New conductor in charge for Chichester Symphony Orchestra

Simon Wilkins - Chichester Symphony Orchestra
Simon Wilkins - Chichester Symphony Orchestra

Chichester Symphony Orchestra offers its first concert under new conductor Simon Wilkins at St Paul’s Church, Chichester on Saturday, March 17 at 7.30pm.

Simon will lead the orchestra through an evening of Rossini, Resphigi and Beethoven, having taken up the post in January.

Southampton-based Simon said: “I periodically look though music job listings to see what is going on, and I saw this directorial post offered in Chichester. I went for it, got offered an audition, had the audition and got an email the next day offering me the job.”

Simon already works with the Marchwood Orchestra in the New Forest/west Southampton area – and is relishing the new opportunity Chichester now presents. He is delighted with the bond he is already developing with the CSO.

“I guess taking over is a lot easier than if you come in and take just one or two rehearsals because it then remains someone else’s orchestra. The orchestra was changing musical directors so there was a chance for a clean break. Getting to know what the repertoire is is a key consideration when you are coming in, getting to know what you are going to be programming because it gives you a feeling for people’s tastes and preferences.

“But any conductor with a bit of experience will have a particular vision and certain ideas where he wants to go. It has been great with the repertoire for this first concert together (Rossini – Silken Ladder; Resphigi – The Birds; Beethoven – 7th Symphony). Some of it I already know; some of it is new to me. It is good to know what is already on the table, so no, I would not say it has been a particular challenge to me, coming into the orchestra.

“On a technical level, there are some very, very capable players across all sections. People are at quite a high level. Most of the rehearsals have not needed to be about technical issues. They have been more about interpretation, and in Chichester, you are lucky to have access to some great venues. And there are some players with a lot of experience. So as a group, there are some very technically-gifted players.”

And that frees Simon to look more at dynamic range: “Dynamic range is very important and is almost open-ended. It is about giving people an instinct for the volume palette and for the tonal palette. A lot of the training is about getting the players to respond instinctively to the music, to know the volume level to associate with a particular sound.

“And I think we are already starting to bond. It is an exchange. I never see it as I am coming in to take charge and impose myself. I really love it when I am either conducting or just listening when I hear ideas coming from the players. When you exchange ideas, it is great.

“And as a conductor, I think you have to be able to suggest things that are perhaps a little bit off the page. We are not going to depart from the score entirely, obviously, but you can certainly add little nuances. You have got to be able to show your personality and the orchestra’s personality and also the personality of the composer – otherwise a piece will always sound the same. You have got to keep the audience engaged, and that way you can make a piece that has been regularly played for 200 years sound really fresh and vibrant.”

Tickets 01243 816525 or www.thenovium.org/boxoffice. As for recruitment, Simon is looking for more horns, trumpets and violas. Get in touch via the website.