CLASSICAL MUSIC / How to give a fillip to the Phil: Manchester's 'other' orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic, has emerged from the broadcasting studios and sharpened up its act. Andrew Green reports

To the players of the BBC Philharmonic, he's T'rific Trevor. The nickname for the BBC's Head of Music in Manchester, Trevor Green, reflects his ineffable enthusiasm for casting aside the orchestra's old studio-bound, publicity-shy image. 'I find change incredibly exciting - if you're in a position to influence it,' says Green, five years in the job this month.

More public concert activity around the UK and abroad, commercial recordings - a previously alien concept - photo-imaging and a racy logo, ventures into education and community work: it adds up to a revolution in outlook. Green's motives have been a delicate mixture of missionary instinct and a desire to guard against possible threats to the orchestra's future. Some have accused him of cheap populism. He demurs. 'Without ever going down the lowest common denominator route in repertoire terms, I passionately want us to be welcoming and approachable. What I can't bear is elitism.

'Equally, the experience of having been on the staff at the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in 1980 when it was under threat has left a mark. You can never be complacent.' As if to prove him right, along last year came the joint BBC/Arts Council survey into the provision of broadcast orchestral music in Great Britain. The report on the survey is on a tight circle of desks - a public consultation period starts soon.

Change has inevitably carried a price. Green refers to the 'painful' business of persuading several unsympathetic members of staff to leave. Ongoing rounds of musical chairs have seen the introduction of a first orchestra manager, Malcolm Warne Holland, followed by the creation of a marketing post. Senior producer Brian Pidgeon, formerly general manager of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, was a prime catch. Advertising and public relations consultants - both London-based - are in tow, while the latest arrival is an Education and Community Co-ordinator, Martin Maris.

The cash to pay for Team Trevor has come in part from the increased concert activity, whereby local promoters buy in the Philharmonic at commercial rates. 'The licence payer in no way subsidises public concerts these days,' says Malcolm Warne Holland. 'Engagements have to pay their own way. We don't undercut commercial orchestras.' While such income is now an integral part of yearly budgeting, Warne Holland insists this could never point the way to total financial independence from licence-payers' money - not given the orchestra's traditional 'adventurous' repertoire objectives. Profile, then, goes hand-in-hand with performance these days. Facilitated by new contractual arrangements with the players, commercial recordings of Hindemith, Gliere, Respighi and the Philharmonic's composer/conductor Sir Peter Maxwell Davies are seen as a more effective way than concert reviews of having the orchestra compared with the best in the world. The devising of a spidery white-on-black logo has been followed by fish-eye lens publicity shots with principal conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier.

'In the past,' says the concert promotions co-ordinator Amanda Tenneson, 'marketing and promotion just weren't accepted concepts. The image we're trying to convey now relies heavily on Tortelier - it's personality that gets across to the public. But the exercise is as much about stimulating awareness of the orchestra as attracting audiences.' Many Mancunians, it seems, have thought the Halle and Philharmonic to be one and the same animal. Philharmonic staff point to the steady development of audiences at the various, re-vamped, own-promoted Manchester series - traditionally poorly or barely supported - rather than any dramatic turn-round. On the road, audiences have forged ahead.

Local promoters, says Malcolm Warne Holland, are even learning to spice familiar repertoire with a dash of enterprise. 'Maybe the repertoire identity overall has changed a little, but the number of commissions and first performances - especially those featuring British composers - has held up, as has the performing of repertoire by underplayed composers of the past. The point is that the orchestra is doing more dates, more repertoire - and it's the additional repertoire which is generally the more popular element.' Despite the new commercialism, there remain 'guidelines' in the area of sponsorship. 'Essentially it can only be used in project funding, not as revenue,' says Brian Pidgeon. 'For example, education projects like our recent Cambridge residency or the raising of funds to engage Solti or Rozhdestvensky. Obviously too much involvement in sponsorship would raise questions about our receipt of cash from the licence fee.'

The Cambridge residency, the Philharmonic's contribution to the nationwide Turn of the Tide project, was the orchestra's first substantial move into education and community work. 'An eye-opener for the players,' says Martin Maris. 'One of them was so moved by special school work that he said it should now be written into players' contracts.' Music education classes have begun at Strangeways Prison and plans are afoot for a project in the Moss Side area of Manchester. Maris agrees such activities represent useful ammunition in arguing the orchestra's raison d'etre, but insists they remain '. . .intrinsically incredibly valuable - meeting the concern over music in schools, for example. Much of the work will have little public profile.'

Reaction in the band-room seems favourable. 'Yes, there were fears that artistic integrity would be diluted,' says principal second violin Bob Chasey. 'That's happened only to the smallest degree.' There's greater concern at the outcome of the BBC/Arts Council survey. 'We know the future isn't exactly assured,' says Chasey. 'Maybe it will be a question of having to move to another location . . . and in the back of anyone's mind has to be fear of disbandment.'

Yan Pascal Tortelier is foursquare behind his players, whose comradeship and English cuisine he is happy to share in the staff canteen. Many in Manchester have their money on the Philharmonic's moving to Nottingham, possibly Leeds or Sheffield. All concerned are careful to nod knowingly at the advantages such a move might bring - identity with a community, maybe a hall of their own - before pointing out the problems. Trevor Green, admitting to 'hyper- sensitivity on the issue', worries that any transfer would involve plural funding, with much of the BBC's financial contribution being replaced by cash from local authorities, the Arts Council or maybe the national lottery. 'What would be our relationship to broadcasting then? At the moment all we do is broadcast . . . that's the quality control. What would be the guarantees over appearing at the Proms? What effect would plural funding have on our distinctive repertoire?

'As things stand we're already able to service a wide area and we're certainly not in competition with the Halle in the city. Our future is in being on the road and doing outreach. This is a finely-balanced orchestra, built up over many years. I just don't want that disrupted.'

(Photographs omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup