For many years, most seaside resorts had a resident summer season orchestra. Now there is only one left in the entire UK: The Legendary Scarborough Spa Orchestra.
Every week during an extended summer season, the Spa Orchestra plays no fewer than nine concerts – mornings from Sunday to Thursday, and Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Every programme is different, and the Orchestra’s repertoire is so vast that pieces are rarely repeated within five weeks.
Weather permitting, morning concerts are held in the idyllic setting of the Sun Court Enclosure, with the sea as the backdrop, and music on the lighter, brighter side. Evening performances are presented in the concert hall, with guest vocalists and specially themed gala concerts on Thursday evenings.
No orchestra in the land plays such a wide and varied repertoire of music: waltzes, marches, film and TV themes, selections from the shows, novelty items – the very best in light music together with popular and well-loved classics.
Summer audiences travel from all over the UK (and even from Germany and the USA) just to experience this unique professional orchestra. They have made frequent radio and tv appearances, and played a very special concert with Lesley Garrett to celebrate the Orchestra’s Centenary Year in 2012.
People have gathered at the Spa since the 1620s. Then, they came to benefit from the magic healing qualities of the water, today they come to enjoy the music of its orchestra.
When the railway opened in 1845 visitors began to arrive in their thousands and a few years later the world’s first cliff-side tram transported the town’s guests from the top of the South Cliff to the Spa down by the sea. Today’s Spa – the Grand Hall, Theatre, galleries, cafes and walkways that the 21st century visitor knows – was opened in 1880 after fire destroyed the previous building.
During the Victorian and Edwardian eras the Spa was established as a centre for great entertainment featuring the best of British musicians, actors and music-hall acts including Sir Charles Halle and Ivor Novello.
The Spa Orchestra was created in 1912 by Alick Maclean. This first ensemble of 35 professional musicians gave daily concerts in the Grand Hall and Suncourt. Concert programmes included music from the classical repertoire, Viennese waltzes, operettas, and popular songs of the day. This unique musical tradition has been continued by Musical Directors since Maclean including Max Jaffa between 1960 and 1986.
Moving towards 2012, its centenary year, the current Orchestra has blended these time-honoured experiences with a range of innovations.
Where else could you go to recline in a deck-chair, listen to world-class performances of music and look out across a sandy beach and to the sea? In the evening sit in the fabulous Grand Hall and, during the interval, meet members of the orchestra as you enjoy a drink and relax to the sound of the waves on the shore.
If you want to know what all the fuss is about, visit the Orchestra at home on the Spa for some of the best musical entertainment around.