Seventeen days in Salford with the BBC Philharmonic

General Manager, BBC Philharmonic

Richard Wigley (far right) with Tamzin Outhwaite and the stars of BBC Radio 2's Friday Night is Music Night, one of the highlights of the BBC Philharmonic Presents Festival.

The BBC Philharmonic Presents... festival has been an amazing seventeen days designed to unveil our wonderful new orchestral studio in the heart of Salford Quays. It has been the culmination of many years of teamwork by Peel Media and the BBC, geared to creating the ideal vehicle for the BBC Philharmonic's unique and impassioned brand of performance.

BBC Philharmonic Presents... has a simple concept at its heart; that the orchestra would feature on the BBC's national radio networks and on BBC Radio Manchester. I couldn't have asked for more from our friends across radio, BBC Project North and my own administrative team; they embraced the idea and built much, much more with it than I dreamt was possible. It has become much bigger than the initial idea and a paradigm for the new creativity we are expecting at MediaCityUK.

On 1 June we opened live on In Tune on BBC Radio 3 (our home network) with Conductor Emeritus Yan Pascal Tortelier. Two nights later Tamzin Outhwaite hosted a Friday Night is Music Night live for Radio 2, with the leading men of the West End belting out the best tunes from the shows; any nervousness I had about the ability of the studio to take a big sound was misplaced. Sunday Worship for Radio 4 was simply beautiful; uplifting music and the local narrative proved very powerful. The next day the orchestra moved onto the phenomenon that is Nero's Dubstep Symphony for BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra; the sight of their fans hailing our musicians (and raising the roof in the process!) will live long in the memory. The following day 750 schoolchildren came to hear Pictures from an Exhibition animated by our Timpanist Paul Turner.

My colleague Rhian Roberts of BBC Radio 5 live has been a lynchpin in the planning for Mediacity, and her idea to stage Kermode & Mayo's Film Review live with the orchestra was the foundation stone for BBC Philharmonic Presents... It was a wonderful and complete collaboration between 5 live, TV (Red Button), Radio 3 and the Philharmonic, with listeners led from the afternoon on 5 Live to Live in Concert on Radio 3.

For 6 Music we performed Steve Mackey's prog rock-inspired Dreamhouse for Stuart Maconie's Freak Zone, before Radio 3 colleagues presented the Academy of Ancient Music. Following a collaboration with the Royal Northern College of Music featuring the music of Christopher Rouse, BBC Radio Manchester presents Salford Tales on Thursday; a gritty yet optimistic reflection of life in Salford as told by firemen, binmen and dinner ladies. It is entirely appropriate that our new Chief Conductor, Juanjo Mena, should close this dynamic musical journey with a mix of locally born international composers and music influenced by his homeland of Spain.

The twitterati and emailers have been providing rich and vibrant feedback, it's interesting to read the same sentiments about being uplifted expressed by listeners to Radios 1 and 4 (albeit in quite different language...) The BBC Philharmonic musicians have been magnificent and I'm delighted that so many millions from across the age range have had the chance to experience their magic on radio.

After BBC Philharmonic Presents... finishes, the orchestra's busy Summer continues with a major collaboration with Damon Albarn as part of the Manchester International Festival before heading down to London to take part in the world's biggest and best classical festival, the BBC Proms.

Richard Wigley is General Manager of the BBC Philharmonic


More Posts