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Hastings Philharmonic Choir, now part of Hastings Philharmonic. Photo: Peter Mould (

Hastings Philharmonic Choir, now part of Hastings Philharmonic. Photo: Peter Mould (

Hastings Philharmonic performs Beethoven’s choral symphony to announce its arrival

Beethoven’s Ninth is the work chosen to present to the world the newly formed Hastings Philharmonic – a permanent bonding of the well-known Hastings Philharmonic Choir with the Hastings Philharmonic Orchestra, which has its base in the Ensemble OrQuesta. A third component, Hastings Philharmonic Chamber Choir, will enable this local musical powerhouse to further expand its repertoire and ambitions. David Pullen looks forward to the first performance.

So here is further proof that Hastings is on the way to recapturing some of its glamour and dynamism – a fully professional philharmonic orchestra has been brought in alongside the well established Hastings Philharmonic Choir to form Hastings Philharmonic.

As so often the drive and imagination comes from an individual, in this case the immensely popular artistic director Marcio da Silva, who, since taking over the choir, has done much to reassure audiences that there is much new music to discover in the classical tradition – and it doesn’t have to be bombastic or unintelligible.

And on Saturday night, we are in for a real treat that unites Mr da Silva’s determination to persuade audiences to see classical music as a living tradition, with contemporary works alongside the classics: a rare live performance of Beethoven’s mighty Ninth, the Choral Symphony, which ends with his passionate setting of the poem Ode to Joy by Schiller – pleading the cause of “Men throughout the world to be brothers together under the wings of Joy”, and to “Free all held in Custom’s rigid rings.”

Often people are daunted by two problems with performing this totemic work, premiered just over two centuries ago. To begin with, you have to assemble the performers required who measure up to the demands made on them, starting with a large orchestra capable of presenting the first three movements forcefully enough to match the massive last movement with its four soloists and full-blooded choir appealing to us as Freunde – friends – to feel the joy. On Saturday we are promised 150 musicians to give this great work its full impact.

Marcio da Silva, Hastings Philharmonic's charismatic artistic director.

Marcio da Silva, Hastings Philharmonic’s charismatic artistic director.

The second dilemma is that this is a very powerful work, but it lasts for just over an hour, and yet there is no established work that is normally performed on the same evening. Which is where the Hastings Philharmonic have come up with a very imaginative solution – they have commissioned a new choral work by a young composer which uses the forces assembled for the Choral, and sets equally powerful poetry, but focused around the centenary of what was, for Britain, the most monumental battle of the First World War – the battle of the Somme.

Philip O’Meara describes his composition No Man as a journey from the no-man’s-land where so many died in a terrible, and pointless, bloodbath in France 100 years ago through to a setting of John Donne’s famous poem No Man Is An Island, drawing on texts by Yeats, Hugo, the Psalms and touching on Schiller’s Ode to Joy.

Now if this brave and imaginative venture is to blossom into something more permanent, we need to be there to hear this marvellous music performed by the Hastings Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra (with additional singers from other choirs in the district) and an international quartet of singers.

I am delighted to hear that Marcio da Silva has the ambitious goal of rekindling the spirit of excellence in classical music in Hastings that prevailed prewar and right up to the 1950s, which brought glory to the White Rock Pavilion (now Theatre) in its early days – at that time Hastings was squarely on the national map as a premier venue for classical music.

This will be the first of a whole new 2016/17 season of classical music for Hastings Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir, which is intended to enhance Hastings’ reputation for excellence in music and ties in neatly with the well-established Hastings International Piano Concerto Competition, as well as promising a really original series of varied concerts which will explore works for smaller choirs and orchestra as well as some major works both familiar and less well-known.

So do get along on Saturday.


Hastings Philharmonic Ludwig van Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, the Choral, in D Minor, Opus 125, and Philip O’Meara’s choral work No Man. White Rock Theatre, White Rock, Hastings TN34 1JX. Saturday 12 November at 7.30pm. Tickets £20 and £10, under 16s £5 (plus booking fee), available from WRT box office (01424 462288) or online.

In addition to the traditional Christmas carol concert at St Mary in the Castle on 18 December, Hastings Philharmonic’s website also lists a further eight concerts up to next July.

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Posted 16:44 Wednesday, Nov 9, 2016 In: Music & Sound

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