WORTHY OF NOTE

Pictures Martin Bostock'Helen Harrison of Elswick, the first female conductor of Blackpool Symphony Orchestra.
Pictures Martin Bostock'Helen Harrison of Elswick, the first female conductor of Blackpool Symphony Orchestra.
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BY conductors standards, Helen Harrison is a bit unusual for two reasons.

Her relative youth – and the fact she is a woman.

There are still few female conductors, in fact she is the first female conductor of Blackpool Symphony Orchestra.

But the 38-year-old hopes there will be a time when the gender and age of conductors is no longer a talking point.

And she is excited about the direction the orchestra is heading in.

Audiences have been growing and there are plans to start doing workshops with local schools – encouraging children to play musical instruments and appreciate different musical styles.

Helen, who studied music at Cambridge University, said: “I love music, I am also a pianist and violinist – as well as being a trained accountant and vice-chairman of Lancashire MIND.

“I suppose I was inspired with conducting by the conductor of the first orchestra I was in.

“She was a role model, this articulate, creative and together woman.

“And then when I was about 16 or 17, I very briefly conducted the Lancashire Student Orchestra.

“The conductor needed to check the acoustics and I was the head violinist, I led the orchestra, so I got asked to conduct.

“It was only very short, but it was an amazing feeling, and has stayed with me ever since.”

Helen was a peripatetic teacher before university, where she conducted the college orchestra.

She said: “It’s been an exciting year since I started as conductor with Blackpool Symphony Orchestra.

“The orchestra is fantastic.

“These people give up their free time to practice and rehearse and perform concerts.

“So we have to try to make sure they enjoy it and have fun.

“I think it’s a real credit to the committee and the orchestra they have appointed someone who is in conductor terms a relatively young woman. It’s a very positive thing.

“The orchestra has a great history, it’s been in the town since 1920 – I feel it’s quite a responsibility to take something like that, continue its work and make sure you leave it in better condition for the future.

“It’s such a thrilling experience in a group working together to produce music.

“When everybody is completely in the zone, and it all comes together, being part of that is a real privilege.

“Obviously, the orchestra tends to play classical style music, but I like all sorts and appreciate all sorts of styles of music.

“And the orchestra is very versatile and different people have different musical ideas which is great.

“We have seen a significant increase in the number of people coming to our concerts and we would like to invite all local residents to come along and hear us play.”

The orchestra will perform its Diamond Jubilee Concert, on September 16, at St Paul’s Church, on Honister Avenue, Marton, with singer Jane Irwin.

For more information, log on to www.blackpoolsymphony.co.uk.