The Last Seaside Orchestra



This is the story of the last professional seaside orchestra in Britain.

Once, classical music had a natural home in holiday resorts across the country: 'Hastings and New Brighton had their own symphony orchestras; the young Malcolm Sargent started out as conductor of the orchestra in Llandudno; Wagner was played in Whitby.' (The Times). But Scarborough Spa Orchestra led the way, based in their magnificent Victorian building on the town's sweeping South Bay.

100 years later they're still there. At a time when orchestras struggle for audiences, conductor Matthew Rowe goes to Scarborough to experience for himself the unique connection between this small group of musicians and the thousands of tourists who come each summer just to hear them play.

The leading musicians, conductors and singers of the twentieth century all performed at Scarborough, with names such as violinist Max Jaffa and conductor Alick Maclean drawing huge crowds through the decades. The orchestra plays nine concerts a week, and still generates that kind of anticipation and interest among the audience members.

Matthew believes that a conductor must do more than simply turn his back to the room and perform; he must break down barriers and make classical music less daunting for those who are not aficionados. He's intrigued to know the secret of the Spa Orchestra's warm relationship with their audience.

Recorded on location in Scarborough during the orchestra's 99th summer season, Matthew Rowe traces this musical survival story.

Producer: Serena Field.