Music: Passing the baton

Music-making is undeniably an activity for all ages: from mother-and-baby music classes to U3A swing bands, from child prodigy violinists to 90-year-old conductors still on the podium.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 16th June 2017, 10:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 21st June 2017, 2:21 pm
Hallam Sinfonia in action in March 2015
Hallam Sinfonia in action in March 2015

Why then does classical music have such a grey-haired image?

The Hallam Sinfonia has been working hard on building audiences, offering annual family concerts, and an informal friendly atmosphere, but has also been thinking about the image the orchestra itself presents.

Promoting the younger generation has been a particular feature of the current Hallam Sinfonia season.

Concerts have included an informative chat 
about Mahler followed by a Q&A session, with two young Sheffield University PhDs. The sinfonia also hosted a talk/performance illustrating and deconstructing possibly the most famous piece of music ever written – Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony – with Dr Sophie Redfern, music lecturer at Sheffield University.

A shake-up among the principal string players at the next concert will offer further scope for younger musicians, with the violin sections being led by Rotherham violinist and teacher, Hannah Thompson-Smith, who is 35, and 21-year-old Sheffield University architecture student, Jacob George.

“What an exciting opportunity to lead the orchestra in such a demanding work!” says Hannah.

“My two children, Emerson, aged five, and Myah-Jayne, three, have really got into Shostakovich but sometimes complain ‘Mummy, stop practising, it’s too noisy!’ – I agree!”

The concert is to be guest conducted by 27-year-old Sheffield-based musician George Morton, conductor, arranger, teacher and regular orchestra’s trumpet section.

He says: “I’m thrilled to be conducting Shostakovich’s extraordinary Tenth Symphony.

“The work is exciting, exhilarating and somewhat exhausting to perform; it’s a privilege to share the 
platform with the fantastic musicians of Hallam Sinfonia.”

I’ve played in the trumpet section since before I ever started conducting and have learned much from fellow HS musicians and our Principal Conductor, Luis-Bassa, so it’s a real pleasure to be conducting for this concert.

“Shostakovich 10 is one of those pieces any conductor would love to conduct.

“The ferocious second movement is making me the most nervous – to try and get across the tension, anger and exasperation at break-neck speed without slipping a beat... exciting times!

The concert will take place at High Storrs School on Saturday, June 24 at 7.30pm.

The programme will also include an atmospheric work for strings by young composer Gareth Widdowson, who happens to be the orchestra’s chair and principal percussionist, and Humperdinck’s beautiful overture to Hansel and Gretel.

Tickets are £10 adults, £8 concessions, under-25s free, and are available at the door or online at

For more information, go to