Seaside circus finds new top attraction

STEPHEN PULLINGER Yarmouth's Hippodrome Circus turned a fresh page in its rich history on Saturday night when it hosted the world-acclaimed Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for the first time.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

Its stage has been trodden by entertainment legends from music hall star Lillie Langtry to risqué comic Max Miller and it was even once a venue for a political rally by the last Liberal prime minister David Lloyd George.

But Yarmouth's Hippodrome Circus turned a fresh page in its rich history on Saturday night when it hosted the world-acclaimed Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) for the first time.

The packed audience enjoyed a varied programme of popular classics with the concert culminating in the premiere of a new work, written and performed by local young musicians who had attended sessions run over the previous two weekends by the RPO's workshop leader Tim Steiner.

The concert - the first in the town by a major orchestra in more than a quarter of a century - marked the beginning of a three-year collaboration between the RPO and Yarmouth's arts develop-ment agency SeaChange Arts.

In an initiative partly funded by the borough council and the National Lottery, members of the London-based orchestra will be working with young musicians in local schools and youth clubs and there is likely to be a further concert in the town.

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Hippodrome owner Peter Jay said: “There have been a few orchestras here in the past but not since we took over in 1979. We have done jazz, classical and pop stuff, but it is a fantastic space for every-thing.”

The concert - which had been fully booked in advance - fitted in with his plans to gradually extend the use of the listed venue from the traditional summer and Christmas circuses.

He said it was somehow fitting that Handel's Water Music was on the programme as the orchestra was sitting above the 70,000 gallons of water used in the Hippodrome's water feature when the circus arena was transformed into a pool. “I promised we would not sink the ring on this occasion,” he said.

James Hutchinson, the RPO's head of education and community, said the orchestra's reaction to playing in the Hippodrome had been “fantastically positive”.

“It is a bit like a mini-Albert Hall and it gives the impression the audience is almost sitting on top of the orchestra. It makes for a really dynamic concert,” he said.

Penny Wright, SeaChange Arts' marketing officer, said they were thrilled to have achieved their long-held ambition of bringing a major orchestra back to Yarmouth.

She said the programme of projects planned with the RPO would have an important emphasis on reaching out to a wider community that would not normally have access to music.

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