When did you last see the orchestra?

The Spa Orchestra  . Paul Laidlaw with the orchestra at the Spa Sun Court .
The Spa Orchestra . Paul Laidlaw with the orchestra at the Spa Sun Court .

The Spa Orchestra is in residence in the Sun Court - its music mixes with the cries of seagulls and floats over Scarborough South Bay.

The scene is quintessentially Scarborough – as much a part of the town as fish and chips and Harbour Bar ice-cream.

Graham Quilter and Kathy Seabrook enjoy 30 years with the group

Graham Quilter and Kathy Seabrook enjoy 30 years with the group

The orchestra is the last remaining professional seaside orchestra in the country – to lose it would be ... imagine Peasholm Park without the Naval Warfare battles, the beach without the donkeys.

There would be outcry and national headlines – the orchstra has been in residence for 105 years – most famously under the baton of Max Jaffa as famous in his day as Justin Timnberlake is now.

But when is the last time you went to listen to the orchetra play its mix of light classical, show tunes, movie themes and swing?

“The word ‘orchestra’ can be off-putting,” said its musical director and pianist Paul Laidlaw. “It can give the impression of being stuffy and music that is not readily accessible.”

Paul Laidlaw relaxes before the show

Paul Laidlaw relaxes before the show

“This is not the case with the Spa Orchestra. We play light classical music and also music from musicals, TV themes and swing music,” he said.

“If it’s a good tune then we probably play it.

“In one concert you can have Glenn Miller followed by Mozart followed by Stephen Sondheim, having such a range of music on one programme is what we are famous for,” said Paul.

There are 10 members of the orchestra – it is seeking a permanent violinist and has guest players filling the chair at the moment.

Each season Scarborough Spa Orchestra gives nine concerts a week for 14 weeks – and prides itself on never repeating a programme. During a season you coud lhear a thousand different pieces of music.

This is no mean feat-but it is made easier by the fact that the Spa is packed head to toe with pieces of music to help fill the repertoire.

More than 6,000 pieces of music – 105 years worth – are are stored in the cellars and the attics of Scarborough Spa.

The members of the orchestra are husband and wife Kathryn Seabrook (flute, piccolo, saxophone) and Graham Quilter (clarinet, saxophone). They have been with the orchestra 30 years. Rick Scoates (trombone), Chloe Vanns (bassoon, clarinet, saxophone), Mark Addison (trumpet), Diane Stewart (cello), Michael Harper (percussion) and Lisa Featherston, (double bass)

Paul and the orchestra’s librarian Stephen Walker start preparations for a season in the January before the start of the season in June.

Priority are the Thursday gala nights. They always factor in a Gilbert and Sullivan night and anIvor Novello celebration.

There are also pieces that give each member the chance to shine as a soloist.

“Putting together the programme each year is like doing a giant jigsaw,” said Paul.

The orchestra also plays a concert of movies themes in Peasholm Park each year and in true New Year tradition plays a programme of Viennese music on New Year’s Day – usually to a sell-out crowd.

Such a programme comes at a price.

“Many people come to Scarborough just to see the orchestra,that’s a message we desperately want 
to get out when people complain about how much it costs,” said Paul.

“We also want residents of Scarborough to come and see us – once they have been I am sure they will keep coming back.”

As well as buying tickets to see the orchestra either in its morning concerts in the Sun Court or evenings in the Grand Hall, there are other ways of supporting it.

You can sponser a musician’s chair or a concert. “People can do this anonymously or their names can be added to the programme said Paul.

Coming soon, too, is a new CD from the orchestra. It should be available from the end of October,

It is a challenging time for all arts and entertainment with theatres and companies vying for what funds there are.

It does not have to cost a fortune though and with the orchestra more than a hundred years of tradition and music-making is at stake.

“It is natural to look back over the past 100 years and more with a sense of pride and achievement but it is exciting to look forward too,”said Paul.

“It is important the orchestra continues to flourish and evolve, bringing pleasure and inspiration to potentialy thousands of people each year,” he said.

The Scarborough Spa Orchestra plays morning concerts in the Sun Court each Sunday to Thursday until September 14.

The Sunday morning concerts are run on a ‘pay what you think’ basis.

The evening concerts are each Monday, Wednesday and Thursday until September 14 at 7.45pm

Tickets for other concerts available from the Spa box office on 01723 821888 or from www.scarboroughspa.co.uk