not putting on any concerts then we’re not losing any money but we exist to put concerts on and people need concerts to lift their spirits, and my goodness people need their spirits lifted right now.
“I think the mental impact on people of not having music in their lives has been absolutely huge. It has been terrible.
“But as an orchestra I do think we will survive. We have got enough in our reserves that we can take a couple of hits.
“We need to make sure that the next concert won’t just wipe us out. But I do think we are in a good place.”