Led by South Coast native William Kunhardt, the Arensky Chamber Orchestra (ACO), Britain’s orchestra of revolutionaries, make their South Coast debut in March 2017.

Sea Fever 1

Their first project, Sea Fever, is a classical experience inspired by the ocean. Sea Fever will tour the Cultural Coastal Trail Galleries, with performances at Eastbourne’s Towner Gallery on March 4th, Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion on March 8th, and Hastings’ Jerwood Gallery on March 10th. See seafevertour.com for more. It will be followed by Aulanko, an exploration of Sibelius’s 5th Symphony, at Eastbourne’s new Birley Centre in June. Classical Music. But not as you know it.

The ACO specialises in gripping performance and mind-opening presentation. Its mantra is to make classical music more social, meaningful and dramatic, without losing any of its depth or sincerity. They work with mixologists to invent cocktails inspired by the music, served during concerts. They host pre-concert ‘warm up acts’ and post-concert ‘chamber jams’. They also give ‘live programme notes’ where the orchestra tells the story of the music from the stage. They shun concert halls, preferring clubs, galleries, and urban spaces. The orchestra’s main performances are of Masterpieces in Miniature – large orchestral works reduced for chamber ensembles of 16-20. ‘They allow us to take music out of large, impersonal concert halls and into more intimate, modern settings’ says ACO Director of Collaboration Eddy Hackett. ‘They also reveal fascinating details in the music that get missed in the full versions’. In Sea Fever, the orchestra will perform world premieres of Britten’s Sea Interludes and Debussy’s La Mer ‘in miniature’.

The ACO has recorded for Classic FM, worked with leading soloists like Benjamin Grosvenor and Jennifer Pike, and collaborated with artists ranging from video DJs to dancers. The group’s players are the most indemand young artists in the country. They come from major orchestras, like the Royal Philharmonic and London Symphony, and leading chamber music groups. In 2016, the orchestra enjoyed its second 100% sell-out season in a row, won praise from the critics of the Telegraph, Guardian and Independent, and saw the average age of its listeners fall 10 years below leading statistics. For more, visit www.theaco.co.uk. Building a permanent home in the South East Sea Fever is funded by the Arts Council and aims to build the foundations for a permanent, year-round ACO series in the region. This series will give local artists in many genres opportunities to collaborate with the orchestra, creating a new culture of innovation and cross-arts collaboration throughout the region. In time, it will redefine iconic local landmarks as surprising live music venues.

The orchestra will also bring its education programme to the area. As part of Aulanko, the ACO will run a two-day composition workshop for 150 children – from Grade 8 students to untrained first-timers. They will come from schools in Eastbourne Schools Partnership and the Jerwood Gallery’s Learning Programme. Artistic Director, William Kunhardt – a homegrown talent. The tour is the brainchild of Artistic Director William Kunhardt. Kunhardt grew up and went to school in Eastbourne, winning a music scholarship to Eastbourne College. At 18, he left for London to study violin at the Royal College of Music, quickly transitioning into conducting. In 2014, Kunhardt won the James Conlon Prize at Aspen Festival, Colorado, launching his career internationally. Since then, he has gone on to work with orchestras in Asia, America, and Europe and with soloists like Benjamin Grosvenor and Sarah Chang. However, his passion remains the Arensky Chamber Orchestra, the group he founded as a student in 2009.

Marcio da Silva

A new, fully professional, orchestra? In Hastings? The idea might seem insane in this time of austerity but that would be to ignore the enthusiasm and expertise which Marcio da Silva has brought to Hastings over the last few years. Hastings Philharmonic Orchestra will be the first professional orchestra resident in Hastings for over half a century and his belief in the viability of the project was very evident when we met up just before Christmas.

marcio da silva

‘It’s the next step for the choir’, he said. ‘Over the last few years, since I was invited to become Music Director for Hastings Philharmonic Choir, we have been working hard to improve the quality of the choir and the professionalism of the music-making. Now I feel we are right to expand upon this. I felt drawn to Hastings as it has so many people involved in the arts, and particularly in music – there are so many choirs! – and yet there is no regular music programme here – nothing is co-ordinated. So that is what we are planning to do. Our first full season will have ten concerts ranging from chamber music to full orchestral and choral evenings.  I’m pleased that we have been offered a residency at St Mary in the Castle which will give us a permanent base and we can look to ensuring the right conditions are regularly available so that we don’t have to move staging every-time we hold an event.’

Hastings Philharmonic was launched last November with a concert in the White Rock Theatre. The venue – as the White Rock Pavilion – had been the home of Hastings Municipal Orchestra before the second World War, and so it seemed fitting to launch the new venture where the original had been so successful. Marcio da Silva is certainly not averse to taking risks and the opening concert for the first full season included a new work by Philip O’Meara and Beethoven’s Choral Symphony. The evening easily demonstrated the quality of the musicians he has gathered to form the basis of the ensemble. Many come from outside of Hastings but Marcio is keen to involve professional players who live closer to the town. In particular the number of strings will need to increase as large romantic works are contemplated.

‘I don’t want to chase musicians. I’d be happy to have players who live close to us but I want to ensure they are of the same professional standard as the rest of the players. We need to ensure we are providing high quality playing all the time. We need to ensure people know that they will get the best when they attend any of our published events. Happily those involved so far have a real sense of the adventure we are undertaking and are really committed. As part of our publicity we did a flash-mob performance of part of the Beethoven, and are looking for similar ways to promote ourselves in Hastings. Some events will be streamed to attract a wider audience, and there will be a new inter-active web-site to keep supporters in regular touch with him and plans as they evolve.

Alongside the choir and orchestra, Marcio runs Opera Academies which have been the basis of many of his staged performances. Here he works with young professional singers and brings them to a wider international audience.


Born in Brazil, Marcio da Silva studied singing and graduated from the Conservatoire de Toulouse, and received his Bachelor of Music Degree in orchestral conducting from the Musikhochschule Freiburg, followed by a master’s degree in conducting from the Royal College of Music. He has conducted the Pforzheimkammerorchester in Germany, Orchestra Sinfonica della Magna Grecia in Italy, Horizon Ensemble Bydgoszcz in Poland, Württembergische Philharmonie, Südwestdeutschephilharmonie Konstanz, and Stuttgartkammerorchester in Germany, Nord Tchechische Philarmonie in the Czech Republic,Orquestra Sinfonica de Minas Gerais in Brazil, Eski?ehir Metropolitan Orchestra and Çukurova Symphony Orchestra in Turkey, Kosovo Philharmonic Orchestra and London Symphony Orchestra during a Masterclass with Sir Colin Davis. He was one of the three finalists at the Princess Astrid Conducting Competition in Norway with the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra. He is also the Music Director of the Grange Choral Society, and Ensemble OrQuesta. As Music Director of Woodhouse Opera since 2012 Marcio has conducted and directed over 20 productions of operas ranging from less often performed works like Lully’s Armide to very popular works like Carmen, Magic Flute and La Boheme. His oratorio repertoire is large having conducted most of the main stream romantic and baroque oratorios. He is also a composer, with works including choral a capella pieces, art songs and a Te Deum for soloists, chorus and orchestra. He also sings extensively in chamber music and opera.


As his training and professional work indicates, he is a truly international musician who could easily work full-time anywhere in the world, but has chosen to focus on the South-East of England, intending to make Hastings a hub for a new and exciting approach to musical life.

‘Our first season, which started last November,  is very wide ranging. We opened with the Beethoven, but also with the new choral piece by Philip as I wanted to ensure we are supporting new music and new music-making.

As a total change, and following the traditional Christmas Concert, we have a Bossa Nova evening at The Tabernacle on 13 January. Then two weeks later we have an evening of Bach, Handel and Monteverdi at St Clements. So much variety within such a short time! In March we have a chamber recital, followed in April by Mozart’s Requiem in St Mary in the Castle. The really big challenge of the season comes in May when will perform Brahms’ Second Symphony, followed by a fully staged Don Giovanni at the start of June. But that’s not the end – there is a French chamber music recital and the Durufle Requiem in July before we break for the summer. Just a short break before the 2017-18 season begins – and we’ve big plans for that already, building on this first season.’

We finished our coffee and I left Marcio before he headed off for another rehearsal. If professionalism and enthusiasm are any indicators, Hastings is in for a renaissance and the ghosts of the Municipal Orchestra will be smiling.






John Robinson – poet

John Robinson is a local born poet living in Hastings, East Sussex; his work appears widely in the small press and online literary journals; ‘Cowboy Hats & Railways’ is his latest collection to be published by ‘Scars Publications’; it is available as a free PDF download from ‘Scars publications’ or as a perfect bound edition of the book is available via Amazon at £8.88.


His previous publication ‘When You Hear The Bell, There’s Nowhere To Hide‘ (Holy&intoxicated Publications 2016) carries an introduction by Brooklyn based underground legend poet and novelist John Grochalski;  the poem ‘On My Father’s Side’ was first published as a Broadside by the iconic 48th Street Press NYC; the illustration above is the work of Hastings based artist Jonathan Adie;

I never met
my grandfather
and really didn’t
get to know my
own father
and my daughter
may feel as I;
she never met
her grandfather
and owing to my
own fears and
may feel that I
have distanced
myself ;
not by absence
but through my
quietness and of
not constantly
‘I love you’
if something is
said once and it is
said in truth then
it is said forever
but here it is
in writing for you,
my daughter,
Bonita Rose,
I Love You.


Another time, drunk on wine
and beer and high on hash
and both of us wearing
these ridiculous oversized
Stetsons; he dared me to
climb onto the railway
bridge and swing above the
railway tracks and it didn’t
seem to be a bad suggestion
so I did just that and as I
dangled from the iron bridge
above the tracks, I thought
of a time when I was 8 or 9
when he had passed out
drunk and I didn’t know
where we were and I
couldn’t wake him up and I
shouted and kicked and
punched him with tears in
my eyes and he wouldn’t
wake up and I walked
away leaving him laying
in an alcoholic black-out
and somehow, I can’t
remember how, I made it
home and my mother hugged
me like she had never done
before or since
and my father returned
a couple days later;
and I hung from the bridge
above the railway tracks
and he joined me and we
sang a few songs and our
arms tired and we decided
to climb back onto the
and then we threw our
Stetsons onto the
tracks and went in search
of another bar.

This poem first appeared in the poetry magazine The Peeking Cat.




BPO New Year’s Eve Gala Concert -


The festive season is upon us and thoughts inevitably turn to the rapidly approaching New Year – so what better way to see out the old and celebrate the new than in the company of the Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra at Brighton Dome with a traditional New Year’s Eve Viennese Gala.

Guest conductor Stephen Bell says: “What better way to end 2016 than with some suitably uplifting and joyous Viennese music? I am delighted to be joined by star soprano Rebecca Bottone – she and I have performed this repertoire many times – and she brings a clarity and delightful lightness of touch to these glorious melodies.”

There will be plenty of foot-tapping marches, polkas and waltzes by the Strauss family and their contemporaries. Stephen is particularly looking forward to “rarely heard gems like the vocal version of Sphärenklänge and the wonderful sound world Franz Lehár creates in his overture to The Land of Smiles.”

Soprano Rebecca Bottone has promised us lots of “sparkly top notes” on New Year’s Eve. She is a rising star in the opera world who has worked with many of the world’s leading orchestras‚ and has appeared in TV documentaries The Genius of Beethoven and David Starkey’s Music and Monarchy as well as in Stephen Poliakoff’s acclaimed film Capturing Mary. Her ability to bring to life roles across the widest repertoire has met with considerable acclaim, and her baroque — and particularly Handelian — performances have received especial praise.

The Brighton Phil’s annual pilgrimage around the salons of 19th century Vienna, now in its 20th year, has become a well-established part of the festive season in the city and is generously supported by the John Carewe Brighton Orchestra Trust. You can view the full concert programme at: www.brightonphil.org.uk/concerts

Tickets are available from Brighton Dome Ticket Office starting from £12, with a 50% discount for students/Under 18s and £1 child tickets when accompanied by a full-price adult ticket holder. Call in to book over the counter, telephone (01273) 709709 or book online at: www.brightondome.org

Ticket-holders can park for just £6 (between 1-6pm) at NCP Church Street Car Park.

The Brighton Phil are offering a limited number of discounted season tickets for their four concerts at Brighton Dome in the New Year – see www.brightonphil.org.uk for details.

Soprano & Harp Recital – Cantique de Noël at the Kino Teatr

Sophie Pullen has had a busy year with performances aboard the Minerva in Chile & Peru, at Leighton House & Trinity House London, playing the role of Kate Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly at Cadogan Hall, and masterclasses with Dame Anne Evans for the International Opera Awards.  She also started on English National Opera’s prestigious Operaworks programme where the course culminates in a showcase next April. Her studies have been generously supported by grants from Opera Prelude and Coulter Partners.


Another highlight of the year was opening the BAFTA Games Awards show in London with harpist Valeria Kurbatova; their performance of Schubert’s Ave Maria was watched by millions all over the world and they were keen to work together again.  So when the Kino Teatr approached Sophie about putting together a Christmas show she immediately thought of Valeria and the idea of a harp and voice recital started to form.  Sophie’s previous shows at the Kino have been theatrical affairs, featuring local tenor superstar Gary Marriott and Finnish mezzo soprano Amanda Martikainen, but Cantique de Noël uses the intimacy of the Kino Teatr to share a dreamy programme of French & German song, interspersed with classic yuletide pieces, mesmerising harp solos and songs that dream of white Christmases and starry winter skies.

Sophie told us “Valeria and I have built a programme that reflects the long nights, dreamy snowscapes and joyful Christmas tales of winter. We are performing some of our favourite songs by Schubert, Strauss, Debussy and Faure, along with festive favourites such as The Sugar Plum Fairy & O holy night.  Valeria and I had such fun working together for BAFTA and are looking forward to furthering our duo with this recital.  Performing in the Kino Teatr by candlelight, a venue with a particularly atmospheric environment, is going to be a special experience.”

As soloists they have appeared variously at the Royal Albert Hall, Royal Opera House, Kensington Palace, The Barbican, The Forge, Warwick Arts Centre, Southwark Cathedral, Cadogan Hall & Wigmore Hall. A graduate of the Royal College of Music, Russian harpist Valeria Kurbatova started her musical career at the age of 8 when she began studying the harp at the Gnessin State Musical College in Moscow; she has won many awards including the 1st prize at the International Harp Competition in Moscow and is a principal performer with the London Electronic Orchestra.

‘Cantique de Noël – A Festive Smash for Voice & Harp’ 9th & 10th December, 7.30pm at the Kino-Teatr, Norman Rd, St Leonards-on-sea

Sophie Pullen will also be performing arias in ‘Christmas Extravaganza’ with Ken Roberts and the Sussex Concert Orchestra on the 4th December, 6.30pm at St. Barnabus Church, Cantelupe Rd, Bexhill





Noteworthy Voices

Noteworthy Voices sing a lovely choral collection to brush off the winter blues
On Saturday 21st of January 2017, this fine ‘a cappella’ group of around 20 singers will be visiting St Simon and St Jude Church in East Dean Village, near Eastbourne.
Lovers of classical choral works will soon realise they are in for a rare treat – the programme, titled Tales & Traditions is sure to lift your spirits: starting with 16th Century masterpieces by Byrd, Tallis and Palestrina, as well as the much-loved Crucifixus by Lotti, the programme also includes Northern Lights by Ola Gjeilo - a spine-tingling work of icy beauty.
There are some delightful collections of songs by Brahms and Vaughan Williams plus the fabulous Calme des nuits by Saint-Saëns. The performance starts 7.30 p.m. Tickets £8 at the door. Children free. Refreshments available.