SPO in the IOM

Isle of Man trip in May 2014

The orchestra visited the Isle of Man in May 2014 in response to an invitation to take part in the Island of Culture festival. Jennifer Nicks planted the initial seed for us to join the Isle of Man Symphony Orchestra in a combined performance, as she hails from the Island. Her mother is a guiding light of the IOMSO and we recognised her at once!

Most players and families travelled across to the Island by Sea Cat, Manannan, having left Slaithwaite at 7.30 am on Friday, on a coach with a driver whose total commitment to having everything run like clockwork was little short of driven! Those players with other commitments joined us on Saturday morning via Ronaldsway Airport, our conductor Ben Ellin being one of these, making the Saturday rehearsal by the skin of his teeth after various overnight flights and taxis from his Friday engagement in Poland. The island gradually filled up so that all around the town of Douglas as members explored, they regularly encountered one another in little groups relaxing outside ice cream parlours and coffee shops in the beautiful weather.

The orchestra was treated to a warm welcome from the organisers, when we were driven to a particularly beautiful spot called Creg-ny-Baa on the island for a buffet reception and bar, then to the hotels which hosted our stay. The rehearsal on Friday night, during which the orchestras introduced themselves to one another, was taken by the Isle of Man conductor, Maurice Powell, who took us through our paces.

We were to have our first sight of the elegant and well appointed Royal Hall Villa Marina in its imposing surroundings on Saturday afternoon. What an experience it was playing the Holst Planets suite in its entirety, and with, for once, the full complement of brass and woodwind and double string section! Also played were works by local composers including Slaithwaite’s own Haydn Wood’s Manx Rhapsody and Arthur Butterworth’s Ragnarök (originally composed for the Manx Youth Orchestra). The Fantasy-Overture on Maugold’s Head and Song of the Southern Hills were both premières from IOM composers J E Quayle and Charles Guard, who was present at the performance.

In addition to the thrill of the concert, which was broadcast on local radio, the orchestra gained much insight into the beautiful island with its relaxed and tranquil atmosphere. Many people made the very best of their time there, rising early for walks and photography before breakfast and continuing late into the evening. The local bars and pubs were appraised and a small select group was fortunate to find the best Chinese restaurant on the island for their evening meal before the concert. Visits were made to local sites of interest, such as the impressive Laxey Wheel, via the distinctive and efficient Manx Electric railway. All ages were well represented from Lynda Dunn’s twelve week old new baby to the perhaps more sober and adult members of the orchestra who stayed at a beautiful Esplanade hotel. Clearly the placing of members in different hotels had been carefully thought through, taking into consideration their age range, capacity for alcohol and so on: notably, the SPO principal cello had her own apartment and front door!

The beauty and strength of this orchestra is the camaraderie which exists through the huge range of ages and backgrounds, and this visit was a golden opportunity for members to meet and continue to bond with colleagues from different sections of the orchestra.

Read more on the Isle of Man Symphony Orchestra website

by Christine Stanton (viola)