Interview: Sinfonia Viva

Words: Ian C Douglas
Saturday 09 December 2023
reading time: min, words

With Sinfonia Viva's New Year's Eve performance at the Royal Concert Hall fast approaching, Ian C Douglas chats with Lucy Galliard, their Chief Executive, about all things orchestral... 

Sinfonia Viva NYE Nottingham

So, what can the audience expect on the night?
Our New Year’s Eve Concert is a real celebration of live music and provides a brilliant way to celebrate the end of 2023 and welcome in 2024. This year we have been inspired by music from around the globe, with music from England, Austria, Japan, France, Norway, Argentina, and America. We will have our usual mix of orchestral works – including Bizet’s Carmen, and Elgar’s Pomp & Circumstance March No.2 – and great songs from musicals. This year the Overture to Oklahoma, I Could Have Danced All Night from My Fair Lady, and Summertime from Porgy and Bess will all be featured. We’re also delighted to be welcoming the incredibly talented Francesca Chiejina to join us this year, who’s vocal performances will be a real highlight of the evening.  

Could you tell us more about Sinfonia Viva? 
Sinfonia Viva was established in 1982, and from our administrative base in Derby we provide audiences and communities across the East Midlands, and beyond, with access to fantastic musical opportunities. Every year we have numerous engagements with our work, and we remain the only professional orchestra based in the region.

Our mission is to be an orchestra that is responsive to our audiences and participants and collaborates with them to share creative projects and performances which nurture, challenge, and delight. We are so fortunate to work with some incredibly talented musicians who enable us to achieve this mission throughout our region. Our collaborative approach is in high demand, and in addition to our work in the East Midlands you will regularly find us working with communities in East Yorkshire, Essex and Suffolk.

We are fortunate to receive support from Arts Council England, and have a long standing partnership with Rolls-Royce PLC, but we are incredibly reliant on ticket sales, grants from trusts and foundations, and individual donations to enable us to bring live music and creative projects to our audiences and participants. 

How much work goes into the NYE concert?
We begin planning these concerts in January each year, in fact we’re already thinking about the New Year’s Eve concert 2024! Most of our time is spent thinking about the programme, and which pieces to include and in which order. Our conductor, Nicholas Kok, has been involved in these concerts for over twenty years, so he brings a great insight and very valuable advice in terms of what will and won’t work.

We were once in the middle of a performance when all the lights in the hall went out

What is Sinfonia Viva’s greatest success to date?
It’s hard to identify just one thing, but perhaps our greatest success is how we have enabled thousands of children and young people to become inspired about music and music making through our performances and creative workshops across the East Midlands and beyond.

Has anything ever gone disastrously wrong during a performance?
We’ve never had a major disaster in a concert, I’m relieved to say, but there are always those occasional challenges. We were once in the middle of a performance when all the lights in the hall went out and both the orchestra and audience were plunged into darkness! 

How can people get involved with Sinfonia Viva?
We are giving concerts regularly in Nottingham and Derby, so one way you can support Viva is by coming along to our performances. We also deliver an extensive programme of activity within our communities, where our participants, who include children and young people, people living with dementia, refugees and asylum seekers, and carers, have opportunities to work creatively with our musicians. These projects have music at the heart, but bring so many benefits to these groups, from reducing loneliness and improving mental wellbeing, to empowering individuals and raising aspirations of the young people we work with. Every year we have over 7000 engagements with our creative programmes, all funded through donations, so if you can help us maintain this valuable work please do visit to find out more about our work and how you can help. Further details about all our forthcoming concerts are also on our website.  

Lucy Galliard

What advice would you give a young musician who wants to build a career in classical music?
Firstly, any young musician who wants to make it in classical music needs to practice! Musicians need to be able to play such a wide range of different musical styles and genres in an orchestra, so they need to be totally confident in their skills on their instrument.

Secondly, being a classical musician is so much more than performing on stage. Musicians will be needed to provide inspirational workshops and creative activities within communities, so try everything you can and get as much experience working with different people and groups as possible.

Thirdly, remember that as a musician you have a unique opportunity to bring joy to your audiences and the people you work with in the community. Yes it is hard work becoming a classical musician, but you can have a really positive impact on people’s lives.

What does 2024 hold in store for Sinfonia Viva?
2024 will be another year of concerts and incredible creative projects. Just in the first three months of 2024 we will be working with hundreds of children from Derby Schools in a project exploring the Story of Energy and the impact this has had on our environment, culminating in a performance alongside the orchestra at Derby Theatre. Our Derby Concert series continues, including our inclusive Family Concert Wait…What?! at the Museum of Making, and we will be returning to the Royal Concert Hall with a wonderful programme of music including Faure’s beautiful Requiem where we will be joined by our friends from the Nottingham Harmonic Choir.

Sinfonia Viva will be playing at the Royal Concert Hall on Sunday 31 December 2023

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