Worthing Symphony Orchestra’s 90th anniversary season is the perfect reason to celebrate something very special indeed for principal conductor John Gibbons.
At a time when so many seaside orchestras have fallen by the wayside – John cites Hastings and New Brighton – Worthing’s reaches its landmark birthday on a high, with a busy and exciting programme of concerts lined up for the months ahead.
Guildford is another orchestra that has gone, John says. And yet Worthing continues to thrive, increasingly important within the wider community context: “I think just changes in fashion have been one thing, but we are also very, very lucky to have had the support of the borough and the fact that we are seen as part of the whole cultural package that Worthing has to offer.
“For Worthing, I think we are seen as increasingly important when it comes to attracting people into the area.
“For every pound spent on culture in Worthing, you get another £7 spent in the area.
“And I think that really does show the choice that seaside towns have got. You either go down the route of filling them with slot machines along the front or you go down a much more interesting route.
“We have got some incredible resources in Worthing. I think our biggest problem is probably that people outside Worthing just don’t know sometimes that Worthing is worth coming to.
“The orchestra went to play a couple of years ago at the Festival of Chichester, and people were astonished that there was an orchestra of this quality so close to Chichester. It is about raising the awareness, and we definitely picked up some audience.
“But the key thing is to get people coming to Worthing, and the great thing about Worthing is the Assembly Hall. We are bathing in one of Europe’s great concert halls. It is just the most perfect acoustic for music. There have been problems when people have come in to do rock gigs. Their sound engineers think they know better than the people that are there all the time. If the local technicians were allowed to do it, it would work all the time.
“But for classical music it is an absolute gem of a sound.”
John suspects there was a fair amount of luck in the construction in coming up with such a treasure, but that’s all to the orchestra’s advantage.
“The really key thing for us is to be able to keep going, and we are determined to keep growing our audiences. I would never say it is easy. It’s a tough battle, and we have got to keep on fundraising and keep on trying to recruit new audiences.
“You would have thought with the Worthing demographic we would perhaps be losing audiences, but the key is good marketing, getting the word out, letting people know what we are doing.
“But also word of mouth is vital for us. If you can spread your membership, you can hopefully get other people coming along enthusiastically and enjoying what we are doing.”
The season opens on October 23 with a Halloween spine-chiller with music inspired by devilry, witchcraft and spells. Guest soloist is the Ukranian pianist Dinara Klinton, who has won critical acclaim for her new recording of Liszt’s Transcendental Studies. She will be performing Liszt’s Totentanz in a programme that includes Dvorak’s Noon-day Witch and Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre.
Tickets on 01903 206206 or online at worthingtheatres.co.uk.
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