Revived orchestra can give ‘cultural voice’ to Yorkshire and north of England

·3-min read

An orchestra which has been revived to support musicians hit by the pandemic, more than 60 years after is was disbanded, can provide a “cultural voice for Yorkshire and the north of England”, its conductor said.

The newly reformed Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra – which was established in Leeds in 1947 and disbanded in 1955 – has been revived under conductor Ben Crick to support northern musicians who have been hit hardest by the lockdowns.

Mr Crick said: “Despite major cities like Leeds, York and Sheffield, Yorkshire has lacked its own county symphony orchestra for decades.

Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra play at Harewood House
Ben Crick conducts the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra, playing at Harewood House (Danny Lawson/PA)

“It’s really strange considering our size and strength, so I think the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra is potentially one of the most exciting things that lockdown has brought us.”

Mr Crick said Covid-19 has “ripped the bottom out of” the classical music industry and he sees the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra as an opportunity to rebalance the industry’s “London-centricity”.

He said: “Music is the running commentary of the human experience. It’s got us through Covid.

“We need musicians, we need artists. We are the people who care for people’s mental health.”

He added: “The idea that there’s some sort of intrinsically more artistic characteristic in a southerner than a northerner absolutely does my nut in.

“I’m not saying classical music is for everyone, it isn’t, but it should be available for anyone.

“So, if anyone wants it, the opportunity needs to be there, because it’s an enriching experience. Why shouldn’t northerners get a comparable exposure and experience to people in London?”

Mr Crick said a number of attempts have been made to recreate the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra over the last 20 years without success.

The new orchestra will accompany the headline acts at a series of major outdoor concerts this summer organised by Leeds-based events producer Vivo Entertainment.

These include a Picnic Proms, featuring Alfie Boe, at Harewood House, near Leeds, and Lakeside Live, starring Queen Symphonic at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium.

The Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra playing at Harewood House
The Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra playing at Harewood House (Danny Lawson/PA)

The orchestra will also deliver its own concert tour across Yorkshire.

Mr Crick said: “I’m 42, so I’ve been working in the industry for 20 years with a wealth of northern freelance musicians, who are the highest professional quality. I know there’s a talent pool there that I can get together and make a really first-rate professional orchestra in Yorkshire.”

He said: “The dream is it becomes a full-time symphony orchestra and provides a musical and cultural voice for Yorkshire and the north of England.”

Trumpeter Anthony Thompson, who has played for Pope Benedict XVI and performed a duet with Sting, will be joining the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra.

Mr Thompson said he took a builder’s labourer job during the pandemic.

He said: “The pandemic just stopped everything in its tracks for me. I couldn’t get furlough, and I wasn’t eligible for any grants, so then it was a matter of, what can I do?”

One of the original Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra founders was Richard Noel Middleton, the great-grandfather of the Duchess of Cambridge, Mr Crick said.

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