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Southern Pro Musica Selected To Replace The Guildford Philharmonic

Published on: 24 May, 2013
Updated on: 26 May, 2013
A Southern Pro Musica Orchestra

A Southern Pro Musica orchestra – Photo SPM.

The outsourced replacement for the Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra (GPO) is Southern Pro Musica (SPM) who describe themselves as “the South’s leading professional freelance orchestra”.

There were seven applications in the two-stage bidding process that resulted in a tie. The panel invited the two highest scoring organisations for interview to explore further details of their bids.

Following “rigorous assessment” by an independent panel, Guildford Borough Council’s (GBC) Executive approved an annual grant, for four years, of £60,000 for classical music at its meeting yesterday (May 23).

The decision means that SPM will be a major provider of classical music across the borough until 2017. It has more than 20 years’ experience and its current activities include orchestral concerts, choral concerts and educational work, including an annual series of concerts for children aged five to 11.

A concert for children given by Southern Pro Musica

A concert for children given by Southern Pro Musica – Photo SPM.

A GBC spokesperson said: “Their expertise adds to Guildford’s long tradition of live music and strengthens the wide cultural programme provided by the council and other local organisations.”

Jennifer Powell, Lead Councillor for Culture & Leisure

Jennifer Powell, Lead Councillor for Tourism

Lead councillor for tourism, Cllr Jen Powell, had earlier said: “To make savings and still support and encourage arts in the borough, we must provide classical music in an alternative way.

“By selecting Southern Pro Musica we also aim to broaden the music on offer to local people. We want to build on the current high standard of classical music by engaging with children and young people, adding world music and lunchtime recitals.

“The council makes a significant contribution to the performing arts with more than £641,000 in grants and £419,000 of service agreements each year. By working with an external partner we can secure the future of classical music for the borough.

“This is the best way forward and we will see considerable financial and social benefits. We look forward to an exciting new programme of music from SPM for everyone to enjoy.”

Cllr Tony Phillips

Cllr Tony Phillips

But the mood at the Executive meeting was not completely positive. Cllr Tony Phillips (Lib Dem, Onslow), had together with Cllr Powell and Cllr Nikki Nelson-Smith (Con, Christchurch) sat as a councillor on the selection panel.

In his capacity as lead Lib Dem spokesman for tourism, he said: “Sadly we have come to the end of an era and 68 years of direct funding and management of classical music in the borough has ended. The Guildford Philharmonic that has been providing outstanding classical music concerts…has been closed by this Executive.

“The orchestra will be sorely missed. I would like to suggest that our thanks to [council officers who managed the GPO] Nicola [Goold] and Claire [Lister] are formerly recorded in the minutes. [It was not clear that this was done.] We are also indebted to Roland Sidwell for organising the lunch-time concerts.

“I would like to congratulate Southern Pro Musica and commiserate with the runners up who came so close.” Cllr Phillips concluded by expressing a hope that SPM, by providing a wider ranging programme, would not compromise on quality.

In a press release SPM, that is led by artistic director and principal conductor Jonathan Willcocks, stated: “The Southern Pro Musica is pleased to have [been selected] to provide concerts and other musical activities in the Guildford area, with the support of the funding now available from the Guildford Borough Council.

“We intend to bring to this challenge not only the experience of the 20 years of concert-giving across the south of England but also a desire to become deeply embedded into the cultural life of Guildford and its immediate surroundings.”

“We are very aware of the concern and disappointment that has accompanied the recent difficult decisions that have been made regarding orchestral funding by the Guildford Borough Council. Respecting and acknowledging the terrific achievements of the past, we will do all we can to bring new life to this vital area of culture in Guildford and we hope that we will quickly win the confidence and strong support of the many music-lovers in the area.

A more informal approach to classical music to attract a younger audience

A more informal approach to classical music to attract a younger audience – Photo SPM.

Its statement continued to explain the different strands of its plans:

“Orchestral concerts – we will present a number of concerts in each season in the town. Concerts will sometimes be given on weekend afternoons as an alternative to the more traditional evening concert times, to enable as broad a range of the community to feel able to attend. We intend to offer free tickets to those aged 18 and under to encourage the next generation to develop a love of classical music.

“Education and outreach – we have already established very successful orchestral concerts for schools, with nearly 2,000 young children aged six to 12 attending our two concerts in G-Live in January 2013. We will plan to build on this success with two further concerts for young children in January 2014.

“At the secondary school level, we will develop a programme of workshops in Guildford area schools to work with students, while at primary level the existing St. Thomas of Canterbury String Scheme (which has been pioneered by members of the orchestra) will be further developed. The workshops will embrace a broad range of musical styles and traditions.

“Performance opportunities – in a series of lunchtime concerts opportunities will be offered to outstanding young musicians from Guildford schools and the University [of Surrey] to have a platform for their talents. We will seek to include in some of our orchestral concert programmes pieces written by young composers in the area. The orchestra already has a ‘rising stars’ series which features the finest young musicians as concerto soloists.

“Working with choirs – the orchestra has very extensive experience working in association with leading amateur choirs across the south. An existing performing relationship has already been formed with the Guildford Choral Society and we will seek to form partnerships with the many other choirs in the area.”

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Responses to Southern Pro Musica Selected To Replace The Guildford Philharmonic

  1. Linda Peacock Reply

    November 22, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    We really miss going to concerts at Holy Trinity Church Guildford especially at Christmas. Handel’s Messiah was a great favourite. We hope you will put this on again for us.

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