The Huntingdonshire Philharmonic has been at the heart of quality music-making in Huntingdonshire for over forty years. Founded in 1977 from the amalgamation of the existing Huntingdon Choral Society and Huntingdon Orchestral Society, it is one of the largest amateur musical bodies in the region.
Its first decades were directed by founding conductor Christopher Brown. During that time the Hunts Phil, as they are universally known, gave the first performance of a number of Chris’s choral and orchestral works, not least his critically acclaimed 1986 cantata, Landscapes. They also gave the first performances of works by the late Sir Richard Rodney Bennett and Anthony Isaac, as well as the first UK performance of two major works by Shostakovich: From Jewish Folk Poetry and Suite from Five Days – Five Nights. Notable early performances included Verdi Te Deum, broadcast on Radio Cambridgeshire, a semi-staged, full-costume performance of Sullivan Trial by Jury, and Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius in Ely Cathedral, marking the fiftieth anniversary of Elgar’s death in 1984. During these years the Hunts Phil also performed further afield, including a tour to Salon-de-Provence in southern France, and worked with soloists including Bob Chilcott, Peter Cropper, Neil Jenkins, Hilary Summers, and Stephen Varcoe.
More recent highlights include performances in Ely Cathedral of Berlioz Grande Messe des morts, Orff Carmina Burana, and Walton Belshazzar’s Feast, and taking part in a massed choirs performance of Mahler Symphony No. 8 at the Royal Albert Hall.
In the past few years the Hunts Phil have performed Symphonies by Beethoven, Brahms, Dvořák, Mahler, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, Sibelius, and Tchaikovsky, and major choral works including Berlioz Te Deum, Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem, Delius Sea Drift, Handel Messiah, Mozart ‘Great’ Mass in C minor and Requiem, Rossini Stabat Mater, Tippett A Child of our Time, Verdi Requiem, and the European première of Gretchaninov’s 1915 cantata Хвалите Бога.
The shape of each season is somewhat flexible, depending on the repertoire we are performing, but there will normally be two choral concerts in late October and early May, two joint choral and orchestral concerts in March and late June, one orchestral concert in mid November, and a joint Christmas concert. The choral concerts take place in St Mary’s Church, Godmanchester, with all other concerts being given in Hinchingbrooke Performing Arts Centre.