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“Music is not a pot noodle”

“Music is not a pot noodle”

Monday 14 June 2021

“Music is not a pot noodle”

Monday 14 June 2021

Jersey needs to give proper support and thought to the arts, especially music, the director of Jersey’s largest orchestra has said, as preparations get underway for their first concert in nearly two years in a venue three times smaller than their usual one.

Hilary Davan Wetton, the musical director for Jersey Symphony Orchestra, was recently in the island – his first visit since he signed his contract with the orchestra in January 2020.

The Orchestra announced the appointment of Mr Wetton, who is the Principal Conductor for the City of London Choir as well as the Associate Conductor the London Mozart Players and the Artistic Director for the Military Wives Choirs, in June 2019.

“I was extremely excited about the proposition to direct the orchestra for three years and I am disappointed that covid prevented the first 18 months,” Mr Wetton said.

To date, the Orchestra has had four concerts cancelled and received an “double blow” when the pandemic brought the closure of its usual venue, the Gloucester Hall at Fort Regent, forward. The venue, which is currently hosting the island’s vaccination centre, was due to close in 2023 but Nick Cabot, the Orchestra’s president, says he understands this could now happen in the second quarter of 2022.

Pictured: The Jersey Symphony Orchestra will be at Les Quennevais School on Saturday 14 August at 19:30. 

With no other venues of similar size available in the island, the Orchestra will be playing its traditional summer concert at Les Quennevais School on Saturday 14 August at 19:30. 

While Mr Wetton said he was “absolutely thrilled” about the concert and the “really nice-looking hall”, the venue is three times smaller than Fort Regent, with about 400 seats compared to 1,200. “It’s all extremely tight,” Mr Cabot said.

Jersey Opera House would have offered 550 seats with an extended stage but, having still not receiving any of the promised money from the Fiscal Stimulus Fund the team is currently in the dark about when they might reopen and therefore cannot book any artists – much to the disappointment of the JSO’s team.

“There is a serious danger that it will stay closed for another year,” Mr Wetton said. “It’s one of the finest buildings in the island, we shouldn’t leave it closed one day more than it needs to be.”

Beyond that, the musical director says there is a real need of support for local musicians and the local art scene in general.


Pictured: “It’s one of the finest buildings in the island, we shouldn’t leave it closed one day more than it needs to be," Mr Wetton said about Jersey Opera House.

One of Mr Wetton’s biggest worries is that the lack of support might cause some musicians to leave their career behind in the wake of the pandemic.

“Musicians in general have so little work that some of them might not return to it,” he said. 

“We have very high-quality musicians in the British Isles, if 15% decided they do not want to come back it would be a tragedy, especially because we do not have many at the moment already.

“I have several friends who are seriously talented musicians and they all decided to call it quits because they have been living on universal credit for a year, it’s a tragedy.”

“Governments do not quite understand the number of people for whom music is a critical activity, both for listeners and players,” Mr Wetton added. “It’s regarded as an elitist activity but it’s not. 

“It’s not a pot noodle, you cannot add hot water and produce music, it needs a proper thought process and a lot of time. Music transforms society, but you need to have a little bit of time and a long-term plan, governments haven’t quite grasped that.”

Referring to his experience of the arrival screening process a the airport, which he described as “extremely good”, Mr Wetton said it showed how efficient Jersey could be. 

“It shows things can be done really efficiently when things are important. Arts are really important too.”

Jersey_Symphony_Orchestra 850x500

Pictured: Mr Wetton said it would be a "tragedy" to lose talented musicians because they can't find work or proper support.

Despite the issues it is currently encountering, the Orchestra is determined to play on and deliver on its goal of making classical music more accessible. 

While Mr Cabot said the closure of the Fort “opened up opportunities” for the orchestra, Mr Wetton said it could help the orchestra “embedding ourselves a bit more in the community”. 

“I see the long-term future of the Orchestra without the Fort as being a musical resource for Jersey,” he said. “We could display the groups in any number from 15 to 100 depending with the circumstances. 

“The more we can do the better. We will do everything we can to help produce more young musicians in Jersey than there has been in the past.” 

In the meantime, the team and the musicians are looking forward to playing together for the first time in well over a year. Mr Wetton is particularly looking forward to having cellist Gerald Le Feuvre in the orchestra, with whom he worked in Milton Keynes Orchestra.

“It’s a huge treat to be able to make music with him In Jersey which I had never imagined,” Mr Wetton said.

Looking to the programme, which will we include from Bizet, Smetana and Copland, Mr Wetton promised it would be a “lovely” one. 

Mr Cabot added: “It’s meant to be a celebration of coming back together.”

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Posted by Michael Blampied on
Perhaps not, but on the plus side - “the world is your lobster” (Arthur Daley) and “Life is a minestrone” (10cc)……….
Posted by Richard Lock on
I prefer Tim Rice to Muller Rice
Posted by nigel pearce on
Perhaps an occasional concert in Howard Davis Park or West Park could be considered, weather permitting.
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