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sinfonia ViVA Celebrates 30th Birthday Milestone

  • Date: 20/03/2012
  • Category: General

Derby-based sinfonia ViVA – the region’s only professional orchestra – celebrates its 30th birthday this year and will start its celebrations with two high-profile projects and performances to mark the countdown to the London 2012 Olympics.

 The ‘starting gun’ for the Orchestra’s milestone will be a partnership project with Derby LIVE, Déda and two nationally-renowned artists as part of the BBC Music National Festival – one of the keynote countdown events for the London 2012 Festival and a key element of the nationwide Cultural Olympiad.

ViVA has commissioned composer Tunde Jegede who brings together classical, African and pop music in his highly-acclaimed work, to write a new piece of music for Cello, Orchestra and African percussion.

The work will be premiered at the Assembly Rooms on March 3 and will also be the inspiration for an education project involving 120 young musicians and dancers from city schools and colleges who will perform their work on March 1.

ViVA then turns its attentions to the Darley Park concert which has been brought forward this year to Saturday June 30 to be part of the weekend of celebrations to mark the city’s high profile inclusion in the UK-wide Olympic torch relay.

The concert, which has grown over the years to become the UK’s largest free outdoor classical music concert, has special resonance for ViVA as the Orchestra’s very first performance orchestra was nearly 30 years ago to the day of Darley Park.

sinfonia ViVA started life as the East of England Orchestra, based in Nottingham, and held its first concert at St Mary’s Church in Nottingham’s Lace Market on June 26.

Thirty years later and the Orchestra is one of the UK’s leading regional orchestras – earning a national reputation for high quality concert performances and particularly for its ground-breaking education work across the region.

Last year alone, more than 45,000 people enjoyed a selection of more than 30 sinfonia ViVA concerts and the Orchestra led 10 ambitious education projects delivering over 150 sessions to young people across the region.

ViVA Chief Executive Peter Helps said: “We feel honoured to be making two such important contributions to the city’s Olympic celebrations and it makes the start of our 30th anniversary celebrations all the more special.

“We are particularly delighted to be working with our arts partners in the city on the BBC Music Nation which is a key part of the Cultural Olympiad and then to be taking to the stage for the Darley Park concert which will be extra special this year to mark Derby’s high profile involvement in the torch relay.”

Peter continued that sinfonia ViVA had evolved a great deal since its early days and was now regarded as an orchestra of national repute with a regional focus.

“Milestones such as the 30th birthday are important to enable us to look back at what has happened and remind ourselves of the resilience needed to survive in a competitive world.

“It is also an opportunity to re-evaluate our aims and objectives and to look forward with renewed vigour to push the boundaries even further in delivering what we do best – high quality music that appeals to a wide audience.

“The difference between ViVA and orchestras who are based in London and travel around the regions is that we have strong regional links at practical levels and are truly part of the community.

“Our education and community outreach work has been particularly successful because it is an integral part of the organisation rather than a separate entity so it is not about audience development but more about widening participation. This is at the heart of everything we do.”

In terms of engaging with young people, the Orchestra has worked with the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham for the past five years on an innovative Beanbag Proms programme for pre-school children.  These regular events enable young families to enjoy familiar tunes and introduce them to classical music in a relaxed environment as well as meet the players and have a go on their instruments themselves.

Twice a year, the Orchestra works with more than 300 young people from city and county primary and secondary schools, further education colleges and youth groups  who compose music in the classrooms and then come together and perform alongside professional musicians on the stage.

More than 1,300 young people have been involved in recent years and its education projects with local schools have included specially commissioned work to celebrate the life and times of Bess of Hardwick and Florence Nightingale and more recently a project which was inspired by the night-time sounds of the city which have all been nominated for prestigious British Composer Awards.

Peter continued: “A key moment in the orchestra’s history was the appointment of our first education manager in 1995.  We have had three people in that role since then and they have all brought their own special talents to develop our profile to make us one of the leading orchestra’s in the UK for engaging with young people – something that was particularly lauded at the ABO conference hosted by us here in Derby last February. “

On stage, ViVA continues to perform throughout the East Midlands and beyond.  Recent years have seen the Orchestra engaged on tours to Berlin and Ireland and collaboration work with a host of big names including Damon Albarn who invited the Orchestra to be involved in the Grammy nominated Gorillaz album ‘Plastic Beach’.

Peter continued: “There are many reasons behind our continued success and stability as an Orchestra but one of the key reasons is that music making in its widest sense is the focus and heart of everything that we do.

“Our job is effectively to make magic and engage with audiences which is why I think we have such a loyal following.

“We are particularly good at working in partnership with composers, artists, other organisations and funders to bring together the sum of smaller parts into some major large scale projects.

“And our flexibility enables us to adapt to the needs of a venue whether that is performing as a seven-member cabaret band or as a 70-strong orchestra.  This gives us the versatility to perform in all sorts of spaces and on different occasions and in different styles.”

Peter explained that maintaining consistency in the Orchestra’s artistic direction and quality continues to be a key element in ViVA’s growing success. 

ViVA’s roots were firmly established by the founding principal conductor Malcolm Nabarro.  Nicholas Kok took over the reins in 1995 and was followed five years ago by international conductor André de Ridder whose tenure finishes this year with his successor due to be announced amidst the 30th birthday celebrations.

“We recognise that, although arts and culture are vital strands to any society, we do not have an ultimate right to be here so we need to be robust in our financial management to ensure that we are still around in 30 years time.

“We have proved our worth in the past 30 years but the current climate is tough and will no doubt continue to be so for the foreseeable future.

“Our focus remains clear – that our top priority is to create art that is new, exciting and that people want to engage with to enjoy, inspire and enrich their lives.

“Therefore, by taking an honest and sensible approach to running an orchestra – regarding it as a business, albeit a charity where surpluses are ploughed straight back into operations – we will have the longevity needed to achieve our objectives.”

As well as working with key funding partners, including the Arts Council, Derby City Council and businesses such as Rolls-Royce, ViVA has launched a 30th anniversary year fund – inviting donations from as little as 30p a week to one off larger donations which support the cost of a major new commission or to launch new community projects.

Peter concluded: “We need to look at different ways of working, both as an orchestra and collectively with our fellow arts organisations to secure the future of the cultural offering in the city and region as a whole.

“The 30th anniversary is certainly focusing our minds on the future but we are also taking a few moments at least to celebrate what we have achieved so far and I hope that we can use this milestone to remind people from all walks of life of just how important the arts are to the well-being of our society and our role in this cultural landscape.”


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