Concert hopes to revive ‘our national orchestra’
While studying violin as a child in Montreal, Laure Marshall got the opportunity to meet and perform with world-class musicians.
She joined the Bermuda Philharmonic when she moved to the island in 2017, hoping it would give her the chance to do the same for young violinists here.
The problem was that the ensemble had seen its heyday in the 1970s and ‘80s when there were many more professional orchestral musicians on the island and it was able to draw on “a huge choir that was 100-strong”.
“They would all come together to regularly perform pop concerts, holiday concerts, operas; they performed with the Regiment, with local talent, with international stars who'd come over,” Ms Marshall said.
The gala concerts ended in the 1990s, when there was an economic downturn and the Philharmonic “was not able to find adequate funding to maintain a consistent concert series”.
Although the group continued performing for years on a smaller scale, in 2020 the pandemic brought all shows to a halt. On May 15, it will return with String Serenade, a concert at St John’s Church.
“We’re in a rebuilding phase,” Ms Marshall said. “We [want to] start performing larger works again. The challenge is about notifying people that we're back.
“We know that there's a lot of local talent out there in Bermuda but how many of them know that we're regrowing and trying to revive the Philharmonic?
“So that's the main goal of this concert, to let our community know we're back and we want to re-engage with them to revive our national orchestra.”
Ms Marshall began taking violin lessons at the age of eight and, from there, got involved in youth and community orchestras “in the US, in Montreal and in London”.
“My most passionate memories of playing the violin are all tied to playing in youth orchestras and community orchestras.
“During those years, I was lucky to meet world-class musicians who performed with my orchestras – guest musicians and conductors.
“I got to play in musicals and pit orchestras, classical and various other orchestras, movie scores and pops concerts – it's always been a real passion for me.
“But I think for musicians that use music as a hobby rather than a profession, there's opportunities to fall away once you leave school or university.
“And so the Bermuda Philharmonic is an outlet, I'd say an important outlet, for non-professional adults, musicians like me, to be able to continue to play.”
The “musical core” of the Philharmonic is comprised of amateurs who have reached a certain standard, local professionals and talented students.
Tickets sales from the upcoming concert will be used to encourage young musicians.
“A big part of what we do too, is maintain a fund that provides scholarships and bursaries to local students to continue their music lessons.
“So we every year we hold auditions and give to the students and we continued to do that during the pandemic,” Ms Marshall said.
String Serenade will feature about 22 musicians performing pieces by Tchaikovsky, George Walker, Mendelssohn and Gershwin.
“This one is going to be a small string concert, mainly classical pieces.
“The Philharmonic traditionally has put on movie hits, their summer pops concerts, they do children's programmes, holiday concerts, operas – a variety of programmes to try to engage, to get the kids excited as well as those who might know a little about classical music or a lot,” Ms Marshall added.
“We really are trying to make it less intimidating. I think there is this perception out there that you cannot go to a classical music concert, unless you know quite a bit about it and that's not at all what we're about.
“We know there's a lot of people who like classical music out there and it's about making it seem approachable and fun.”
String Serenade takes place on May 15 from 4pm to 6pm at St John’s Church in Pembroke. Tickets, available at www.bermuda philharmonic.org, are $50 for adults and $35 for students. Admission is free for children age five and under. Follow bermuda.philharmonic on Instagram