Looking back to our roots…

The Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra was formed by Herbert Menges in 1925 as the Symphonic String Players which aimed “to become a large and powerful String Orchestra, and to give periodical concerts of a high standard in Brighton and Hove”.

Photo of Sir Herbert Menges courtesy of Royal Pavilion, Libraries and Museums (Brighton & Hove).

The opening concert took place at Hove Town Hall on 18 May 1925, conducted by Herbert Menges and featuring Kathleen Lafla (mezzo soprano) & Eric Gritton (piano). The programme included works by Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Sibelius, Frank Bridge & Arnold Bax.

A Christmas Idyll by none other than Herbert Menges also received its first performance in this concert, which closed with Schubert’s Marche Militaire (which the Brighton Phil performed again in November 2014 as part of their 90th concert season).
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May 22, 2017

Lewes Chamber Music Festival: Fri 23 – Sun 25 June 2017

The sixth Lewes Chamber Music Festival will place take over the weekend of 23rd – 25th June. Set across three days the festival brings together internationally renowned musicians for eight concerts in the intimate setting of the All Saints Centre, along with one late-night-concert held at St Michael’s church on the opening night.

Exploring the romantic world surrounding Robert Schumann the programme includes music by Chopin, Schubert, Mozart and Beethoven as well as lesser-known German composers, Hermann Goetz, and Robert Kahn. The Festival is also privileged to this year be welcoming composer and pianist Huw Watkins, to perform and present a number of his chamber music works.


There is a stellar line up of musicians: pianists Sam Haywood and Tom Poster along with composer Huw Watkins and a special appearance on Saturday night by tenor James Gilchrist. Joining them are musicians who have appeared at the Festival in previous years: star clarinetist Matthew Hunt, viola player James Boyd, Swedish pianist Bengt Forsberg and award-winning Scottish cellists Philip Higham and Robin Michael. New to Lewes are the fantastic horn player Alec Frank-Gemmill who will be playing the natural horn, and Serbian violinist Bogdan Božović. Among the younger of the performers are brilliant violinists Mathilde Milwidsky and Tim Crawford, both still studying at London music colleges.

The Festival makes it home in the intimate and atmospheric setting of the All Saints Centre in the middle of Lewes. Renowned piano-maker Paul McNulty will be bringing three beautiful replica period pianos from his workshop in Prague especially for the Festival. These pianos will showcase a sound-world that would have been familiar to the composers writing through the ages. There will be an opportunity to discover all about these instruments in a talk on the Saturday afternoon and the Festival’s internationally renowned pianists will be showing these instruments off throughout the weekend.

The concerts offer a rare opportunity to listen to music performed at a level not often heard outside the big cities, and in an intimate ‘festival’ atmosphere. This makes it an unmissable weekend of concerts for all music-lovers. To enable younger people to attend, tickets are completely free of charge for those under 26 years old.

Tickets on sale from 1st April from £12- £16 from the box office on 01273 47865 or from Baldwins Travel Agency in Lewes. Tickets may also be bought online from our website. Full information at

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May 15, 2017

Highlights of the BPO’s new season at Brighton Dome

We are delighted that Barry Wordsworth will be conducting five concerts including New Year’s Eve and those that open and close the season.

2017/18 sees the return of conductor Stephen Bell, pianists Melvyn Tan & Howard Shelley, who is also directing, and violinist Matthew Trusler.

We welcome pianist Alexandra Dariescu playing Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1 and conductor and clarinettist Michael Collins in a programme of Mozart, Haydn & Beethoven.

Symphonies we will be performing include Tchaikovsky No.4, Rachmaninov No.2, Brahms No.3, Dvořák No.6, Schubert No.8 (Unfinished) and Vaughan Williams No.4 to name but a few. Concertos will include Britten Violin Concerto, Ravel Piano Concerto, Mozart Clarinet Concerto, Mendelssohn Piano Concerto No.1 and Arutunian Trumpet Concerto.

Our season finale will include Saint-Saëns Carnival of the Animals performed by piano duo Steven Worbey & Kevin Farrell with new up to date prose. Not surprisingly this piece will be the focus of our music education workshops next season and our Open Rehearsal for Children will take place on the morning of this concert on Sunday 25 March 2018.

The full season programme can be downloaded as a pdf from:

Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Monday 4 September, although Friends of the Phil enjoy priority booking in June. For details on how to become a Friend of the Phil and the other benefits of membership please see:

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Apr 15, 2017

A History of the BPO

A request from The Park Centre Wives group in Burgess Hill to give a talk about the history of the orchestra set our chairman, Nicolas Chisholm, the challenge of finding out some fascinating details. The Society is fortunate to possess a complete set of programmes from 1925 onwards, and a comprehensive analysis of them by long-time Friend and supporter of the orchestra, Trevor Bolton. Nicolas spent some time researching this treasure trove and following up many leads that now appear on the internet. The result is an hour-long talk illustrated with a good number of photographs which he is keen to share.

Nicolas will give this talk to Friends of the Phil later in the year. Further details will appear in the June newsletter.

Nicolas would be very happy to present this talk to other groups in the local area, to spread the word about the orchestra, so if you are a member of a group that would like to book him, please contact him via the BPO Office or on:

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Apr 14, 2017

BPO Music Education Workshops & Children’s Rehearsal update

A number of local schools hosted interactive music workshops given by Brighton Phil musicians John Ellwood (trumpet) and Donna-Maria Landowski (percussion) in February & March in the run up to our Open Rehearsal for Children on Sunday 5 March including Benfield Junior School, Hove Junior School & Stanford Infant School.

Children in Year 6 at Benfield Junior School came alive, listening intently when John Ellwood played the theme tunes from Harry Potter, Postman Pat and Star Wars, and becoming very excited when John let them blow into different mouth pieces.


The Furthering Talent group, who came to our film music concert in early December, were treated to their very own percussion workshop by Donna-Maria, and the music was so infectious that some of the parents joined in too, with the Marimba proving a particular favourite.

(A short video clip can be viewed at:




The workshops culminated in several hundred children and their parents experiencing the excitement of seeing and hearing the full orchestra rehearsing in Brighton Dome Concert Hall on the morning of our concert on Sunday 5 March.

Nicolas Chisholm, Chairman of BHPS, was delighted with the success of this event saying: “We received so many positive comments from parents, but for me the highlight was in the concert interval itself when two bright eyed children came up to me to thank us all for giving them such an unforgettable experience. They had been to both the rehearsal and the concert itself. They agreed that it would be something that they would always remember.”

We are most grateful to those who have contributed so generously to this year’s education project, and to Sussex Masonic Charities who have pledged support for next year.

Our thanks also to those Friends who kindly volunteered to assist in stewarding the Open Rehearsal.

A full report on the workshops and Open Rehearsal will appear in the next Friends of the Phil newsletter and a number of photographs taken at the event by BPO photographer David Gerrard and his wife Jean will shortly be available to view on our Education page at:

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Apr 13, 2017

News from Brighton Festival Chorus

In September the Brighton Festival Chorus spent two days in the Coliseum in Watford with Barry Wordsworth and the BBC Concert Orchestra recording a number of less well-known pieces by Elgar. In March they returned to record Elgar’s From the Bavarian Highlands. The recording (by SOMM Records) should be available later in the year.



Brighton Festival Chorus is proud to have provided backing vocals for some of the tracks on the album Vera Lynn 100, released by Decca Records on Friday 17 March, three days before Dame Vera Lynn’s 100th birthday.



BFC is participating in the return of Symfunny to the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday 19 April, bringing together musicians and comedians for a night of music and laughter to raise money for Parkinson’s UK. Symfunny is the brainchild of producer, composer and conductor James Morgan, BFC’s Music Director, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of 42.  For more information see:


Finally, the BFC will be joining the Britten Sinfonia under conductor Diego Masson to perform John Adams’s glittering choral symphony Harmonium in the closing concert of this year’s Brighton Festival at Brighton Dome on Sunday 28 May.

Tickets are available from Brighton Dome Ticket Office:

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Apr 11, 2017

John Bradbury: Leader of the Brighton Philharmonic

John Bradbury recently spent a morning in the BPO office talking about his musical career and his life outside the Brighton Phil. In the first of several articles for the Friends of the Phil newsletter he describes how he first came to learn the violin and then pursue a career in music.


What inspired you to learn the violin and then to become a professional musician?

My grandfather was an amateur violinist. He was headmaster of a very rough school in Northwich in Cheshire, a real rag tag lot, and if he felt like playing the violin (he had a violin in his study) he used to walk into any classroom, chuck out the teacher, and just start playing. And if anyone giggled or didn’t pay attention, he would whack them over the head with his bow. (He would come home with the odd broken bow for which he would find other uses, such as stirring paint!)

My mother was a headmistress and she loved music, loved all the arts. She decided that when each of her three kids (I was the oldest) reached their tenth birthday they would learn a musical instrument. There was no way out of it and we had to do ten minutes practice every day, which seemed like forever. We were allowed to choose the instrument ourselves as long as it wasn’t too expensive, or too big or too heavy. I actually chose the violin because I thought I might be able to make racing car noises with it. (Some of my esteemed colleagues think I’ve succeeded!)

I really became a professional musician because, at the back of my mind, I didn’t want to be pushed into the teaching profession. All my family were headmasters or headmistresses, and I just hated the idea of becoming a teacher. I don’t know how anyone can stand up in front of a class of 30 to 40 kids and keep control. That was the main driving force, before I got into music properly: before I realized I actually enjoyed music.

There was a lot of amateur music making in my family, although they were horrified that I had ambitions to become a professional musician. They all thought that accepting money for making music was really not on, not the thing to do. It didn’t sit well with them. When I eventually became well established as a professional musician, leading orchestras, broadcasting solos, playing for TV adverts and film sessions, happily working flat out, my mother or my auntie would ask what I was doing and I’d proudly start to explain “Yesterday I did this and this…” and half way through the sentence they’d interrupt with “Do you remember your little cousin Elizabeth? She played exquisitely for a charity on her cello last week.” This was a much more worthy effort than mine in their eyes!


As you became more successful and established did they change their opinion?

They just didn’t ask anymore! Although 40 odd years later I played Saint-Saëns 3rd Violin Concerto with the Brighton Phil. I spent nine months working on it, played it from memory, and I felt it went really well. There was a reception afterwards, which my family came to, and my sister Katharine actually said “Very good John” – so that was a big improvement!

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Apr 10, 2017

No summer season of chamber music this year

After a lot of debate and with great regret the Trustees of the Brighton & Hove Philharmonic Society have decided not to present a summer season of chamber music in the Unitarian Church in 2017.

The disappointing audience numbers over the four concerts in 2016 did not bring enough income to make the summer season pay its way. Even with generous sponsorship from Friends, each of the last three summer seasons has made a loss and the Trustees have decided to look at other ways in which to promote the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra during the summer months.

We are very grateful to the loyal band of supporters who did attend our summer seasons, to those who kindly sponsored them, and to the composers from Brighton whose works we were able to introduce to a new audience. Watch this space for fresh ideas.

The local composers featured in our summer seasons over the last three years were:

2014: Ian Morgan-Williams, Peter Copley, Rob Lane and Adam Swayne

2015: Howard Blake, Peter Copley and Barry Mills

2016: Robert Orledge, Jack Redman, Guy Richardson and John Hawkins

In the meantime those of you looking for some local chamber music this summer might be interested in the Lewes Chamber Music Festival, Friday 23 – Sunday 25 June 2017:

A little further afield the Under Ground Theatre at Eastbourne offers regular chamber music on Sunday afternoons:

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Apr 08, 2017
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