The Orchestra was founded in 1979 as the Martlets Sinfonietta. The original conductor was Stephen Evans – still one of the Orchestra’s Vice-Presidents. Stephen was succeeded in 1982 by Mike Wood, our current Conductor.
In 1985 the Orchestra adopted its current venue — St. Andrew’s Church — and became the Burgess Hill Sinfonietta. By the time of its tenth anniversary, the Sinfonietta had performed a range of challenging works, including Beethoven’s 1st Symphony, the Grieg Piano Concerto, Elgar’s Cello Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony. For its tenth anniversary concert, it played Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 and returned to Cimarosa’s Concerto for Oboe and Strings. This piece had been part of the programme for the orchestra’s very first concert, and Stephen Evans returned to conduct this anniversary performance.
Since then, the Orchestra has risen to the challenge of works such as the Bruch Violin Concerto, Holst’s Planets Suite, Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, and the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony. The repertoire has also come to include more adventurous works such as Tannhauser, the Meistersingers, Mahler 1, Bruckner 4, l’Après-Midi d’un Faune, Songs of a Wayfarer, and Nuages et Fêtes.
The title “Sinfonietta” no longer does justice to the orchestra’s size and repertoire, so in 2000 we changed our name to the Burgess Hill Symphony Orchestra. Our 21stanniversary concert, held on 20th May 2000 before a capacity audience, included Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (The “Choral”) and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20.
Our 30th anniversary concert was held in November 2009. The programme included a piece, “Ritornello”, composed specially for the occasion by Alan Smith. The orchestra’s original conductor, Stephen Evans, was invited to conduct the orchestra for the performance of Vaughan Williams’ Folk Song Suite, which he conducted in the inaugural concert thirty years before.
Our normal concert venue, St Andrew’s Church, is currently being refurbished, so for 2015 we are performing at the King’s Church in Victoria Road, Burgess Hill. This modern venue offers excellent facilities and a warm welcome.
After taking part for three years in the Burgess Hill Fairtrade Festival, the orchestra has for the past two years performed as part of the Burgess Hill Summer Festival in June. These concerts – early on a Sunday evening, in the Festival Marquee – have proved very popular and have brought our music to a new audience.
We see the orchestra as part of the local community, and continue to look for ways in which we can help everyone both to enjoy and to create classical music.