Suffolk Philharmonic Orchestra

The Suffolk Philharmonic Orchestra – Beginnings

When I first heard about the opportunity, it was a prospect that was full of promise. Some months ago, a gentleman by the name of Leslie Olive was doing the rounds of Chambers of Commerce and other august gatherings of business folk, to raise funds… Funds that would be key to realising an idea – something that started out as a remark almost casually uttered but as is the often the way of such things, it developed a momentum all its own.. Mind you, when the originator is as passionate and driven as Leslie Olive, well, the idea became somewhat unstoppable.

My involvement started after Leslie had given a presentation to the Stowmarket Chamber. He was looking for a photographer and videographer to help with the promotion of the Orchestra. Any work done would be on a voluntary basis but that was no obstacle for me! To use either photography or videography skills in such a venture would provide invaluable practical experience as well as being immensely fulfilling…

Leslie’s desire to create Suffolk’s first professional orchestra is a noble enough aim but to me, he went one better. Local schools were wrapped up in the venture… Beyton Middle School, as did others, provided art that was to add a wonderful dimension to the theme of the inaugural concert – “The Lark Ascending”.

King Edwards at Bury has a thriving music school and members of their orchestra were given the opportunity to play alongside their professional counterparts.. What an experience that must have been…

The months rolled by and eventually, the 23rd May arrived. My task for the concert would be as a videographer.. Leslie’s message to me on the night before the big day was to be sure I understood his over-riding concern that the audience was given the best experience possible. The videography was there to ensure those that were seated close by the huge supporting structures of the Cathedral could rely on the 6 television monitors that had been installed some years ago to give them a better view.

The day started quietly enough – the car was loaded up, ‘Tardis’-like and I am still not sure how I managed to get that much stuff into it! I arrived at the Cathedral at around 10-00AM to find the stage ready.. At 11:00 there was a funeral arranged so it was a matter of a quick unload before downing all tools to allow peace and quiet to return for the procession. I found a quiet spot well away from the line that the mourners would be taking. I have to say it was a sobering experience witnessing the obvious distress of some of the folk that followed the coffin… On arrival at the Cathedral, all that was in my mind was the concert and what it represented. Here, right in front of my eyes was a very different reality.

After about an hour, I could start preparations in earnest. This was a new experience for me and although I was prepared, ideas about how I would approach the task needed frequent amending. Leslie had arranged permission from the leader of the Orchestra for short excerpts of the performance to be used as promotional material. This meant sound AND vision were now critical. So, microphones at one end of the Cathedral, video camera at the other. To run cables that far is technically feasible but a Health and Safety nightmare so alternatives were necessary.

Radio Transmission!

In the ‘GigRig’ I had built for purposes such as this, lurks a stereo transmitter. Such a simple piece of equipment – but worth its weight in gold. Just a matter of connecting it to the video camera and hey-presto, I had stereo sound. Phew. As for the Cathedral’s televisions, they all worked as soon as the camera was connected to them. The picture quality could not be described as HD but the quality was as good as the Cathedral’s infrastructure could allow.

At around 2:00PM members of the Orchestra started to arrive. Leslie too had arrived and oh, boy, he looked ill.. He had been knocked back by a virus a few days before and combined with the stress, well, it had taken its toll. This did not stop him though. With the orchestra introduced to each other (some had never met) the rehearsals started. Right from the first bar it sounded magnificent. Simply magnificent. The young players from King Edwards joined the Orchestra after about an hour and they looked well and truly at home…

The soloists arrived… Perhaps the most striking was Thomas Gould. Tall, slim and very casually dressed, I had no idea who he was at first. He looked about on the stage but found little space to stand. ‘Hmm…’ I could almost see his mind working. The pulpit! Up he went but seeing him there from the waist up looked odd. Back down to the stage and a quick shuffle of chairs gave him the room he needed. Convention seems to serve a very practical purpose at times!

His part in the rehearsal started and although I have heard “The Lark Ascending” before, I have never heard it like this. I was 2 metres from him and enthralled. And when the orchestra joined in… oh to be there.


On the 23rd of May, the Suffolk Philharmonic Orchestra made a very great transition from idea to reality.

The first members of the audience started to roll up at around 7:00 PM. The Cathedral is run by a canny bunch 🙂 The pews are all but an instrument of torture – no doubt appropriate for the sinners that sit on them but for such elevated functions as the concert, a concession is made to the long-suffering gluteals… Cushions! For a price! Only a mere 50p but I reckon they are nice little earner!

So what of the concert itself? All those months of preparation came down to the next 150 minutes. It was a triumph. To see all those people turn up.. to see so few empty seats. All I could think of was all that hard work was going to be oh, so worth it. Unlike that fatuous (allegedly) ad for cosmetics, this truly was “worth it” 🙂

Wandering River provides professional photography and videography services. Find out how Steve can help you – view his portfolios or contact him for more information

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One Comment

  1. Annya Stoddart July 31, 2012 at 8:41 am #

    What an amazing experience!

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