Meet the New York(shire) Philharmonic

Meet the New York(shire) Philharmonic


norman lebrecht

June 15, 2015

England’s largest county used to have a symphony orchestra but it went kaputt sixty years ago. The conductor Norman Del Mar, of blessed memory, called it ‘a very bad moment for Leeds and Yorkshire.’

The Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra disbanded in 1955.

Fast forward to this week. The New Yorkshire Philharmonic has risen. A bunch of post-grad students have got togther with a former employee of the Royal Liverpool Phil, Rebekah Martin, to start a new band.

Full story here.


  • Will says:

    Hmmm…. I think ‘we’ve been here before’….
    How can a ( self-confessed) “bunch of post-grad students”
    get themselves into a sort of ‘professional’ orchestra, able to charge top ticket prices?
    Of course, there is absolutely no suggestion or implication that it is actually a ‘vanity orchestra’ formed to promote the ‘career’ of its conductor Alexander Conway.
    ‘You may think that but I couldn’t possibly comment’ …!

    • Una says:

      I live in West Yorkshire – outside Leeds – and my violin teacher was in that orchestra as a viola player until it ended. Times were different then, but he would have been a post-graduate student or just finished college at the time. And the standard of our post graduate students today, as he himself would say, and the pressures of succeeding are even higher, so don’t bash such an initiative. The original orchestra used to provide an orchestra for the majority of the oratorio up here, and where the vast majority of oratorio was,and where I got most of my work as well in England. On top of that Yorkshire people are very proud – I’m not originally rom Yorkshire but London and have noticed this in the three years of being here – and they will make it work and fund it like they do with a lot of things regarding music up here. You only have to look at the Ilkley Music Club and who they have, and you have to go on a waiting list to join. And of course we had the Tour de France last year!!! I for one wish them all the luck in the world as we need this orchestra in the area. It is the biggest county in England and have everything else up here, including Opera North. No wonder Londoners like me are going north 🙂

  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    The very best of luck to them. It’s a great initiative.

  • Graeme Hall says:

    Good luck indeed – hope they come to the Halifax/Huddersfield area.

  • Anne says:

    About time. Largest county in the country and no full time symphony orchestra.

    No national TV coverage either that I’m aware of – symptomatic of the wider problem.

    The danger, of course, is that unless they find a new audience, which should be possible, it will split the existing audience for the Lancashire bands.

  • Graham says:

    Er, there’s already the full time Orchestra of Opera North. And the Northern Ballet Sinfonia – both based in Leeds.

    • Una says:

      Yes. Opera North for the opera, and Northern Ballet for the ballet – they are already committed to those and to touring the ballet and opera! Opera North has just done a big tour including Dublin this year. But we are importing the two orchestras from Manchester and more often from abroad to put on orchestral concerts in Leeds and Bradford at least on a Saturday night. The opera and ballet orchestras are unable to supply the vast range of repertoire that these other orchestras can bring as they are always rehearsing for the ballet and opera. No doubt the New Yorkshire Orchestra will be built into the normal concert series to start with with all the other orchestras. But Opera North orchestra is very good, and the odd independent concert I’ve been to has also been very good but no big works.

      As for Lancashire bands? Don’t know of any orchestras that are on a par with the Halle and the BBC Phil. They’re in Manchester, not Lancashire, and they come here a few times a year to Leeds and Bradford. People don’t go there from Yorkshire in the main to an orchestral concert.

      Anyhow, say what you like, we’re absolutely delighted here in West Yorkshire, where no doubt the bulk of their concert would be – Leeds and Bradford, and hopefully Huddersfield as well as Hull.

      • Tim Benjamin says:

        “People don’t go there [Manchester] from Yorkshire in the main to an orchestral concert.”

        Yes they most certainly do! Yorkshire is a big place and the west of it is close to Manchester and an easy journey by train or car. I know several Hallé season ticket holders living in my town in West Yorkshire.

        Maybe one reason Yorkshire lacks a full time professional non-opera, non-ballet orchestra is that we already have many extremely good amateur bands here? (plus professional opera, ballet, early music, choirs, and a leading international new music festival, to say nothing of the brass bands).

        The very best of luck to this effort and I hope they do well – although I wait for the inevitable backlash (not least from this site) when the pitiful wages become clear (it’s a revenue share among 50 people, who presumably also have to rehearse).

      • Andrew says:

        So, the Orchestra of Opera North does “no big works” and is always rehearsing for it’s opera performances…

        Well, 2014-15 saw them perform orchestral works by Schumann, Mozart, Mahler, Haydn, Stravinsky, Gershwin, Wagner, Shostakovich, Brahms, Elgar, Sibelius, Rachmaninov…

        2015-16 will see programmes include orchestral works by Wagner, Richard Strauss, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Lutoslawski, Mahler, Rimsky-Korsakov…

        All this is in addition to their full schedule opera performances, both at home in Leeds as well as on tour. A new orchestra is never a bad thing, but maybe those so keen to see and hear a symphony orchestra in Yorkshire should check out the local band that has been here since the late 1970s!

    • Anne says:

      Er, capable of being in two places at once then?

  • John says:

    Goodluck to them. Isn’t it ironic that Leeds has a “conservatoire” with classical provision?

    • Graham says:

      What do you mean? My irony meter doesn’t understand this comment, John.

      That students still decide to study music in any form should be a cause for minor celebration. Given the recent and ongoing cuts to peri music services, and Nicky Morgan openly stating that she thinks arts subjects are best avoided as they won’t get you a well-paid job, our national musical future isn’t looking rosy

  • Lucy says:

    As a new comer to the classical music genre ( i know i will be ridiculed for calling it a genre but hey I’m new and have fallen in love with classical music on the whole so give this music lover in general a chance!!) it saddens me that there is this attitude among the listeners, performers and organisers. This society is all to often quick to criticise and put down others who have a passion and desire to do something positive with their lives and give back to something they clearly believe in. It is frustrating that we live in such a negative society with a pretentious attitude that fails to ultimately support something that is only trying contribute to a much loved culture and profession.

    Surely there is room for many orchestras of many capabilities, of many sounds in all areas of the country. I’m sure indie bands in Hull didn’t say well there is a band in Sheffield we don’t need another indie band. Or the Jazz quartet in Leeds saying well there is one in Scarborough so we don’t need to bother doing one here! I can hear all you classical musos shouting “what does she know, she has no idea about music or the classical domain!” Well i can tell you this, it gives me no greater pleasure to sit in a hall and listen to talented, hard working people playing together to create an emotive sound. it demonstrates their passion for music and for their chosen career.

    Hats off to Opera North and Northern Ballet Sinfonia for surviving through years of government cuts to the arts. But is it such a bad thing to have another orchestra in the area? This should surely be no threat to them? There is no question here that they exist. That they are good and talented and regularly perform in the county and all over. But this new old Yorkshire Philharmonic will be from where it says it is. It surely will be setting out to achieve what the other orchestras have. i don’t believe for one minute they have wanted to step on anyones toes. They have a passion and desire and a love of a county and music that they want to bring together.

    It does amuse me somewhat this issue of post graduates getting together for their own gain. Correct me if I’m wrong but does this sort of career not require a lot of hard work, determination, practice and qualification to do? Should those who have been through the music colleges not be playing music and finding work in orchestras. Is this not ultimately what their aim is to do. Should they not be given every opportunity to play and achieve after studying for so long? I think this country should be proud of anyone who is a post grad and remained committed to their talents.

    And finally (yes i have wittered on somewhat!) i live in Yorkshire (East Yorkshire to be exact) and i know it is a very friendly and proud county that is welcoming and hard working. all the things that to me it seems the Yorkshire Phill want to celebrate and bring back a sense of identity for this county. It wants to give people chances, perform quality music and is fronted by people who have a passion for both classical music and the Yorkshires. i for one would be ashamed of any northern person who fails to understand why this orchestra is happening and what it means to the people involved. That attitude is certainly not what Yorkshire is about! And probably why Classical music doesn’t reach out to everyone in the North when it should. Maybe this is the Orchestra to change all that. Giving people a chance and telling people “Well done lad/lass for giving it a go. True Yorkshire spirit!”

    And no I’m not affiliated to the orchestra, I’m your bog standard bass player in a pop band and someone who sees too much negativity and put downs in everyday life and think we should all be working together to forward our passions for music; something this world all has in common!