History of the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra

The Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra was formed by Herbert Menges in May 1925 as the Symphonic String Players “to become a large and powerful String Orchestra, and to give periodical concerts of a high standard in Brighton and Hove” initially in Hove Town Hall. By 1928 they had already moved into the Brighton Dome and become the fully orchestral Symphonic Players. Menges remained as Principal Conductor and in 1932 Sir Thomas Beecham was appointed as the orchestra’s first President (a position later held by Ralph Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten).

(You can read more about the orchestra’s beginnings and Herbert Menges here: https://www.brightonphil.org.uk/happy-birthday-to-the-brighton-phil)

In 1972, after 47 years as Principal Conductor and having conducted more than 300 concerts, Herbert Menges died at the age of 69. His successor was John Carewe, whose first concert as Principal Conductor marked the start of the orchestra’s 50th Anniversary season. In 1989 Barry Wordsworth was appointed as only the third Principal Conductor in the BPO’s history. Barry’s distinguished tenure at the helm was marked by a series of notable performances of both well-known and more unfamiliar works together with a roster of accomplished and distinguished soloists.

In 1999 the Brighton Dome closed for refurbishment and the BPO returned temporarily to Hove Town Hall, and gave a series of Mozart Piano Concerto concerts in the Theatre Royal Brighton with its current President, John Lill. In 2002 the Dome re-opened, since which time more than 180,000 tickets have been sold for the BPO’s concerts in its home venue.

Since 2009 the orchestra has been working through the Brahms Symphonies. Recent seasons have seen premieres of new works by Will Todd, Richard Rodney Bennett, Martin Butler and Howard Goodall, and regular collaborations with the Brighton Festival Chorus, most recently in performances of Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony, Brahms’ Requiem, and Elgar’s Scenes from the Bavarian Highlands.

In recent years the orchestra has been developing its Education Programme, taking classical music into local primary schools through a series of interactive music workshops, culminating in an annual Open Rehearsal for Children at Brighton Dome where local children and their families can experience live classical music being rehearsed by a full orchestra. For more information please see: www.brightonphil.org.uk/education

In March 2015 Barry Wordsworth became the orchestra’s first Conductor Laureate after 26 years as Music Director and Principal Conductor.

The orchestra itself is best described as an ‘all star’ line up, in that the Brighton Philharmonic attracts players of the very highest calibre from around the country, many of whom regularly work with some of the finest orchestras in the world. We are fortunate to capture their skills, interest and love of the repertoire for our series of Sunday afternoon concerts.

Details of all our activities and of our Friends’ membership scheme can be found at: www.brightonphil.org.uk