News - 21 Sep 2023

Conductor returns to city

The last time London-based visiting conductor Simon Over led the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra (DSO) in concert was in August, 2019, just before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. Article by Brenda Harwood - The Star

So, after four years of battling to maintain his international conducting career and the Southbank Sinfonia he directs, Over is delighted to be back in Dunedin working with the orchestra once again.

"As I was leaving, we were talking about concert plans for 2020, and then Covid hit and it all got shelved," he said.

In the midst of the United Kingdom’s Covid crisis, Over caught the virus "very badly" and spent a long time in bed contemplating his life and mortality.

"I was worried that I would never get here again, so I’m really thrilled to be back," he said.

Over and the DSO will take the stage at Dunedin Town Hall this Saturday night, to present "Dvorak’s New World" — a concert featuring the Czech composer’s ninth and most famous symphony, and the world premiere of Dunedin composer Prof Anthony Ritchie’s Symphony No. 6.

Over said Ritchie’s Symphony No. 6 contained "all of the Ritchie hallmarks I love so much — beautiful harmonies, haunting melodies, driving rhythms, and the capacity to take us to a new world".

Over and Ritchie have collaborated many times before, including on Ritchie’s Symphony No. 3Remember Parihaka, and on the commissioned large-scale choral-orchestral work Gallipoli to the Somme.

Over’s experience with Covid-19 made Ritchie’s Symphony No. 6, written after his own illness, resonate even more strongly with the conductor. The work reflects on love, death, humanity’s relationship to the environment and the afterlife.

"It is a very emotional and inspiring work — Anthony has the capacity to take us to a very deep place, and the ending is heart-stoppingly beautiful."

Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 — From the New World, inspired by a visit the composer made to the United States, was "a very lovely piece" that was well known to many people.

After the past few challenging years, Over is making the most of his visit to New Zealand to speak to young musicians throughout the country about opportunities to travel to London to join his Southbank Sinfonia orchestra.

The Southbank Sinfonia has acquired the baroque former church of St John’s Smith Square, in Westminster, Over said.

"It’s great for the orchestra to have a permanent home of its own — it makes a huge difference.

"Now, we are trying to bring it back to its former glory."

Having now moved from London’s South Bank area, to Westminster, the orchestra was contemplating a new name — with "Sinfonia Smith Square" the favourite option at present, he said.

  • Community musicians of Grade 6 level and above will join the DSO for the "2023 Play with the Orchestra" session, to be held this Sunday, from 10am-12.30pm at Hanover Hall. Over will conduct the workshop, which will focus on the first and second movements of Dvorak’s New World Symphony.

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