About the Orchestra
The Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra [SPO] is a friendly and ambitious amateur orchestra based in the cultural heart of the city of Sheffield. We draw on players of all ages and backgrounds from across Yorkshire & the Humber, Derbyshire & Lincolnshire. We rehearse on Tuesday evenings (in term time) and give no fewer than five concerts a year!
We have recently enjoyed playing some incredibly diverse music; from standard repertoire such as Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 and Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 2, to Bantock's magnificent but rarely performed tone poem, the Witch of Atlas, film scores by John Williams, and most recently Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from West Side Story! We are looking forward to exploring some equally challenging and enjoyable programmes in 2019 and beyond!
The SPO gave its first public performance on Sunday the 22nd of April 1945 in Sheffield City Hall under the baton of Hermann Lindars, who founded of the orchestra. The audience included the Lord and Lady Mayoress of Sheffield and the Master and Mistress Cutler, Lord and Lady Riverdale. At the time the orchestra was known as the 'Sheffield Amateur Symphony Orchestra' but a year or so later it was incorporated into the Philharmonic Concerts Department of the Sheffield Corporation, taking on the name by which it is known today.
Over the next forty years, the SPO gave concerts regularly at the City Hall, performing with distinguished soloists and guest conductors. During the 1980s the orchestra played concerts in St. Johns Church (Ranmoor), Beverley Minster, St Marie’s Catholic Cathedral, The Octagon Centre and Buxton Pavilion Gardens. Family concerts were usually given once a year in the City Hall with well known personalities such as Johnny Morris and Anthony Hopkins.
Following a few years of decline, the orchestra began rebuilding its membership and prestige under the baton of Andrew Lucas and its fortunes were further revived when John Pearson took on the role of Musical Director. Membership continued to increase and the quality of performance improved, and it was during this period that the Orchestra played a highly successful concert in Birmingham Symphony Hall featuring the music of folk guitar virtuoso, Gordon Giltrap, followed by a commercial recording of his symphonic work, The Eye of the Wind. When John left, his good work was continued under the charismatic leadership of Polish born, Ewa Strusinska (then deputy conductor of the Halle Orchestra). For three years she coaxed ever improving performances from our players and introduced them to a challenging new repertoire, which continued under the batons of our most recent Musical Directors; the supremely talented RNCM graduate, Jonathan Lo who took us until 2016, and the wonderful, Jack Lovell (RWCMD) who sadly left us in 2018.
The orchestra’s ethos and spirit has always remained the same; providing a medium for amateur players of all ages and backgrounds to flourish. The orchestra’s policy has always been to play music selected to suit both the concert goer and player, and it is also a priority of the orchestra to help, support and encourage Sheffield musicians in their development. Local soloists have included violinists Melody Cooper, Scott Cooper, and Martin Cropper, harpist Rhodri Davis, and more established figures such as, Rohan da Saram and Benjamin Frith.
In the summer of 2000, the orchestra was invited to take part in a music festival in Heraklion in Crete and gave three concerts there. The Orchestra travelled to Malta for the summer of 2003 and performed a series of concerts on the main island, and at the Victoria festival in Gozo. 2007 saw another successful concert tour to the island of Sardinia, as guests of the Istituto Musicale Giuseppe Verdi. A fertile partnership with the Italian baritone, Antonello Arca, was fostered during this tour, and he has sung three times with the orchestra since.
The Orchestra, in partnership with the Rotary Clubs of Sheffield, gives an annual open air charity concert in Sheffield's Botanical Gardens each year. Attended by an audience in excess of 2,000 this is one of our highlights of the season each year.
We have lots of exciting performances planned over the next 12 months so please do keep checking our site for updates regarding all future performances, or sign up to our mailing list on our Subscribe page.
The orchestra is a registered charity and we are incredibly grateful to all who support us in whatever way they can. If you would like to become a supporter of the orchestra please get in touch via our Contact us page.
Thank you for visiting our site and we hope to see you at our next performance!
Musical Director - George Morton
George Morton is a Sheffield-based Conductor, Arranger and Educator. Experienced in a wide variety of genres, ensembles and concert settings, George is sought-after across the North of England.
George currently also holds residencies with Rotherham Symphony Orchestra, Sheffield Youth Orchestra, The Hecla Ensemble, Nottingham University Wind Orchestra, Silver Spectrum Wind Ensemble and his own musical creation, the Rep Orchestra.
Since 2012, George has established himself as a conductor of silent film with live orchestral score. Each performance is prepared without use of click track using visual cues and a thoroughly comprehensive knowledge of the film.
His growing portfolio of chamber arrangements, published by Universal Edition, have been performed by amateurs and professionals alike across the globe.
Like all amateur organisations, the SPO couldn't function without it's dedicated committee members:
Upper Strings – Position Vacant
Lower Strings – Rachel Sever
Woodwind – Nicola Elam
Brass & Percussion – Sophie Anderson
Membership – Helen Gibson
Librarian – Rita Everatt
Concert Manager - Geoff Olner
Publicity Officers - Sophie Anderson & Nicola Elam
If you would like to make contact with anyone on the committee, please email email@example.com and mark for their attention.
Marie Boswell - Violin
I first started playing the violin in junior school. Why the violin? Well, the oboe had been chosen by someone else, and my older sister didn't want me to play the same instrument as she did! (she went on to become a great clarinet player and music teacher)
As a science student I played a little at university with real music students and learned a lot. It's a great way to make friends when you move away from home. Many years later, music is still a great way to meet people and I've made some important friendships. Whether it's taking my fiddle to play a few tunes in the pub, meeting with others to sing a few songs or playing in orchestras.
I think that I first played with SPO in 1987. We used to rehearse on Sunday mornings in the City Hall and perform concerts there with a range of soloists; some professional and some students. Since then the orchestra has moved to various rehearsal venues with different conductors and has performed in a range of great venues in Sheffield and further afield. One of my favourite memories is a summer school where we rehearsed and performed Beethoven’s Eroica in Durham Cathedral. What a sound!
I recall when I joined, one of the original members explaining the purpose of the Orchestra as being about giving amateur players the chance to enjoy playing together to improve their skills and bring music to the community. I hope that the founder would still recognise the orchestra meeting his aims from the friendships and welcome that you'll find.
Wouter Servaas - Cello
Usually you can spot me somewhere in the cello section. My first cello lesson was in January 1990 in a music school in Uden, the Netherlands. A couple of years later I joined the Meierijs Kamerorkest Orchestra (MKO) in the nearby town of Schijndel. Like the SPO, the MKO was an amateur orchestra that did not shy away from the more challenging symphonies (Bruckner 4 comes to mind). With the MKO I spent many rehearsal weeks in a youth hostel near Ieper in Belgium, and we performed at the 2000 European Youth Music Festival in Trondheim, Norway.
In 2005 I moved to Sheffield to pursue a PhD in the Anthropology of Childhood, and the same year I joined the SPO. I was back in the Netherlands and Belgium between 2007-2010 for my PhD fieldwork, but since late 2010 I’ve been back in Sheffield and back with the SPO. That first rehearsal felt as if I hadn’t been away at all, and a couple of years later I found myself leading the cello section through a Pirates of the Caribbean medley at a Christmas Concert.
After graduating I landed a job with the University of Sheffield’s Department for Development, Alumni Relations & Events. When I’m not at work, doodling around in the SPO’s cello section, or helping Ted with putting the timps away, you can find me either on the yard looking after my own horse, or at Whirlow Hall Farm where I help with pony riding for children who visit the farm with school, and volunteer as weekend tour guide.
Sian Johnson - Principal Oboe
I’ve been playing oboe with the SPO since about 2010, originally coming in as a ‘bumper’ and then taking on the cor anglais / 3rd oboe role until late 2017, at which point I was offered the opportunity to take over as principal oboe.
I started playing orchestrally as a youngster growing up in Wales. As there were so few school-age oboists in our county I had a lot of (mostly terrifying) opportunities from a very early age, including a European tour performing Mahler V when I was 14 (and about Grade 4 standard). Things I learnt on that tour: 1) Mahler V is DEFINITELY not a Grade 4 piece and 2) If in doubt, only play when the brass are fff! Being thrown in the deep end didn’t put me off though, and music has been an integral part of my life ever since.
In 2006 I moved to Sheffield to study Music at university, fell in love with the city and have never looked back! After graduating from my postgraduate degree in 2010 I went back to college to study for a diploma in Woodwind Instrument Making & Repair and I now run my own woodwind repair business in Walkley. I’ve absolutely loved being involved with the SPO over the years; they’re a wonderfully friendly, welcoming group who play a brilliant range of music to appeal to players and audiences alike. I particularly love the opportunity to get my teeth into the bigger symphonic works, and really enjoyed working on Rachmaninov’s Symphony No.2 in June 2017.
Alaster Yoxall - Bass Trombone
I currently play Bass Trombone in the SPO, or I guess more accurately 3rd Trombone. In any case it's the big trombone. And heavy. And loud (but that last bit's probably my fault). I joined the Orchestra actually playing an even larger brass instrument, the Tuba. It's also very heavy and when I play it, loud too. I don't know why...
I've been playing the Tuba since I was a kid. They handed out instruments alphabetically at school and it was the only one left in the cupboard by the time they got to Yoxall. I moved onto trombone when I realised that Albert Aardvark wasn't playing piccolo and the instrument you played wasn't based on family history.
I've been lucky enough to play in a wide range of ensembles. I started out in brass bands in and around Manchester and my orchestral link there is an early memory of playing at the Free Trade Hall, walking out as a 12 year old to play on a stage where John Barbirolli once stood. If you want to do that now you'd probably get arrested for being in someone's bathroom as they turned it into a hotel a number of years ago.
Not every building I've been involved with musically has been knocked down or turned into a hotel though (although sadly many pubs I've played in have long gone). I was however lucky enough to play Tuba in a New Orleans jazz band and played for the Queen at the opening of the Winter Gardens in Sheffield. My overriding memory is "Isn't she short?" I don't know what she thought of me though but I can probably guess, "Isn't that Tuba a bit loud?"
Playing trombone in the SPO is and has been a lot of fun, playing a real range of pieces and concerts. It was a real highlight to have performed Bruckner's 7th this autumn and I enjoyed it immensely. I can't think why.
Ted Watterson - Timpani
The SPO is a friendly and welcoming orchestra. We've got a really exciting upcoming season planned and we currently have vacancies for Double Bass players of grade 6+ standard and a percussionist [tuned if possible!].
We also run a dep/waiting list, so even if we don't have a seat advertised, do get in touch with us via our 'Contact Us' page and say hello!