Worthing Symphony Orchestra grace the Festival of Chichester

John Gibbons
John Gibbons

Worthing Symphony Orchestra return to the Festival of Chichester with fond memories of their first visit three years ago.

Principal conductor John Gibbons recalls: “It was a great occasion. I think what really surprised people was the quality of the orchestra. We had the mayor of Salisbury there who was visiting and said ‘My goodness! You don’t usually get that quality of playing outside London.’”

John can understand the comment. Approaching his 21st anniversary with the orchestra, he is delighted to say that the orchestra just gets better and better.

“I think it is their precision, their quality of sound.”

John was recently working with an orchestra in Lativa where that precision couldn’t be taken for granted: “It took a bit of time. But when you are working with Worthing, you are just straight into it. They automatically play together in the most fantastic way.”

It is all about spreading the word: “I think people are getting to know us. When they come along, they are always so amazed to hear how good the orchestra is.”

In a way, sadly, John feels he and the orchestra are battling the word Worthing in their title... just as perhaps the Brighton Phil battled the word Brighton: “If we were called the London PhilMusicology or something like that, it would be different. But people see the word Worthing and they don’t think we will be as good as we are.

“It’s just a human thing. We always prefer a lot of foreign food just because we think it is different and exotic though we might actually have the greatest food manufacturers just around the corner. It’s the same as people always insisting on drinking French white wine because they think it is the best when there might be better wine closer to home. Perceptions are so ingrained.”

But a great way of fighting those preconceptions is in the choice of soloists.

“We were so lucky to have Sheku Kanneh-Mason play with us earlier this year.”

Sheku went on to play at the royal wedding in May.

“We are also very lucky in the relationship we have with Nicola Benedetti who is coming back to perform with us yet again this year.”

It all comes with the orchestra in a strong position.

“I am coming up for my 21st anniversary with the orchestra. They were a good orchestra when I started, but there have been various key moments where we have really upped our game and have really powered forward with the quality of the music.”

The orchestra’s Festival of Chichester concert is in Chichester Cathedral on Thursday, July 5, at 7.30pm. when Worthing Symphony Orchestra and Kosmos Ensemble present New Worlds, pairing Dvorak’s hugely-popular New World Symphony with a dynamic new concerto for Kosmos and orchestra, by multi-award winning composer Errollyn Wallen.

“I had a meeting with Kosmos and they gave me some CDs, and I put them on and just thought wow! It was so exciting.”

Working with Kosmos will add something very special.

“I think it will give us energy and the most amazing dynamic fizz. There will be electricity fizzing around the place!”

The fusion of world music and classical is prefaced by Glinka’s Ruslan & Ludmilla overture. Joining the evening in the second half will be Jess Gillam who, in 2016, made history as the first-ever saxophonist to reach the final of BBC Young Musician of the Year. Tickets from the festival box office.

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