Every week or so we receive notice of a new orchestra forming in New York or London, where there are far too many orchestras already for the market to bear.
But it’s rare the we hear of an orchestra being born where no orchestra existed before.
It’s happening this weekend in the English seaport of Southampton.
Why and how? We put those questions to artistic director Robin Browning:
• I’ve long felt the desire to create a new ensemble – away from London (where new bands pop up every 5 minutes).
• Southampton, where I live and therefore know, is ideal: the local economy is thriving, a state-of-the-art Arts complex opens next year and Turner Sims, where we launch, attracts some of the foremost artists.
• Sunday is heading for a sell-out. For a new-start, our marketing is good, our style is slick and professional, and I know – given the players we’ve booked – the quality will be high. Our audience will stay, and will grow
• come from across the region – over 2/3rds are from Hampshire or adjacent counties, the remainder from London, Cambridge, or Kent. Fixing the band has shown how many quality players there are in Hampshire alone. Some Bournemouth SO players, yes – also some from ECO, OAE, LMP – as well as some young pro’s who have been members of Southbank Sinfonia.
• Victoria Sayles is our leader, Andrew Knights principal oboe (ex-BSO), Richard Berry 1st horn (ECO), Lionel Handy principal Cello – all based within 25 miles or so.
Who’s paying for it
• Initially, we break even – and we’ve a little sponsorship. Going forward: our “Founding Partner” scheme, a corporate sponsorship package, is already triggering plenty of interest. Our second gig (April 2016) features John Suchet and Beethoven’s Eroica – proving highly attractive to potential sponsors. Also talking to the Arts Council, trusts and other funding bodies. Charitable status is the first item on agenda the day after our launch.
• Essentially – I’m not going to sweat blood creating this outfit to see it die within the first 24 months. We’ve a small but committed team of business people behind us, and will recruit professional fundraisers from January. I want the highest standards, musically, but also need us to be afloat in the years to come.
• We want són to be a little different, but realise we need to develop a strong audience-base before being too eclectic with our programming. We want to break down some of the traditional barriers in classical concerts – our opening “Unwrapped” series does exactly that. But NOT dumbing down: we build bridges with the audience, hopefully enlighten and engage – but no sanitising, abridging or extracting – pure music, as it comes.
• Education is pivotal – we’re working with music hubs, and an artist to develop presentations and schools workshops combining music with art, and in due course drama & dance. The experience for kids is incredibly rich – a double whammy of potential ways into great music. We’ve already generated a lot of interest from Hubs, schools and other organisations. Early days, true, but we want to combine all our concerts with education projects if there’s scope.
• Aurora is a model, as are Britten Sinfonia and ViVa. If we manage són right – with serious business acumen when it comes to the finance, and imagination coupled with quality when programming – then there’s no reason we can’t build a strong audience here, inspire the next generation of musicians, and spread our style and message further afield in due course.