Petersfield Musical Festival online retrospective 5: recollecting 2012


Organ recital with Carlo Curley

Petersfield Orchestra

Petersfield Orchestra seized the chance of using the Allen organ to programme Saint-Saëns glorious ‘Organ Symphony’, with Richard Barnes as the organ soloist and Hiroko Banks and David Groves playing the piano duet.

Reviewing the concert, Elizabeth Gotto wrote that the orchestra ‘launched into the first item (Dvořák’s overture Carnival) with strength and enthusiasm, giving the concert a rousing start, led by their leader, Helen Purchase’.

In Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake suite, Elizabeth noted that the young Lucy Humphris (now a fine professional trumpeter) ’played with confidence and panache in the ‘Neapolitan Dance’’. ‘Strong strings, wind, brass and percussion’, Elizabeth wrote, ‘all joined together to make the Saint-Saëns symphony an unforgettable experience. The Adagio, with its organ part, gave a feeling of spiritual peace and serenity’.

Supporting young players and composers Petersfield Orchestra welcomes talented young players into its ranks, providing invaluable experience of the excitement and discipline of rehearsing and performing with a full orchestra.

As well as Lucy Humphris, several other young musicians over the past decade have benefited from having this opportunity on their doorstep, including composer George Venner, who has been a regular attender at rehearsals.

Some years ago, recalls conductor Robin Browning, the orchestra ran two workshop rehearsals with some of George’s early orchestrations. Between the rehearsals, George revised his score in the light of the issues the first session had brought to light, and on the second occasion ‘we were adeptly able to turn it into orchestral sound right off the bat’.

George’s Three Paronomasias for two clarinets and piano four hands were recorded last year by Rob Blanken (principal clarinet of Petersfield Orchestra) and Emma Alexandra, with pianists Nic Saunders and Matthew Cooke.

Helen Purchase has been leader of Petersfield Orchestra since 2002.

Helen studied at Colchester Institute and Middlesex university before taking up a post at Churcher’s College, initially as a teacher in charge of strings.

She became Director of Music there in 2012, and Head of Performing Arts in 2016. Festival week is always a busy time for Helen, since as well as leading the orchestra in its Thursday concert she coordinates the College’s contribution to the Youth Concerts and conducts the combined jazz bands of Churcher’s and TPS in the two performances.

Outside music, as the orchestra’s website tells us, Helen keeps fit with climbing (Mont Blanc), long distance running, skiing and more.

Mass for Chorus, Brass and Organ for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee with Petersfield Chamber Choir

Ann Pinhey (read a 2020 profile of her on Music in Portsmouth)

Cabaret Evening with Michael Mates and William Godfree

Verdi Requiem – open workshop day led by conductor Paul Spicer

Youth Concerts celebrated the Olympics

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