Story: Orchestras

Page 5. The future of orchestras

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The Hopkins review

In 1973 former New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) principal conductor John Hopkins completed a report for the New Zealand Arts Council on regional professional orchestras. Among other things, he wanted a group of 32 full-time players in Auckland performing as the ‘Auckland Little Symphony Orchestra’ and another group of 12 full-time players based in Christchurch, which was to function as the core of both the Christchurch and Dunedin orchestras.

Control issues

The 1973 Hopkins report suggested that his proposed ‘Auckland Little Symphony Orchestra’ should be administered by the national orchestra. With diplomatic understatement, the Arts Council commented that it seemed inadvisable for ‘the control of the professional core of the Symphonia of Auckland [to] be placed under the NZBC Symphony Orchestra.’ 1

Few of Hopkins’s recommendations were implemented. The report has, nevertheless, been seen as providing a platform for the development of the professional orchestras in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin by suggesting an infrastructure that included both a national orchestra and quality regional orchestras.

Later reviews

Also in 1973 the QEII Arts Council (the government arts funding body, later Creative New Zealand) affirmed that ‘[t]he NZBC Symphony Orchestra is New Zealand’s outstanding artistic asset, whose future and standards must be secured by the government.’2 The government commissioned reviews of the NZSO in 1996 (by former secretary of the Treasury Graham Scott), in 2004 (by former Sydney Symphony chief executive Mary Vallentine and Roger Taylor) and in 2009 (as part of a series of ‘value for money’ reviews of Crown entities). However, the professional orchestra sector as a whole was not evaluated until 2011–12.

The 2011–12 review confirmed the NZSO’s position as national orchestra, but elevated the Auckland Philharmonia (APO) to a new status as Metropolitan Orchestra. On the face of it, the orchestras in Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington were unaffected by the review, except for a weakening of the assumption that Creative New Zealand would continue to provide guaranteed baseline funding for all of them. While the NZSO, the APO, Orchestra Wellington, the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and the Southern Sinfonia formed the core of New Zealand’s professional orchestral infrastructure, the 2013 report also acknowledged the emergence of other professional ensembles such as Opus Orchestra (which claimed a position as the regional orchestra for the fast-growing areas of Waikato and Bay of Plenty).

Specialist and community orchestras

In 2014 a few specialist ensembles such as NZ Barok (a period-instrument ensemble based in Auckland) and Stroma (a contemporary music ensemble located in Wellington) existed. There was also a rich sub-strata of community orchestras (some, like the Manukau Symphony Orchestra, performing ambitious programmes) and youth orchestras.

The Sistema Aotearoa programme in South Auckland, modelled on the Venezuelan musical education programme, El Sistema, held out a vision of a New Zealand orchestral scene that would be musically rich and socially inclusive.

Footnotes:
  1. Report on orchestral development in New Zealand, prepared by the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand. Wellington: Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand, 1973, p. 12. Back
  2. Report on orchestral development in New Zealand, p. 1. Back
How to cite this page:

Peter Walls, 'Orchestras - The future of orchestras', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/orchestras/page-5 (accessed 22 November 2017)

Story by Peter Walls, published 22 Oct 2014