The View from the Podium

February 21, 2015

The work of an orchestra goes well beyond the public concert and most of the time is spent raising funds to keep the Orchestra afloat. This was the introductory remarks by David Curtis founder and artistic director of the Orchestra of the Swan in Stratford. It is well known that only about 40% of an orchestra’s income is derived from box office receipts the rest coming from Fund raising by Friends, grants from local government and Arts Council funding and every member of the orchestra has to play a part in this activity.

David then went onto explain the different a large concert orchestra with its full time members is from the small chamber orchestra which has to build its programme from free lance players. Large or small, both have to plan their activities well in advance and a lead time of two years or more is quite common. The programme has to be planned, venues arranged, players booked, marketing organised and when playing in venues around the country or internationally there is  additional work  arranging travel of players and the larger instruments. David is fortunate to have a small but dedicated staff in Stratford to assist with this work.

The most important thing a conductor of an orchestra does is lead the members of the orchestra through rehearsals and performances. Standing on a podium in front of the musicians while executing a series of specific arm movements allows his musicians to interpret these, gaining information such as how fast or loud to play and although they learn this as part of their education each develops a style of their own which makes each orchestra unique. Rehearsals are a fundamental part of the conductors work as he needs to describe exactly what he wants each member to do to get the specific sound he wants. An understanding of every instrument is therefore an important part of the job.

In the second half of the evening David played some extracts from recordings made by the Orchestra of the Swan concluding with Copland’s Appalachian Spring that had been recorded in the Townsend Hall in 2010.

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