WORTHING SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
…. is made up of professional musicians from London and the south-east of England. The Orchestra performs an annual season of eight concerts in the Assembly Hall, Worthing starting in September each year, through to April or May of the following year. Most concerts are on Sunday afternoons with the occasional evening concert. The forthcoming season features two evening events – Nicola Benedetti on 17th September 2019 and Julian Trevelyan on 31st January 2020.
Under the directorship of John Gibbons, WSO has established itself as one of the leading municipal orchestras in the country. John has maintained the tradition of persuading well-known soloists to appear, including winners of the BBC Young Musician of the Year. His undoubted talent as a communicator and his ability to combine well-known compositions with those by lesser-known composers has not only attracted plaudits but has brought the orchestra to the attention of a new loyal fan base and audience.
In 2014, Worthing Borough Council began consultations with the Orchestra for the orchestra to become an independent entity. This was achieved in 2015 when WSO became a registered charity.
Today the Orchestra has been run by the WSO Trust with the support of Worthing Symphony Society.
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THE STORY SO FAR
Early music-making in Worthing was focused around the pier. In 1874 a nine-piece orchestra was engaged to play for three hours a day ‘weather permitting’, replaced in 1881 by a Rhinelander band. In 1920 Worthing Corporation purchased the pier and charged visitors 2d – this included admission to listen to the orchestra in the South Pavilion at the far end of the Pier.
Between Easter and autumn the Orchestra played at 11am and 6pm Monday to Saturday and on Sundays at 3pm and 7pm. In 1926 the Council built the Pavilion on the town end of the Pier and this was home to Worthing Municipal Orchestra, one of the earliest, full time, all-year-round orchestras at a seaside resort.
In October 1935, Herbert Lodge became the town’s Music Director and conducted the orchestra in the new Assembly Hall, the first occasion when the Municipal Orchestra appeared under the name ‘The Worthing Symphony Orchestra.’ In WWII Worthing was at risk of enemy action and many orchestral personnel were called up. On his return to Worthing in 1946, Herbert Lodge restored Symphony Concerts at the Assembly Hall but it was tough going in a climate of post-war austerity and cuts. Under the direction of James Kershaw the orchestra gave monthly concerts but its size was more akin to a chamber orchestra. Jan Cervenka was a determined Musical Director who gradually secured extra funding which allowed him to hire first-class soloists and to increase the orchestra’s size.
John Gibbons was appointed Principal Conductor in 1997 following auditioned concerts with the orchestra. During his 21 years WSO has improved in quality so that many of today’s star performers seek to perform in the orchestra’s eight-concert season, aware that they are supported by an outstanding group of professional musicians.