Q&A with Charles Peebles

As the conductor of the Morley Chamber Orchestra Charles Peebles has led the orchestra through numerous performances, and will be taking the stage again at their forthcoming performance on the 19 November.

Here we find out more about Charles and the music the orchestra will be performing.

How did you go about selecting music for this concert?

In this instance James Macmillan’s orchestral piece ‘Tryst has long been on my hit list of pieces to do with the Chamber Orchestra.  It is quite a substantial piece originally written for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra back in 1989. He was already well under way at that stage – he was 30 – but his breakthrough work The Confessions of Isobel Gowdie, written for the Proms the following year, was just round the corner.Tryst has quite a spectacular feel about it for a piece for chamber orchestra and not surprisingly, I have always thought anticipates much that was to come and make such an impact in Gowdie.

Delius is about as far away from Tryst as you can get, and the Haydn will clear the air afterwards. Not his best known symphony by any means, which is rather the point.

What is the significance of the composers to Morley?

None of this music has any connection with Morley other than it is very much the kind of programme, with adjustment for taste and era, that might have been presented by Morley at any other stage of its history. They are all serious works by very major composers that may not be amongst their best known, but will bounce off one another and prove hugely entertaining.  Even a serious music lover will encounter something new in ground he may think he or she already knows well. So I hope the ‘esprit’ of Morley music making will be buzzing on this evening.

What relevance did these works have when written and what do they have today?

Sir James Macmillan, as he now is, is really only in mid career. He is writing copiously and genuinely has a real public following.  He is a figure who is both cutting edge and challenging, breaking new ground, who also absolutely has a wide audience, unusually so for a contemporary composer. Evidence of his relevance is all around us.

Haydn too was very popular and not just among the cognoscenti of his day. Symphony no. 54 demonstrates this rather well as although it was written in 1774, we know it was a piece he went back to on account of sheer demand, as he made some revisions to the orchestration, rather unusually for him.
Delius was never cutting edge and probably not relevant any more now or then, back in the early 20th century. In a way that hardly matters, his sound world and expressive message is unique and timeless. You could describe it as being outside the notion of ‘relevance’, which is perhaps why people value it as they do.

If you are not familiar with attending orchestral performance what can you expect?

Come with an open mind.  None of these pieces is forbiddingly long and they are very different and all memorable.  We hope they will bounce off each other.

What is the history of the Chamber Orchestra at Morley?

When the talkies came in at the movies in the early 1930s cinema orchestras were not needed any more.  Then Director of Music Sir Michael Tippett founded an orchestra so that unemployed cinema orchestral players could keep their hand in back in 1932.  Things have changed over time, but that was where it started.

As far as orchestral playing is concerned, things moved on from the ex-cinema musicians and there was something of a heyday of orchestral playing at Morley, probably from sometime in the 1950s.

Finally, who is the orchestra made up of?

Our members are students at Morley. They have studied music and could have been professional musicians but chose to follow other professions, some quite interesting.  Current members include doctors and architects, a graphic designer, some teachers and civil servants and one of our clarinettists was Andy Murray’s tennis coach!

Come and hear the Morley Chamber Orchestra perform on Thursday 19 November at 19:45 in the Emma Cons Hall.

As the conductor of the Morley Chamber Orchestra Charles Peebles has led the orchestra through numerous performances, and will be taking the stage again at their forthcoming performance on the 19 November.

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