Ahead of the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s arrival in Qatar, we spoke to general manager Paul Hughes to find out more about one of the most successful British orchestras to date.
How did you get involved in the orchestra?
I joined in 1999. I have a background in orchestral management and working in the arts so I came with quite a bit of experience already and, as I said, I’ve been here for 14 and half years.
When and where did your love of orchestra start?
I trained as a music conservatoire, as a pianist. I left undecided and wanted to go into the management side of the business. My first job was as an orchestral librarian.
Why is the orchestra still important and relevant in this day and age do you think?
It’s a unique art form like painting or sculpture. The BBC Symphony Orchestra is keeping orchestras alive. If you look at the [BBC] Proms season here – night after night after night every single performance is packed to the rafters. BBC SO particularly commissions a lot of new music – it has a distinctive role to play in pushing the art form forward and keeping it alive and relevant today. Also with our education work, learning and community work – we’re taking it out to a lot of people.
What should people in Qatar expect from your performance here?
People in Qatar will already hopefully be aware of the work of the Qatar Philharmonic which is a good orchestra. Now I think it’s good for them to see other orchestras. The highlight is to see a professional orchestra at the top of its game performing exciting music brilliantly. It’s full of British music, music about London and Sir Andrew Davis, who is one of the most famous conductors alive today, will be conducting. It will be very representative of the best of British.
What do you hope to achieve with it?
I hope to achieve a wider recognition of the work we do around the world and this is something we’re doing now. We did concerts in Oman and we had a good experience there. We’re really pleased to be able to be part of this festival in Qatar that’s celebrating British culture. I would love for the audience to have a good time and to enjoy it and perhaps even like it so much that we can come back. I’d like to forge a proper relationship. That would be my goal.
How many musicians and instruments will you be bringing with you?
The whole party is just over a hundred people. We’ll be bringing lots of instruments – double basses, harps, drums, percussions, so there will be at least one instrument per person if not more.
What do you want the public to know about orchestral music?
It’s thrilling, it’s exciting, it’s passionate, it’s tremendous. It’s something I’ve devoted my life to and that’s something I want to get across, that we’d like to give a pleasurable and enjoyable experience to the audience.