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BACK THEN: The then mayor of Lowestoft Stephen Ardley joins members of the RPO at London Liverpool Street station in April 2005 for a special Marina Fanfare which marked the start of the orchestra's residency.
By MARK BOGGIS
Friday, February 14, 2014
It has been described here in Waveney as the “jewel in the district’s crown”.
But 10 years on, the ongoing partnership between Lowestoft and the renowned Royal Philharmonic Orchestra shows no sign of waning.
Back in 2004, the Marina Theatre secured a major cultural coup by becoming an official “home” of the RPO which had enjoyed an enviable reputation worldwide since its formation in 1946.
The residency was soon making national headlines, with the theatrical newspaper, The Stage, proclaiming “RPO Sets Sail For Lowestoft”. But any suggestion this would be a brief marriage has been long since been dismissed, and it has led to a local audiences enjoying a series of successful concerts featuring about 200 works by a range of composers.
Meanwhile, the RPO has become involved in a number of educational and community projects in the Lowestoft area – developing relationships with many local groups and schools that has proved equally rewarding to its members.
The residency – one of only three outside London – was celebrated in April 2005 when the then mayor of Lowestoft, Stephen Ardley, was even given the honour of officially bringing the RPO to the area.
The occasion was marked with a special Marina Fanfare, composed by Gareth Wood, performed by members of the orchestra’s brass section on the balcony of Liverpool Street railway station – a performance repeated at Lowestoft station later that same day.
The RPO’s first concert at the Marina later that month – featuring cellist Julian Lloyd Webber performing works by Elgar, Holst and Tchaikovsky – was a sell-out, and it was followed by three more in 2005.
Since then, the link has been hailed as one of the most successful of its kind in the UK, bringing a host of renowned conductors, musicians and soloists to Lowestoft – including Lesley Garrett, Jack Leibeck, Tasmin Little, Derek Han, Wynne Evans, Chloe Hanslip and Piers Lane.
Praising the atmosphere he encountered at the opening gala concert, Julian Lloyd Webber said: “I urge all music lovers in Lowestoft and the surrounding area to join in and support the wonderful, world class series of concerts given by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Marina Theatre.
“I played at the very first of this series back in 2005 and was entranced by the theatre’s intimacy and excellent acoustics.”
The Marina Theatre’s relationship with the RPO is now a cornerstone of its programme, attracting audiences not just from Waveney but from across the region and beyond.
Over the years, the orchestra has performed a variety of works by composers as diverse as Shostakovich and Rodgers and Hammerstein, and last autumn it helped celebrate the centenary of the birth of Lowestoft-born composer Benjamin Britten.
The Marina’s ongoing association with the orchestra has also enabled it to build links with the community and the theatre and RPO are justly proud of the educational work that has seen professional musicians working with pre-school children, local choirs and, most recently, people who have faced homelessness.
More than 4,000 schoolchildren across the region have had the opportunity to watch the RPO in rehearsals, with the project even featuring in a television documentary series aimed at motivating teachers.
Plans are currently in the pipeline for a new education project commemorating the centenary of the First World War later this year.
The RPO’s nine years in residency have been supported by Waveney District Council, the Orchestras Live charity and the Marina Theatre Trust but, since the start of the series, it has not had any major funding, and it has been primarily dependent on public support through the sale of tickets.
This month marks an historic tenth year of residency for the RPO at the Marina Theatre, with the first concert next Friday featuring pianist Freddy Kempf celebrating the works of Beethoven.
■ To book your seats, ring the theatre box office on 01502 533200 or visit www.marinatheatre.co.uk