Proms at St Jude’s to finish with ‘Last Night’ flourish

The Orion Orchestra. Picture: Eric Richmond

The Orion Orchestra. Picture: Eric Richmond - Credit: Archant

The St Jude’s Proms always finish with the flourish of a Last Night.

And this year it’s done by the Orion Orchestra: a training venture that gives young orchestral players straight from college the experience of working in a virtually professional environment.

Begun 11 years ago, it grew out of a concert that the then distinctly young conductor Toby Purser put together to support a Catholic charity, The Passage, that looks after homeless people.

Called “A Night Under the Stars” (you get the point), the concert turned into an annual event, with orchestra. And as the orchestra needed a name, it took a starry one. Orion.

The players are all in their early 20s.


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They do 12 projects a year, with recording sessions. And, as Purser says, “the idea is to teach them things they wouldn’t necessarily have come across in music college. Like recording film scores with a click-track, which we’ve done with big names like Rick Wakeman.

“Very useful when you’re starting out”.

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Orion’s future projects include the first performance of a major work by composer Raymond Yiu (whose “Symphony” was one of the spotlit new scores of the BBC Proms last year): a piece called “Stars and Stripes” that by coincidence will premiere on November 8, the day of the American elections.

And there are also plans for an opera by Hampstead composer Louis Mander, with a Stephen Fry libretto that adapts E.M.Forster’s under-the-counter novella “The Life to Come”.

All very interesting.

As for Purser himself, he’s currently working at ENO on their Conducting Fellowships scheme, shadowing figures like Mark Wigglesworth and doing some learning of his own about what it takes to be an opera-house Music Director.

So it’s fitting that his St Jude’s programme includes opera arias sung by David Butt Philip, who’s just been playing Pinkerton in the ENO “Madam Butterfly”.

There’s also the Beethoven Violin Concerto, with soloist Elena Urioste.

And being the Last Night, there will be opportunities to wave a flag and belt out Rule Britannia.

Though you might not want to if the Referendum hasn’t gone your way.

Orion Orchestra at St Jude’s NW11, Sun 28, 7.45pm.

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