Tony's last SUWO Concert - Sunday 18 March 2018 - Firth Hall
Saturday 10 March 18
END OF AN ERA
Two Wonderful Decades of SUWO
Tony began the Orchestra in the 1999/2000 academic year with the mission to give high quality ensemble experience to the many keen wind, brass and percussion players of the University, by exploring the best standard, serious, contemporary and new repertoire available for symphonic wind band. With the active support of Eric Clarke (the then Head of Music), Martin Hindmarsh (Singer and Music Lecturer) and the Music Department, the idea soon got off the ground.
As suspected, there was huge interest and the initial auditions produced a full complement of players to make a balanced band of about fifty. The pattern of weekly Thursday evening rehearsals and a high profile University concert each semester became established.
In its second year there were two premières performed! In the November charity concert for Cancer Research a piece by Hallé flautist Jonathan Booty, was featured, alongside Paul Patterson’s new version of Roald Dalh’s Little Red Riding Hood with Martin Hindmarsh as narrator. Then in SUWO’s concert in the RNCM for the BASBWE International Festival in May, a work by music Postgrad Mark Slater.
That year saw the first of many short trips abroad for the Orchestra, this time to Belgium including a performance in front of the Albert Memorial near the Albert Hall in London on the return journey. The 2002/3 season began with the ensemble’s first participation in the National Concert Band Festival (NCBF) heats in which it attained a creditable Silver Award – the following year we were to win a Gold and an invitation to play at the RNCM again in the Finals. This year was also the beginning of a long association with Weston Park and its bid to raise funds to bring the park back to its former glory and to renovate the derelict Victorian Bandstand, in support of which we gave a summer afternoon musical entertainment.
Our main University concert in May of 2004 was one of great ambition and included two major twentieth century masterworks, Messiaen’s Oiseaux Exotiques with Professor Peter Hill (the Music Department’s international Messiaen specialist) as the solo pianist and Hindemith’s Symphony in B flat, in a French/German programme.
And so each year the Band’s reputation for exciting concerts, ground breaking repertoire, quality music making and ambition became recognised and a tradition developed that was passed on from one generation of student players to the next.
Many student soloists enjoyed their moment in the limelight alongside professional virtuosi like Peter Hill: Piano, Pauline Cato: Northumberland Pipes, Lesley Neish: Tuba, Linda Merrick: Clarinet, Rui Travasso: Clarinet, Simon McKerrell: Bagpipes, Steve Forman: Bodhran and Alan Brown: Harpsichord.
Student composers have been encouraged to write for the Band and their creations have been a regular feature of our programmes. We have also been honoured to have music written for us by established composers and it has been a privilege to have given first performances of works by George Nicholson, Martin Ellerby, Peter Meechan, Bill Connor and Charles Camilleri.
Maltese composer Charles Camilleri’s Il-Nostro Tempo, which was commissioned by Tony and dedicated to SUWO, was the culmination of a long collaboration and led to a memorable trip for the Orchestra to Malta to give its Maltese première in the Island’s capital Valetta before an invited audience including its President, a project to produce a professionally recorded CD of Camilleri’s wind works including Il-Nostro Tempo, as well as a further journey to Malta for some of our players to take part in a special Festival in memory and celebration of the music of Malta’s most famous composer after Camilleri’s death in 2009.
The Orchestra has also given opportunities for budding student conductors to develop their skills and in the last few years a management committee has become established to free the Director from some of the logistical and organisational tasks. This has given the students much greater sense of ownership and stake in the ensemble and has been an opportunity for them to develop their personnel, management and communication skills.
Tour, now a yearly event and much looked forward to, has taken us to Belgium, France, Holland, Germany, Spain, Malta and Latvia. In this country, beyond the University, the Orchestra has performed in both Sheffield Cathedrals, Scarborough Spa Hall, Glasgow Royal Academy of Music and Drama, Manchester Royal Northern College of Music, London The Actors’ Church Covent Garden and finally after many years on the grass, in the restored Historic Victorian Bandstand in Weston Park in the summer of 2006 and regularly since then, at the Weston Park May Fayres.
There have been many highlights and special events over SUWO’s career to date;
• April 2007 – Grand Celebration of Winds Concert, Joint concert with the Wind Orchestras from Leeds and Manchester Universities at which we gave the Camilleri première and closed with all three bands joining together in a grand performance of Connor’s Tails Aus Den Vood Viennoise!
• June 2010 – Bruckner Mass in E in Sheffield Cathedral at a special Sunday afternoon service.
• 2011 - Europees Muziekfestival voor de Jeugd (EMJ) in Neerpelt. Our performance at EMJ gained us 1st prize “Summa cum Laude” during that year’s Tour to Leuven, in Belgium.
• 2013 – Tour to Riga in Latvia notable for swimming in the Baltic and the wonderful musical collaborations with Professor Janis Purins of Riga Conservatoire.
• 2015 – A platinum Award at NCBF
• 2016 – SUWO’s final Dutch Tour concert in Monnickendam filmed worldwide!
It has been a great journey with many amazing musicians and personalities and the initial brief and vision has been more than realised – long may the SUWO tradition continue for the inspiration of further generations of students to come.
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© Widdowson & Hemingway 2016