Epic concert to celebrate landmark anniversary for Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus

Conductor Matthew Andrews and the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra settle in for their rehearsal for t

Conductor Matthew Andrews and the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra settle in for their rehearsal for their epic concert with the Norwich Philharmonic Chorus at the Norfolk Showground Arena, without their full staging which isn't in place yet. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus are celebrating 175 years of music making by tuning up for their biggest concert to date. EMMA KNIGHTS finds out more.

It is an epic concert that has been two years in the planning, and this Saturday Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus will take to the stage for a very special performance of Mahler Symphony of a Thousand.

The monumental event - the climax of Norwich Phil's 175th anniversary celebrations - will be the biggest show in the organisation's history.

Part of the Norfolk Showground has been transformed into a unique concert hall for the grand occasion, with a stage for 500 performers and seats for an audience of more than 2,200 people.

And joining the Norwich Phil in the performance of the great symphony will be a number of soloists and other musical groups from across Norfolk.

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Michael Nutt, chairman of the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra sub committee, said it would be an unforgettable experience for both performers and audience members alike.

'It's a mega concert, the first time anything like this has been done there. It must be the biggest ever indoor classical concert in Norfolk. There will have been bigger outdoor ones but indoors there's no venue bigger than this, it's huge,' he said.

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Norwich Phil's home since 1841 has traditionally been St Andrew's Hall in Norwich, but Mr Nutt said the sheer number of performers needed to perform Mahler's Symphony No. 8 meant that there was a need to create a bigger venue for this celebratory concert.

He said they had chosen to perform Mahler for the organisation's anniversary because of the amazing response when Norwich Phil performed Mahler's second symphony, known as the Ressurection Symphony, at St Andrew's Hall for the 150th anniversary of the Austrian composer's birth in 2010.

'It was amazing, we could have sold the concert twice over,' he said.

Mr Nutt, who plays the French horn in the orchestra, said Saturday's concert would give classical music fans a unique chance to hear the epic 8th Symphony which is rarely performed because of the vast number of musicians needed.

'People love the scale of Mahler and you very rarely get to hear a live performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 8 because of the scale. It's certainly the only time we have ever played it. It's an exceptional opportunity for people to come and hear it,' he said.

'It's extraordinary music. It's very powerful. It's classical music on an epic scale.

It has just about everything you can imagine - orchestral writing, choral writing, solo voices, the children's choir, keyboards in the orchestra, even mandolins are scored.

'It's got all these different elements of sound which at times combine to create massive volume but also at other times are very delicately used.

'You have wonderful textures in the music. It will blow your mind away. It's a terrific piece of music and I think people will be really entranced by the experience.'

Mahler Symphony Of A Thousand is at the Norfolk Showground Arena on Saturday, May 21 from 8pm. The performance will last about 90 minutes with no interval. Tickets £12-£28. To book, visit www.nnfestival.org.uk or call 01603 766400.

The show has been supported by Arts Council England, South Norfolk Council, the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association and the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

For more about Norwich Phil, visit www.norwichphil.org.uk

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