Sussex Symphony Orchestra play Arundel for the first time

Sussex Symphony Orchestra make their Arundel debut with a cathedral concert on Saturday, November 9 at 7.30pm.

Under the title The New World in Arundel, they will perform: Mendelssohn – Overture, The Hebrides (Fingal’s Cave); Britten – Suite on English Folk Tunes (A Time There Was) Op 90; and Dvorak – Symphony No 9 in E Minor

The concert also features The Sunken Ballroom, a new work commissioned by the SSO from Sussex composer Paul Lewis.

As orchestra founder and conductor Mark Andrew James explains: “Paul is a very prolific composer, now just outside Lewes. He writes a lot for TV and film. A lot of his stuff is children’s music that you will know without actually knowing that it is his.

“He composed for us the Sussex Symphony Overture, and now, for our 20th anniversary, we have got an Arts Council grant to commission a brand-new piece for every concert we do this year. Paul has written this one for us called The Sunken Ballroom.

“The West Pier (at Brighton) is the inspiration. His mum used to play banjo with a little ladies’ group on the West Pier. We are using the very same banjo in the performance.

“His piece is full of imagination and humour and so many themes that everyone will enjoy.”

Mark added: “We are the Sussex Symphony Orchestra, and we play all parts of Sussex and beyond, but this is actually our first outing to Arundel.”

Part of the reason is the relative smallness of its cathedral. If they played with full choir and orchestra, there wouldn’t be much space left for the audience, Mark said.

“But this time, we are doing a straight orchestral concert.”

As he says, it is all part of spreading their wings: “We are wanting to spread the word about the orchestra. We feel that we really have got to the point where we have to get out there. We have already got a date booked for next year for Arundel.”

Their progress owes much to the strength of the orchestra’s management committee, Mark said: “They are all unpaid volunteers, and what we get in the management committee is all the experience that they have in their outside lives. We have got graphic designers that do the programmes, and Hannah, our chair, has got a BA in arts management. It’s an amazing cooperation that we have – though more and more we are depending on ticket sales. But we have a small but growing band of friends of the orchestra, and we have got a few sponsors now.

“I am an oboist by trade and profession, and when I came down to live with my partner in Brighton, I realised that there was not an orchestra that was totally representative of all the talents that we had in the area. There were smaller orchestras and ensembles, but not one that was fully representative.”

Mark decided to include both East and West Sussex within the new orchestra’s area: “It means that we have got a wider base from which to invite our players, and it gives us a wider choice of where to play. If you compartmentalise, then you are restricting yourself.

“But over the last couple of years, we have had a dynamic change of management committee. That’s down to Hannah geeing us all up. In the beginning, I was a one-man band. I was doing everything, but when I saw how successful it was becoming, I started thinking that I can’t do all this on my own any more. We needed to cement a proper management structure, and that’s what we have done in the past three years or so.”

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