The Orchestra was founded in 1979. The original conductor Stephen Evans, still one of the Orchestra’s Vice-Presidents, was succeeded in 1982 by Mike Wood, our current Conductor. Mike is well known throughout Burgess Hill, having taught many residents during his time at Oakmeeds School and through his association with several local clubs and societies, both as a leader and a performer. For his services to the local community, Mike was awarded the British Empire Medal in 2014. Our new President is Katie Derham, who presents the BBC Proms (and featured on Strictly last autumn).
The Orchestra has always had a very loyal local audience and this is reflected in the number of Patrons that support us. The numbers currently stand at 54 personal and seven Business Patrons. Since celebrating its 30th Anniversary in 2009, the BHSO has begun to branch out more into the community. Moving beyond our traditional two concerts a year we took part in the Burgess Hill Fairtrade Festival for a few years. For the past three years we have performed as part of the Burgess Hill Summer Festival in June. These concerts have proved very popular and have brought our music to a new audience.
Our most recent venture has been to team up with Ensemble Reza to form a Community Orchestra. This project gives grown-ups who have learned an instrument but haven’t played it in years, and school children who are still actively learning, the opportunity to take part in a full orchestra. The latest Community Orchestra project finished with a concert at Oathall School on 3 July. Another project is planned for this autumn.
For next year’s Festival, we would like to run a ‘performance in a day’ involving both singers and musicians. We would expect this would be a very popular, high-profile, event as there are a number of local choirs who we would work with.
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. However, both the Summer Festival concerts and the Community Orchestra are currently loss-making activities. We are looking to form a partnership with a BHBPA member who wishes to be publicly associated with the Orchestra, and help us to meet these costs by providing suitable sponsorship. If you would like to discuss this possibility informally, please get in touch with the Chair Richard Light on 01444 232067.