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News and Reviews

On Saturday 20 May the Orchestra played a joint concert with the Leicester Philharmonia Choir. The main work was Dvorak's Stabat Mater. In the first half the rarely heard Vaughan Williams Tuba Concerto was performed.
The Phil
Simon Styles

Photo: Caroline Minjolle

Dan Saunders
Dan Saunders
(Photo: Jeremy Oakley)

The 20 May 2017 concert was Dan Saunders' last with LSO following a job move to Manchester. He joined in 1996, playing 2nd oboe and cor anglais. Dan has been a highly valued member of the LSO and a great supporter of everything the orchestra has done, all this running alongside a very high pressure job in medicine. He's also been a great help with organising publicity including our Facebook and Twitter pages. We wish him well.

Thelma Bull
Thelma Bull
(Photo: Jeremy Oakley)

Also standing down from LSO is Thelma Bull who is retiring after many years service. Thelma joined in 1972 and has played regularly since 1982, most of which on the front desk of the viola section. LSO has been a huge part of Thelma's life and she has made a sustained and valuable contribution to the orchestra. Besides playing viola, she was a member of the Council of Management for many years, holding the post of Treasurer.

We are sorry to record that the Orchestra's Honorary Life Vice President Robert Meikle died on 15 February 2017, just short of his 81st birthday. From 1975 to 1990 he was Director of Music at Leicester University and he was appointed as an LSO Honorary Life Vice President in 1977. When the Leicester Department was closed down he moved to Birmingham University. He retired in 2001 but came to Leicester to play timpani with the University of Leicester Sinfonia.

On Saturday 12 November the Orchestra played Strauss waltzes and overtures, introduced by John Suchet as he told the story of the Strauss dynasty - Johann senior, Johann junior and Joseph. John's book on the subject was also on sale. The concert ended with the rousing Radetzky March and John Suchet even took the baton briefly for an encore!
See the photo below and others on our Flickr page

John Suchet presenting 12 November 2016
John Suchet presenting 'The Story of the Strauss Dynasty'

In 2016 Andy Bestwick was appointed Chairman of the Orchestra, with Jenny Hand as Vice Chair. They share some of the tasks carried out by Pat Dobson who stood down as Chair at the end of the 2015/16 season.

Andy Bestwick
Having left school aged 16 in '75 I spent seven and a half years as a military musician, joining the Royal Artillery Mounted Band after a year at the Royal Military School of Music (Kneller Hall), being taught by Patrick Harrild of the LSO. On leaving the army, I then spent two years at Merton Technical College (South Wimbledon) learning to make and repair musical instruments that led to two and a half years working as an Oboe maker for T. W. Howarths in Worthing, after which I moved back to Leicester working with Prudential Insurance. At this point I was also conducting the Syston Royal British Legion Brass Band. In 1990 I married and immediately undertook a BEd degree at Nottingham Trent University and qualified as a secondary school teacher (Design and Technology), Teaching at Bosworth College (Desford) from 1994 until 2014. Taking early retirement from the beginning of 2015 has enabled me to set up as a self employed instrument repairer working from home, playing tuba for the Leicester Symphony Orchestra since November 2013.

Jenny Hand
I have played the cello since I was 12 and was fortunate to have free school music lessons and an instrument to borrow. I play in the Leicester Symphony Orchestra and a number of other local orchestras. I have been on the Orchestra's Council of Management for many years and use the skills from my work in the charitable sector locally to support the Orchestra at Committee level. I have a particular interest in the role of music in management and leadership and was fortunate to be able to examine this in some detail on a Public Sector leadership and management diploma at Warwick University.

Pat Dobson
On 1 July 2016 Pat Dobson stood down as Chair of the Leicester Symphony Orchestra. She worked tirelessly for the orchestra since joining in 1982 and being elected to the Council of Management in 1989. She was the LSO Chairperson from 1997, during which time she organised and steered the Orchestra through more than eighty concerts, nine overseas tours and worked with four musical directors. With Pat as Chairperson we celebrated our 80th and 90th seasons, performed concerts with dancers and choirs, were part of the Leicester and Ealing comedy festivals, commissioned new works and even performed outside one November for Leicester's firework display.

Pat has led us with a firm but light hand and much of what she did happened behind the scenes. The role involves planning future strategy, ensuring the management and day to day running, and being an ambassador for the Orchestra and for Leicester. It also involves making sure things happen, by allocating and chasing tasks, and she frequently did many of these herself. She was committed, decisive and approachable. In addition to all this she has been principal cellist and we are very pleased that she retains this role.

On behalf of everyone associated with the orchestra, from friends, supporters, family, players and conductors, we would like to say a heartfelt 'THANK YOU' for all the work, both seen and unseen that Pat did on behalf of the LSO. We can only hope that whoever picks up the reins, will continue to run the orchestra in the organised and competent manner that we have known over the last 19 years.

Thank you Pat!

Orchestra at Rethel venue
The Orchestra outside the venue at Rethel
At the end of May 2016 the Orchestra made a successful tour to the Champagne-Ardennes region of North-East France, based in Reims and playing concerts in nearby Charleville-Mézières and Rethel. The programme included the popular Prelude to Hansel and Gretel by Humperdinck and Bizet's Carmen Suite No 1, pieces by Liadov and Malcolm Sargent and ended with Borodin's 2nd Symphony.

A report and photos are on the Tours page

This sculpture artwork was commissioned by Hammerson plc to ‘add vibrancy and relevance’ to St Peter’s Square, which lies at the heart of the Highcross Shopping Centre in Leicester It is a permanent group of seven columns. From most angles it is an abstract sculpture in the Square but, viewed from the approach streets which meet at the Square, the columns align to form a screen for images. The sculpture’s first specially commissioned artwork was a portrait of the people of Leicester for which 160 people were photographed. These included four representatives of the Orchestra, in concert dress with their instruments: Sarah Sharman (violin), Judith Lord (cello), Sarah Hague (horn) and Andy Bestwick (tuba).

The launch of this 'Light Sculpture' was on 12th May 2016.

Sargent Nameplate for Arriva Bus
Arriva recently conducted a campaign to find a collection of ten regionally inspired names suitable for its new fleet of high-spec eco-buses in Leicester. One of the chosen names was Sir Malcolm Sargent – celebrated conductor, and founder of the Leicester Symphony Orchestra. The unveiling took place in August and the buses went into service on routes that serve Melton Mowbray, Blaby, Lutterworth, Enderby and Narborough.

Roy Print, John Wakefield and Andy Bestwick from the LSO are shown with the nameplate

The concert featured Mahler's 6th Symphony - a gigantic work lasting over an hour. Mahler scored it for a large orchestra with many unusual instruments especially in the percussion.

Music is rarely as all-encompassing and visceral as in Mahler's 6th symphony. It took us from from the brutality of the intense opening bars through to the hammer blows in the final movement that are said to represent fate.

Two short pieces started the concert - Humperdinck's Prelude to Hansel and Gretel uses the fairy-tale's inspiration to create a truly beautiful and mystical piece. Liadov also constructs a fairy-tale world in his Enchanted Lake, which creates less a story and more a sense of being.

At the earlier concerts this season the Orchestra conducted an audience survey which included a prize draw. The winners were:
November 2015 concert - Ray Evans (tickets), Howard Fay (book), Irene Hill (mugs)
February 2016 concert - Ian Davies (tickets), Sarah Down (book), Anne Baldwin (mugs)

At the concert on 21 February 2016 there was a retiring collection in aid of CLIC Sargent, the UK's leading cancer charity for children and young people, and their families. We are pleased to say it raised a total of £1374.

The Leicester Symphony Orchestra is pleased to announce the recording and future publication of three previously unpublished orchestral compositions by their founder Sir Malcolm Sargent. The recording sessions began in July 2015 (see the photos) and will continue. Further details are here. Publication details to be announced later.


In the steps of the Beatles            Recording

The Leicester-educated composer and music director Kathleen Shanks was commissioned to write a children's anthem, 'Gloria In Londinium' for the 2012 London Olympics. She was later commissioned to write a version of the song for Prince Harry's Invictus Games and members of the Leicester Symphony Orchestra went down to Abbey Road Studios on 8 November 2014 to record it in aid of Prince Harry's Invictus Foundation and Help The Heroes.

The Orchestra provided ten instrumentalists to accompany members of the Leicester Philharmonic Choir, children from the London based Capital Arts Children's Choir and the London Children's Opera Company plus the London Cantamusica Choir.


On 12 July 2013 the Orchestra held a Dinner to celebrate its 90th Anniversary season. This was attended by the Lord Mayor of Leicester and his Consort, the present Conductor John Andrews, a former Conductor Pavel Kotla, the author of the recently published book about the Orchestra Neil Crutchley, members of the Orchestra and their guests. To see the photographs of the occasion taken by Jeremy Oakley and Tom McClure please click here. For details of Neil Crutchley's book, including how to purchase it, please see the Home page.


30 Years On

This photo, taken in 2013 by Paul Cole, is of LSO members with 30 or more years' service. For each, the date of joining LSO is given. They are:

Back row, left to right: Paul Gray, clarinet, 1976; Thelma Bull, viola,1972 then regularly from 1982; Robert Greenlees, clarinet, 1973; Graham Tomkinson, double bass, 1963; John Wakefield, violin, 1982; Brian Evans, violin, 1977 and Caroline Roberts (née Smith),viola, 1974.

Front row, left to right: Terry Weston, tuba, 1965; Malcolm Roe, cello, 1974; Pat Dobson, cello, 1982; Karen Hardy, flute, 1982 and Roy Print, violin, 1979. Shelagh Thomson (not on the photo), originally violin and now bassoon, has also given 30 years' service from 1979.

Terry Weston is proud of the fact that he is only the third tuba player in the LSO's history. The first two were: H Rainbow from 1922 to 1931 and Albert Morris from 1932 to 1965.




The LEICESTER MERCURY did not publish Reviews of the 10 November 2012 or later concerts.

LEICESTER MERCURY Review by Neil Crutchley

De Montfort Hall, Leicester
Saturday 18 February 2012

The Leicester Symphony Orchestra with Conductor John Andrews and violin soloist David Le Page

Conductor sparks excitement

What was originally going to be a guest appearance with the Leicester Symphony Orchestra turned out to be John Andrews's first concert as its new conductor.

His recent appointment promises to be a fruitful collaboration as, on this showing, he has a distinctive musical personality. Equally important: he has a clear beat, gives plenty of cues and sets sensible speeds that allow the players time to phrase and articulate.

We began with Holst's flamboyant ballet suite from The Perfect Fool - a work dealing in the conjuring of spirits that is as brilliantly orchestrated as The Planets. It was played with verve and enthusiasm and Andrews created some exciting climaxes, not least in the explosive final dance, but the jagged-rhythms, awkward entries and strong dynamic contrasts made great demands on the players.

David Le Page's refreshingly unsentimental account of Bruch's celebrated Violin Concerto in G minor was beautifully realised, with bright, strong tone, good dynamic contrast and sense of spontaneity that was particularly appealing - especially in the finale. The orchestra was equally distinguished, playing with complimentary refinement and accuracy.

Like the Holst, Berlioz's ground-breaking, hallucinatory Symphonie Fantastique makes considerable technical demands, but the orchestra had been well prepared. The performance gathered in intensity and confidence as it progressed from a relatively restrained and tentative first movement to a stylish and dynamic finale that rose to a tremendous final climax; made all the more effective by outstanding percussion and timpani playing and the conductor's refusal to rush the final bars.

LEICESTER MERCURY Review by Peter Collett

De Montfort Hall, Leicester
Saturday 12 November 2011

The Leicester Symphony Orchestra with Conductor Levon Parikian

So captivatingly sad and sobering

A concert of music influenced by the First World War began with George Butterworth's Banks of Green Willow; a performance with some lovely moments including a delicate flute and harp passage. By the exquisite closing of the piece it felt as though the orchestra had reached their comfort zone.

The first movement of Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin swirled and bubbled delightfully, having a good sense of line and emotion. The Forlane had a trance-like quality, the Menuet flowed gracefully. The Rigaudon danced with spirit.

A fascinating pre concert talk by Imperial War museum historian Dr Toby Haggith and composer Laura Rossi had charted the restoration of the film The Battle of the Somme and the composition of a new score.

The film itself proved to be superbly restored and Rossi's score was captivating, conveying the mood of the film to perfection. It brought to life the expectant marching troops, preparations for battle, shelling of enemy lines, scenes of fighting and the grim reality of wounding and death.

From excitement to industry, perfectly timed gunfire, to sadness and despair, the music complemented the film in a seamless and atmospheric accompaniment which became one with the moving images.

The orchestra gave a stunning performance and had clearly put a lot of effort into ensuring this was the star of the evening.

A sobering, artistic end to the eve of Remembrance Sunday!

LEICESTER MERCURY 24 May 2011 Review by Neil Crutchley

De Montfort Hall, Leicester
Saturday 21 May 2011

Revelling in rarely-heard patriotism

I wouldn't be surprised to find that Leicester Symphony Orchestra's performance of Elgar's rarely-heard symphonic prelude Polonia turned out to be the work's Leicester premiere.

The piece is one of a series of patriotic works Elgar wrote during the First World War in support of Belgium and Poland. It uses Polish airs and tunes from Chopin and Paderewski along with original material. But master of his craft as always, Elgar combines these elements into a work with his own fingerprints on every bar.

It's not one of his greatest creations but it's very enjoyable and well worth the orchestra's time in preparing the splendid performance: vigorous, dynamic and passionate. Conductor Jacques Cohen clearly revelled in the rich sonorities of the orchestra and organ.

Elgar's Cello Concerto, written just after the war, inhabits a different world. No flag waving here. The composer was devastated by the conflict and this spare, melancholy and intensely beautiful work was his response.

David Cohen gave a superb performance, bringing the haunted introspection with exquisite phrasing and compelling musical insight. Rarely has the final epilogue sounded so moving.

In Saint-Saens' Organ Symphony, Cohen's broad pacing and meticulous attention to texture and detail resulted in a persuasive performance that was far from routine. Peter Weston provided a stylish account of the all-important organ part.

LEICESTER MERCURY 15 February 2011

De Montfort Hall, Leicester
Saturday 12 February 2011

The Leicester Symphony Orchestra with Rainer Hersch, comedian and conductor, Leicester Mercury review by John Dilleigh

Rainer got Bizet with the batons and it was classic

"The last night of the proms... ever" was the LSO's contribution to the Leicester Comedy Festival and, while comedy and classical music are not obvious bedfellows, with the multi-talented Rainer Hersch at the helm, an evening of laughs was guaranteed.

It kicked off with an irreverent version of the national anthem, and was followed by a lampooning of just about every aspect of classical music.

The guest soloist was the impressive baritone Mark Holland whose first contribution was a hilarious arrangement of Postman Pat, sung in full operatic style.

He went on to give us renditions of arias by Rossini and Bizet, beautifully sung but with "helpful" translations for the audience projected on to a screen.

Hersch has been compared with Victor Borge and Gerald Hofnung and, in demonstrating the similarities between a didgeridoo and a vacuum cleaner pipe, one could see why.

Leicester Symphony Orchestra, fully entering into the spirit of the evening, played with style and panache throughout, particularly in Ronald Binge's Elizabethan Serenade and Puccini's Humming Chorus where they played and hummed!

The evening concluded in true proms style with soloist and a large flag waving audience singing an alternative version Rule Britannia.

LEICESTER MERCURY 17 November 2010

De Montfort Hall, Leicester
Saturday 13 November 2010

Musical feast for the eyes and ears

Leicester Symphony Orchestra and dancers from the Ann Oliver Stage School and Leicester College of Performing Arts combined to produce a feast for eyes and ears.

The beautiful prelude from Delibes' Coppelia introduced the Mazurka together with a well-choreographed and executed dance routine.

Khachaturian's Adagio from Spartacus began with graceful dancers clad in flowing orange, complementing the melodic, if slightly nervously played theme.

Playing confidence grew as the theme developed and both pairs of dancers for the love theme gave attractive performances.

A suite from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake began with a confident and lilting introduction. Dancers from some of the youngest to some of the more senior graced the stage to provide the visual impact, looking immaculate in costumes depicting scenes from the ballet including swans and Spanish senora.

Bernstein's lively overture to Candide contained some delightful musical detailing and introduced a set of attractive English Dances by Malcolm Arnold.

Borodin's Polovtsian Dances from Price Igor demonstrated beauty and drama in performance of both dance and music, bringing the concert to an exciting conclusion.

Guest conductor John Andrews drew a crisp and lively performance from the orchestra while the well-rehearsed dancers clearly enjoyed themselves and produced a splendid visual spectacle.