Monday, 3 March 2008

The end of the 'South West' line?

The South West Sinfonietta was formed in 1993, as a chamber-sized orchestra capable of playing the classical, and early romantic repertoire. The late Derek Kitt (shown at the back of the picture above) was its conductor and artistic director for most of the intervening years, and the orchestra certainly built up a good reputation throughout Devon and Cornwall.

The arrival on the scene of the Ten Tors Orchestra, some four or five years later, fired a significant shot across SWS's bows - the TTO later came under the umbrella of Peninsula Arts, the local Arts provision for the University of Plymouth, so it was able to buy in the very best players it could afford from a much wider circle, and, of course, pay them accordingly, and promptly.

The SWS then rather fell between two stools on the local scene. It could not really compete at the same level as the TTO in playing the classical/early romantic works, and whilst Plymouth Symphony Orchestra is an amateur outfit, and a very good one to boot, SWS was never going to be able to resource a much larger orchestra to compete with PSO either!

When Derek sadly passed away suddenly, a few years back, violist, Tim Boulton, was invited to take over the baton. Further concerts ensued, and whilst clearly there was a forward thrust once more in terms of music-making, audiences were dwindling, money (short at the best of times) didn't seem to be spent wisely, with the eventual result that its Concert Manager, Jeanie Moore, has decided to call it a day as from the end of this month.

I have it on good authority that yesterday's concert all the way down in Penzance may well be the SWS's last, as a full orchestra - there is one more scheduled at Kelly College in a week or so, but this is a strings-only concert. I haven't heard anything official, nor had I, in fact, had any press release on the 'final' concert, so perhaps, rather like a football club, a wealthy benefactor might turn up and bale them out - I hope so, especially for Derek's sake, as he and I go back many years in the education field in Cornwall, as well as both gigging for the late Roy Saunders, a bandleader from Saltash.

Should I hear anything 'official', rest assured, it'll go into my next available weekly Thursday classical column in the Herald without fail!

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