About Worcester Philharmonic Orchestra
History of the orchestra: Worcester Philharmonic Orchestra: 1972 – today
Worcester Philharmonic Orchestra, based in Pershore Abbey, have become the area’s most popular orchestra, with sixty dedicated professional and non-professional musicians from Worcestershire and the surrounding counties. The Orchestra has a growing reputation of working with internationally renown and aspiring soloists with four principal afternoon concerts per season in the beautiful surroundings of Pershore Abbey.
Worcester Philharmonic Orchestra has its origins in an evening class formed by Worcester City Education Authority in the 1950’s. It played a wide range of music in its early years, performing with distinction at Music Festivals in Cheltenham and Hereford. The first conductor was Peter Brockway with Arthur Bancroft as leader.
As the Orchestra developed, a committee was set up and, although still under the control of the Education Authority, the Orchestra began to operate more independently, giving many successful concerts during the late 1960s. During the early years, it was instrumental in raising funds towards the building of the Swan Theatre in Worcester where a seat was endowed.
When the Education Authority decided not to offer an orchestral class for the 1972/73 season the membership independantly re-launched as an Orchestral Society at a public meeting on 27th September 1972, becoming Worcester Concert Orchestra. The sheet music used by the former evening class was donated to the new Society by the Education Authority and Arthur Benoy, Worcestershire County Music Advisor, who had guided the formation of the new Society, accepted an invitation to become the first President.
In 1974, John Taylerson, hitherto a member of the brass section, succeeded Peter Brockway as conductor and worked to continue the Orchestra’s development and to broaden the repertoire.
In 1977, Bella Holt assumed the role of leader upon Arthur Bancroft’s retirement.
In 1980, Eric Holt became conductor and together, the husband and wife team were to guide the orchestra for the next four years. To encourage young people to attend concerts, Eric hit upon the idea of afternoon concerts to be held for the first time, in the Swan Theatre, and to launch a Young Conductor Competition.
Joan Best succeeded to the post of conductor in 1984. Eric Holt was appointed President at this time following the death of the founder President, Mr Benoy.
When Bella Holt retired in 1988, she was succeeded by Sylvia Morris. The following year, 1989 Karl Hepplewhite assumed the role of leader.
A fresh chapter opened in 1996 when the members decided to adopt a new Constitution and to change the Orchestra’s title to Worcester Philharmonic Orchestra with the aim of continuing the policy of encouraging young soloists to perform concerti through membership of Making Music’s Young Artist’s Scheme, and other charity agencies.
In 1997, Dr William Boughton graciously consented to become President upon the retirement of Mr Eric Holt.
In 1998, Joan Best retired after 14 years as a conductor and was succeeded by David Curtis as principal conductor with Tommy Pearson as guest conductor. David Curtis retired in the Summer of 2000 to be succeeded by Neil Aston.
In 2002 actress Patricia Shakesby, accepted the Orchestra’s invitation to become a Vice President. In 2012 Ian Pattison, founding Chairman, trumpeter and assistant conductor was appointed a Vice President on retiring from the role of Chairman after 40 years.
At the conclusion of the 2002/03 season, Karl Hepplewhite retired as leader. Graham Longfils acted as guest leader during the 2003/04 season before being appointed leader for the 2004/05 season, a position he still holds and also that of assistant conductor.
Following the retirement of Chairman Ian Pattison at the 2012 AGM, Vice Chairman Paul Leinthall-Cowman was appointed Chairman. Paul who joined the Orchestra in 1981 held the post of Publicity Secretary from 1981 -1991 and Vice Chairman from 1991-2012. He has been Deputy Leader since September 1991.
Following the untimely death of Ian Pattison in August 2017, founding member and cellist Janet Jarvis was appointed as Vice President.
In 2015 William Boughton retired as President of the Orchestra and international pianist Mark Bebbington accepted the role of President. Mark, a former pupil of Joan Best has performed concertos with the Orchestra over a twenty year period.
The Worcester Philharmonic’s versatile programming features principally classical, light classical and popular music to an ever growing audience who appreciate the unrivalled experience of live music.
Ian Pattison/Paul Cowman.