The Haffner Orchestra is Lancaster’s own symphony orchestra, comprising amateur players and local professionals drawn from across the North West.
The orchestra gives three regular concerts a year in Lancaster. These take place in November or early December, February or early March and June, and there is always a pre-concert talk, free of charge. We play a broad range of music from the baroque and classical periods to romantic and contemporary works including new commissions.
Alex Robinson is our current Musical Director, taking up the position in Summer 2023. Alex graduated from the University of Manchester (with a first class degree in Music and where the Haffner’s former MD Justin Doyle, was one of his conducting teachers) and from the Royal Northern College of Music with an MMus in Performance at Distinction level (Conducting). He is not only an accomplished conductor but he also plays the violin, viola, piano and harpsichord. And once upon time he played in a jazz group called the Watermelon Men!
We like to be out and about in Lancaster and Morecambe, bringing music to community events and engaging new audiences. The orchestra has played in St Nics Arcade, the main shopping precinct in Lancaster, as part of Lancaster Music Festival, and in Morecambe’s iconic Midland Hotel during ‘Bard by the Beach’. Small groups representing the orchestra play around the city in pubs and the market square for events such as ‘Festa Italia’ and ‘Light up Lancaster’.
We contribute to musical education in the community as much as we can, running workshops and masterclasses. We have organised free concerts for large numbers of primary school children…. events demonstrating the art of conducting (with would-be conductors as “trainees”) …….events when anyone of any age can could come and play with the orchestra, experiencing playing great music with a professional conductor…..and events in the local library.
We are particularly keen to support young people. More and more young people are auditioning to play with us and membership of the orchestra is free for young people and students. Concert tickets for 18's and under are free, and student tickets are only £5 on the door. Special talks are offered to sixth-formers studying works which we are performing.
History of the orchestra
In the early 1970s, there was no regular local orchestra in Lancaster. Individual instrumental players were invited to accompany choral concerts, but had to look to Kendal for involvement in orchestral music. It was Kenneth Oates who saw the potential for drawing these players together to form an orchestra. With the support of other local musicians, a chamber orchestra emerged, conducted by Gerard (Gerry) Doyle, and led by Wendy Cann. It took the name ‘Haffner’ from one of Mozart’s patrons in Salzburg, and his 35th Symphony, known as the ‘Haffner’ Symphony.
The Haffner Orchestra gave its first concert in March 1976. Since then the orchestra has earned the respect and attracted the support of many well-known professional musicians, including Sir Charles Groves, who was the orchestra’s first President and conducted the Haffner Orchestra at its 10th anniversary concert. After his death, the Presidency was taken up by Raphael Wallfisch, a world renowned cellist, who has also performed as soloist with the orchestra, notably at our 25th anniversary concert and again in 2012. The orchestra has two Vice Presidents, Jonathan Lo and Denis McCaldin.
The orchestra has been fortunate in attracting fine musicians, soloists and guest conductors over the years: Martin Roscoe, Kathryn Stott, Raphael and Elizabeth Wallfisch, Arthur Butterworth, Wyn Davies, Janet Hilton, Linda Kitchen, Craig Ogden, Yonty Solomon, Leland Chen and David Greed among many others.
The position of Musical Director has been held by Gerard Doyle, Tim Carter, Denis McCaldin, Roger Cann, Natalia Luis-Bassa, Justin Doyle and Jonny Lo. Alex Robinson has now picked up the MD baton!
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Information and directions for our main concert venues:
The Great Hall
From Junction 33 on the M6 (Forton), take the A6 towards Lancaster. Go through the village of Galgate, and then enter the 50 mph zone. At the second set of traffic lights after the 50 mph marker, turn right signed “Lancaster University”
Go up the main drive. Turn left at the roundabout, and go straight on. Park anywhere along this road.
From the underpass bus stop, ascend the steps. Turn round and spot Santander. Walk straight ahead, with Santander on your right, and keep walking in that direction (north). It takes 2 minutes.
Returning to the bus stop after the concert: exit from the Great Hall foyer area with the Nuffield Theatre behind you, and “Northern Oak” bar / pub, and County Diner on your left, and a small garden area on your right. Walk straight on, without deviating, and you come to Costa coffee bar and the steps down to the underpass bus stop. (2 mins.)
LA1 1PJ There are several carparks very close to the Hall.
By car, from the south
Leave the M6 at J33 and follow the A6 into Lancaster. After joining the one way system, turn right at the lights into Common Garden Street. Go straight ahead at the next lights, and this brings you into Dalton Square.
By car, From the north
Leave the M6 at J34 and follow the A6 into Lancaster, signed ‘City Centre’. Follow the one way system until there are shops on each side. After a sharp left bend, you will pass Moor Lane on your left, and then Dalton Square on your left (imposing town hall, and tree-lined square). Turn left at the lights at the square.