Havant Chamber Orchestra was formed by Peter Craddock in 1965 by the amalgamation of several chamber music ensembles. HCO has continued to fulfil a complementary role to Havant Symphony Orchestra (HSO) ever since.
Like the HSO it is made up of a mix of professional and gifted amateur players. Membership is by invitation. Players and audience are mainly drawn from a 30-mile radius. Additional concerts are held in smaller venues including a regular concert on Hayling Island.
The main season comprises 6 concerts each year, 3 by the HCO and 3 by the HSO.
Peter directed HCO until 2012. The current conductor and musical director of HCO is Robin Browning. The leader is Brian Howells who played for many years with the Bournemouth Sinfonietta.
The Orchestras’ reputation as one of the foremost amateur orchestral societies in the country is reflected by the accolades they have received from the National Federation of Music Societies (now known as ‘Making Music’) as one of the few ‘Truly Outstanding’ groups in the Southern Region and by the Performing Rights Society from whom they have received three ‘Awards for Excellence in Programming’. The Orchestras are grateful to receive grants and donations to help them in their work.
One of the most important features of the concerts of both orchestras is the wide range of music performed which usually includes a ‘discovered’ work – either an unknown by a well-known composer, a should-be-known by a little known composer, or even, occasionally, a commissioned work. Each concert features a soloist, whether an international star, a promising newcomer, a talented member of the orchestra or a well-known local professional.
In support of the educational role of the orchestral society, each main concert is preceded by at 6.30pm by a pre-concert talk on a subject related to the concert, then at 7.00pm there is a usually a musical interlude of about 15 minutes provided by local music pupils, giving them an informal opportunity to perform in front of an appreciative audience.
To encourage younger audiences, concert tickets for children still at school (up to sixth form or equivalent) cost only £1, and students get a 50% discount.