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Guildford Philharmonic Play Sell-out Farewell Concert – Supporter Blasts Previous Council

Published on: 23 Mar, 2013
Updated on: 25 Mar, 2013
The Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra receives a standing ovation at the end of its final concert at Holy Trinity Church

The Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra receives a standing ovation at the end of its final concert at Holy Trinity Church.

The last concert of the Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra (GPO) in its current guise, was played last night (Friday, March 22) to a full house at Holy Trinity Church in the High Street. In a Guildhall reception that followed, Julian Lyon, a supporter of the GPO, heavily criticised the way council decisions were made that led to the orchestra’s demise in its present form.

During the concert the orchestra was warmly applauded at the conclusion of each piece and at the end received a lengthy standing ovation. The musical programme comprised: Serenade for Strings by Elgar, The Farewell Symphony by Hadyn, The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams, and Mozart’s Symphony No. 40.

The rector of Holy Trinity, the Rev’d Robert Cotton, spoke to praise the orchestra’s general manager Nicola Goold and marketing manager Clare Lister, who were each presented with several bouquets. He quoted Aristotle saying that there was something divine in the way melodies linger in the memory. Suitable, he said, for the occasion of the GPO’s final concert.

Ms Goold thanked the audience, which she said had been fantastic, as had been the orchestra, and Mr Cotton for hosting the orchestra so well at Holy Trinity, over many years. “Let’s look forward,” she said, “to future possibilities.”

Paul Barritt, the director and soloist of the orchestra, speaking about the future said: “I am deeply worried as a musician. What more can we do?… But I don’t want to end on a depressing note. Let’s all fight for the arts!”

Julian Lyon speaking to GPO concert goers who attended the post concert reception at the Guildhall

Julian Lyon speaking to GPO concert goers who attended the post concert reception at the Guildhall.

Around 100 of the audience then retired to the Guildhall for drinks. Although apparently unexpected by some, Julian Lyon, a supporter of the orchestra who had spoken at several council meetings, when the future of the orchestra was debated, rather dramatically mounted the stage, banging his foot to obtain attention.

After outlining the orchestra’s history from its origins in the 1940s, Mr Lyon commented on the council decisions on the orchestra. He said: “Budgetary pressures have increasingly led to the reduction of staff to only two in the office.

“Don’t get me wrong, over many years Guildford Borough Council [GBC] provided great support for the orchestra and much of the budget reduction was unavoidable.”

Pulling no punches in his criticism of the council Mr Lyon continued: “The demise of the orchestra has been played out particularly since 2009, when the Council Executive at the time, behind a veil of secrecy, gave instructions to close the orchestra by 2012.

“Many shamelessly misleading council reports and several committee meetings later and it looks like the Farewell Symphony played this evening will be just that.

“Despite the obvious personal agonies and the stress suffered by them both as they watched their jobs and careers being torn apart, with the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads, Nicola and Clare have continued to provide sell-out concerts and have been an absolute credit to the borough council, the Philharmonic and to Guildford itself.

“At the South East Music Trust we have reaffirmed our commitment to the highest quality quality of classical music provision in Guildford and we will be working to see how best to make this happen. This evening’s fabulous concert demonstrates clearly what is at stake.”

David Watts kisses Nicola Goold after his short speech in which he said "Guildford did not deserve you."

Former GBC chief executive David Watts kisses Nicola Goold after his short speech in which he said: “Guildford did not deserve you.”

Later, former GBC chief executive David Watts spoke to thank Nicola, reminding the audience that he was the council’s chief executive when she had been appointed. He said:”And it has been one of our best appointments. She has produced a really brilliant orchestra which has improved and improved over the years … and it was very good when I started! I have never come away from a GPO concert disappointed and I have usually come away exhilarated. I certainly was tonight.

“I hope this is not the end and that like a phoenix it will rise up. I believe, and I always have done, that Guildford deserves an orchestra of  quality. Man does not live by bread alone, we need the arts. Guildford has led in the arts for so long and I hope it continues to do so. I would like to thank Nicola and Clare on my own behalf, nothing to do with the council, Guildford did not deserve you.”

Jim Miles, a former borough council strategic director, who with his wife was mysteriously suspended and then quickly resigned last year, added: “I was the strategic director when Nicola applied for the job and before the interview I said ‘This is ludicrous this is, by far, the best application I have seen. When she walks in she will be a disappointment.’ Can I just say, how wrong I was?”

Ms Goold thanking the speakers said: “A phoenix may well rise from the ashes, but this evening is not the time to talk about that.”

The future of a Guildford orchestra is now subject to the selection of an outsourced bidder who will be expected to make the orchestra self sufficient financially over four years after which all council subsidies may  stop.

Interviews with short-listed bidders are understood to have taken place but no date for an announcement has been given.

See also: ‘GBC Executive Confirms Closure of Guildford Philharmonic within Six Months‘, The Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra To Be Outsourced , Letter: Orchestra’s Demise Has Been Caused By Conservative Cuts and Letter: Lead Councillor on GPO ‘Our aim is to continue to provide for this interest’

What do you think? Is the Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra important to Guildford? Was the decision to outsource the orchestra correct? Was its demise inevitable? Did you attend the concert and simply have views on the performance? Please have your say. Just use the ‘Leave a Reply’ feature below.

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Responses to Guildford Philharmonic Play Sell-out Farewell Concert – Supporter Blasts Previous Council

  1. Bernard Parke Reply

    March 23, 2013 at 11:27 am

    Would this have happened if the People of Guildford had its own voice? I think Not !

    We need a town council of our own, made up of people that actually live in Guildford and know Guildfordians.

  2. Pauline Searle Reply

    March 23, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    I was fortunate to be at this wonderful concert last night and as always enjoyed every minute of it. The orchestra were, as always, superb. For me the highlight was Vaughan Willams’ Lark Ascending which will stay in my memory for a long time to come.

    I would like to add my thanks to Nicola and her team, but especially Nicola for all her hard work in providing Guildford with such wonderful music over the years, be it with the Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra or the lunch time concerts at the Guildhall. They were always very enjoyable and always of very high quality. She will certainly be sadly missed by so many.

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