Southern Pro Musica evolved from the need for a professional orchestra to provide support for choirs based in Hampshire and West Sussex. The availability of increasing numbers of fine free-lance musicians choosing to base their careers in the south enabled the orchestra to enlarge its area of operations to work with choral societies further afield and also to undertake purely orchestral engagements. The orchestra’s first concert performance was an opera gala in Portsmouth Guildhall in August 1991.
In 1992 the orchestra was invited by the Southern Orchestral Concerts Society to become the resident chamber orchestra for its annual concert series based at Petersfield Festival Hall. In this series it performed with many distinguished national and international soloists, including in recent years Alison Balsom (trumpet), Natalie Clein (cello), Michaela Petri (recorder) Nicholas Daniel (oboe) and Antje Weithaas (violin). In an exciting further development, in 2013 Southern Pro Musica was appointed by Guildford Borough Council as their ‘principal provider of Classical music’, providing a broad range of orchestral concerts and educational outreach work in Guildford. We are delighted to have the distinguished clarinettist Michael Collins as Honorary President of the orchestra.
In addition to its orchestral concerts, Southern Pro Musica undertakes an annual series of children’s concerts each year, introducing live orchestral music to many thousands of young listeners in Winchester, Petersfield, Worthing, Portsmouth, Chichester, Southampton, Guildford and Dorking – a series which has been generously supported since its inception by the John Lewis Partnership and, more recently, by the Foyle Foundation which has provided funds to enable children from state primary and junior schools to enjoy attending a concert. In its work providing first-class professional orchestral support for leading choirs in the south, the orchestra performs regularly with the Portsmouth Choral Union, Chichester Singers, Guildford Choral Society, Southampton Choral Society and the Petersfield Festival and has also worked with the Winchester Music Club, Sussex Chorus, Dorset Guild of Singers, Epworth Choir, Froxfield Choir and the Wokingham Choral Society.
Southern Pro Musica made its first commercial recording in 2001 when Priory Records issued a recording with the English Cathedral Singers, and further CDs have since appeared including a collaboration with the National Children’s Choir of Great Britain and music for narrator and orchestra with the distinguished musician and broadcaster Brian Kay. Another recent development has been the establishment of Friends of Southern Pro Musica.
Southern Pro Musica’s Artistic and Musical Director is Jonathan Willcocks (see www.jonathanwillcocks.com), whose international career as a conductor and composer has taken him to many parts of the world in addition to his extensive work in UK. Southern Pro Musica is a registered charity no. 1148872 and details of the Trustees of the charity can be found at www.gov.uk/government/organisations/charity-commission