Burgess Hill Symphony Orchestra conductor turns 40

Michael Stefan Wood

The program will include Khachaturian – Adagio of Spartacus; Wagner – Tannhäuser Overture; Saint-Saëns – Cello concerto; and Beethoven – Symphony No. 5: a fine way to mark Michael’s four decades as a conductor.

“I feel very proud. Being a conductor is a wonderful privilege because you share wonderful music with people, but also get to know that music. You go into this music and learn what the composer was trying to do and what he was trying to convey, which to some extent is about interpretation. But it’s an organic, ever-evolving process, and working creatively with an orchestra as an instrument is just wonderful.

Register to our daily newsletter SussexWorld Today

“But above all, it’s been fantastic to work with such lovely, enthusiastic and eager people to play, and over the years we’ve also built up a really good following to support us.”

It is also gratifying to see that over the past two years the orchestra has shown its strength in surviving the pandemic: “And the lovely thing is that we are growing all the time. Since we resumed the concerts, six or seven new members have joined us, which is great.

The world has changed enormously since Michael’s first concert as conductor of the Burgess Hill Symphony Orchestra in May 1982. As he says, Margaret Thatcher was then Prime Minister and the Falklands War was unfolding: ” It seems a long time ago in many ways and really it has covered the majority of my working life.

It’s an even more impressive service record when you look at the stats Michael has compiled.

“I conducted 96 concerts with the orchestra and we did 240 different works including 28 overtures, 38 concertos and 55 symphonies, including all the Beethovens and all the Brahms.

“In all, I have conducted works by 85 different composers and their popularity in terms of concert appearances is 12 from Brahms and Dvorak and Elgar; 14 by Wagner; 16 by Haydn and Tchaikovsky; 26 by Beethoven; and 44 by Mozart.

“I was a horn player and had been playing it for some time.

“And then I ran into a flautist I knew at a chip shop who told me there was a new orchestra starting in Burgess Hill and they were looking for horn players.

“I took my horn and my violin and while unpacking my horn, I noticed that there were already two other players, so I put that back, took out my violin and sat down. And this was my first introduction.

“It was 1979 and it was started by Stephen Evans who was literally bringing together a group of musicians.

“It wasn’t a formal organization and he paid for everything himself, so I said to him, ‘Why don’t you create a proper organization with a constitution and a committee to run it’, and that’s what he and I did.

“I was the first president and Steve led from 1979 to 1982.

“He had various other plans and he moved away from the area as well. He dropped out in 1982 and in May 1982 I did my first gig as the new chief conductor.

“I had led school bands and things like that, but that was it, so it was a big leap of faith.

“I got into it, but it was a lot of hard work.

“The orchestra is made up of a few amateur musicians but also very experienced former professionals.

“You have a lot of people who have experience working with a lot of conductors and some of them at a very high level and it was quite daunting to stand in front of a lot of very demanding people to start with!”

About Roy B. Westling

Check Also

Regional Orchestra conductor Beatrice retires after May concert | Local News

John Grinvalds Editor of the Daily Sun Kevin Boesiger will wave his baton for the …