John Summers of the Hallé: 'I wish orchestras could be more individual'

29 January 2015, 17:01

John Summers at the ABO conference

The Chief Executive of the Hallé Orchestra talks to Classic FM's Jane Jones.


The Chief Executive of the Hallé says orchestras today sound more similar than in the past.

International air travel and the standardisation of musical instruments around the world mean that more orchestras are increasingly sounding the same as each other.

"A French orchestra of 30 or 40 years ago would have played on French bassoons,' says John Summers, Chief Executive of the Manchester-based Hallé. "If you hear an English oboe sound of today and compare it to an English oboe sound of 20 years ago, it's completely different."

"Probably a Czech orchestra sounds less Czech than it used to. A French orchestra sounds less French than it used to. And an English orchestra probably sounds less English."

"However all orchestras take on the characteristics of where they play and the people who conduct them," Summers has been telling Classic FM's Jane Jones at the 30th annual conference of the Association of British Orchestras at Sage, Gateshead.

"I work in a city – Manchester – where two very fine orchestras sound completely different. They sound different because of what they play, where they play it and who they play under."

"I sort of wish all the jet travel that brought us together would still allow us to be individual," he says.

Another major theme of deliberations at the conference has been the question of succession planning – how orchestras find their administrators for the future.

"I've been thinking about how the Hallé goes forward past me," Summers says. "All organisations need to think about the future."

"I hope whoever gets my job does it better than I do. A healthy organisation is one that actually tries to get better all the time and very much part of that is actually preparing for the leadership of the future," he says.

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