- Christchurch Symphony
- Established: 1975
Christchurch Symphony is an artistic icon of the City of Christchurch in the beautiful South Island of New Zealand.
Christchurch is a city of approximately 360,000 inhabitants and it is fiercely proud of its orchestra, which has been described as “a modern miracle, boxing way above its weight”. Reviewers and visiting artists consistently marvel over the innovation of its programmes and the quality of its playing.
Christchurch has had an orchestra for nearly 50 years. Christchurch Symphony had its origins in the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra Incorporated, which was formed in 1975. It is now managed by a Trust, governed by a Board of Trustees, and it is registered for charitable purposes.
Christchurch Symphony is the South Island’s major professional orchestra, retaining tenured players. It employs a Chief Executive and five other full-time staff, who are assisted by other part-time staff in specific roles.
The orchestra itself, comprises of 39 tenured players, augmented by up to another eighty part-time professionals, who are hired as required for specific performances.
Its Concertmaster, Jan van den Berg, formerly played in both the Hong Kong Philharmonic and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and has been with the Christchurch Symphony for ten years.
Sir William Southgate, formerly the orchestra’s Principal Guest Conductor, has been awarded the esteemed rank of Conductor Laureate.
In 2002, the Christchurch Symphony appointed its first Music Director, Marc Taddei, to oversee the programming and artistic development of the orchestra.
Soundly governed, managed and musically focussed, the Christchurch Symphony has recently made rapid strides in the quality of its performances, well received by critics, audiences, sponsors and funders alike.
Between 25 and 75 players are used for each concert, which typically involves 4 – 5 evening / weekend rehearsals, and a Saturday night performance in the Christchurch Town Hall Auditorium, whcih has a capacity of almost 2200.
Both New Zealand and international artists are commissioned as soloists and conductors to augment the regular appearances as conductor of the Music Director and Conductor Laureate.
The Christchurch Symphony is amongst the most versatile orchestras in New Zealand. It covers symphonic repertoire from baroque to modern 21st century commissions, pops, jazz, music from current popular shows and family entertainment. It also runs educational programmes such as Cool Sounds for primary school children, and Kids to Concerts for secondary school pupils.
Christchurch Symphony presents its own programme of four series of concerts a year. In 2007 it is presenting nine Lamb & Hayward Masterworks concerts (classical music), six AMI Insurance Proms concerts (lighter classical and family entertainment), four City Series concerts (eclectic mix of musical styles, from opera to jazz to cabaret) and four Sunday afternoon concerts in ChristChurch Cathedral. Artists performing with the symphony this year include Jennifer Ward-Lealand, Elizabeth Wallfisch, Diedre Irons, Nikolai Demidenko, John Chen, Elvira Fatykhova, Carmel Carroll, and Jeffrey Grice.
Most Christchurch Symphony concerts are performed in the main auditorium of the Christchurch Town Hall – indeed the orchestra is the single biggest user of the Town Hall. This year, we will also introduce Sunday afternoon concerts in ChristChurch Cathedral.
Christchurch Symphony also provides the orchestral accompaniment for the Christchurch City Choir, the Royal New Zealand Ballet and other local groups such as the Civic Music Council, and South Island organisations such as Nelson Summer Festival.
Additionally, Christchurch Symphony performs twice each year in Hagley Park as part of the Christchurch City Councils “Summertimes Festival” providing the accompaniment to Showbiz Canterbury for its mid February Starry Nights, and Classical Sparks, the Summertimes finale, to an audience generally in excess of 80,000 people!
The Symphony also tours concerts regularly to other South Island centres, such as Timaru, Ashburton, Greymouth, Hokitika, Nelson and Blenheim. Feedback from audiences suggests that these tours are highly regarded and very much welcomed.
Christchurch Symphony also backs artists such as Diana Krall, Cliff Richard, Shapeshifter, and Andrea Boccelli. From time to time national and international companies also engage the Orchestra for a special event or private celebration.
The orchestra has recorded music for movie sound tracks and produced its own Live at the Proms, and Landmarks CDs, both of which have received critical acclaim. In October 2003 Sony Music recorded Bic Runga Live in Concert with the Christchurch Symphony, and within 2 weeks of release this CD had gone double platinum. The Christchurch Symphony is the only orchestra in New Zealand to have recorded the full Beethoven Piano Concerto Series with Diedre Irons and Marc Taddei.
So as you can see, Christchurch Symphony has an extremely wide target market with audiences of all age groups and musical tastes.