Sneak preview of Suffolk’s new professional orchestra

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SUFFOLK has a new professional orchestra and it’s first ‘mini’ concert will be free.

The Suffolk Philharmonic is the idea of Rattlesden conductor Leslie Olive and though its first full-scale concert is on May 23 at St Edmundsbury Cathedral, four members will hold a lunchtime performance in Rattlesden Pavilion next Thursday.

The day will be a taster of the activities the orchestra plans in addition to large concerts. In the morning, the musicians will launch a tw- day education project at Beyton Middle School.

Mr Olive said: “The concert has been designed to make it accessible to people who don’t get to big events. People in Rattlesden are doing a wonderful job: they’re arranging a lunch for the people attending and will give lifts for people without transport.”

The concert is free and open to anyone but tickets must be booked with Carole Gooderham on 01449 736631.

Mr Olive added: “We hope to be able to replicate this across Suffolk. The plan is that the Suffolk Philharmonic doesn’t just do the big performances but works within the community.”

The orchestra grew from a chance remark Mr Olive made while conducting Handel’s Messiah in Surrey. He told the orchestra’s leader, Julian Milone, that he had a vision to create a professional orchestra in Suffolk and the violinist said he would certainly come and play. From that was formed a core of musicians from a major London orchestra. The hope is to eventually have enough work to be able to contract musicians instead of hiring them per performance.

Mr Olive said they already had three invitations to play before they have even performed once.

The orchestra has received a £10,000 Lottery grant from the Arts Council for England and has backing from St Edmundsbury Financial Services, Bid4Bury, the Britten Pears Foundation and the Alfred Williams Trust. Many smaller companies are sponsoring individual musicians.

The cathedral concert, called The Lark Ascending, features that Ralph Vaughan Williams’ piece plus Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro for Strings and Benjamin Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings.

Tickets for the concert are available from The Apex, Bury St Edmunds, 01284 758000 and at Also visit