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Passenger Seats:
The Natural World



Helios Overture

Carl Nielsen

Carl Nielsen was a Danish composer of the late Romantic and early modern periods. He is known for his unique musical style and ability to blend folk influences with innovative harmonies and orchestration. The "Helios Overture" stands as a shining example of Nielsen's mastery, capturing vivid imagery and evoking powerful emotions through music.

Composed in 1903, the "Helios Overture" takes its inspiration from Greek mythology, specifically the sun god Helios and his journey across the sky. Nielsen's intent was to portray the various moods and changing colours of the day, from the radiant sunrise to the serene twilight.

The overture begins with a gentle and mysterious introduction that represents the calm before the dawn. The music gradually builds, and as the sun breaks the horizon, a brilliant burst of sound emerges from the orchestra, symbolizing the radiant energy and warmth of the morning sun. Melodies soar and intertwine to evoke a sense of awe and wonder at the beauty of nature's awakening.

The music ranges from exuberant and lively passages that depict the sun at its zenith to moments of introspection and tranquillity as the day draws to a close. Nielsen's inventive use of orchestration brings out a dazzling array of colours and timbres, enhancing the overall expressive power of the piece. Nielsen's Danish roots are evident throughout the piece with hints of folk melodies and
dance-like rhythms that infuse the music with a sense of vitality and energy.


The "Helios Overture" is a testament to Nielsen's ability to create evocative musical landscapes and to convey a sense of awe-inspiring natural beauty. Shifting moods, rich harmonies, and masterful orchestration will take you on a journey of celestial splendour, capturing the essence of the sun's journey across the sky.


Morning Mood ("Morgenstemning")

Edvard Grieg

Edvard Grieg's "Morgenstemning" (Morning Mood) is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable and loved orchestral pieces ever composed. It is part of Grieg's incidental music for the play "Peer Gynt" by Henrik Ibsen, which premiered in 1876. While the play itself did not achieve immediate success, Grieg's music, including "Morgenstemning," has become widely celebrated and cherished as an independent composition.

Grieg captures the serene and tranquil atmosphere of a misty sunrise. The gradual build-up of the music mirrors the gradual brightening of the morning sky, as the sun's rays become more pronounced and the natural world awakes.
The piece opens with a delicate, evocative melody in the low strings, reminiscent of a distant horn call, which floats above a chord progression to create a sense of calm and tranquility. As the music unfolds, woodwind instruments, such as the flute and oboe, join in with their own melodies to add
layers of colour and texture to the composition. Grieg's skilful orchestration gives each instrument its unique voice and allows them to blend seamlessly. The piece reaches its climactic moment as the full orchestra swells, portraying the full glory of the morning.

Despite its serene character, "Morgenstemning" is not without its moments of tension and drama. Grieg skilfully weaves contrasting elements into the composition to create a sense of anticipation and subtle unrest amidst the tranquillity. These moments serve as a reminder that even the quietest
landscapes can hold hidden mysteries and complexities.


A Spring Morning (D'un matin de printemps)

Lili Boulanger

Marie-Juliete Olga Lil Boulanger was born in Paris in 1893 and died in 1918. She had a tragically short life throughout which she suffered weak health. Despite this, in 1913, she became the first female winner of the Prix de Rome prize for composition, a prize that had previously been won by her father, Ernest Boulanger. In addition to her education at the Paris Conservatoire, Boulanger was tutored by notable family friends Maurice Ravel and Gabriel Fauré.

In the last months of her life, Boulanger composed D’un matins de printemps (Of a spring morning) alongside its sister work, D’un soir triste (Of a sad evening). D’un matin de Printemps was Boulanger’s last orchestral composition before her untimely death in 1918; originally composed for violin and piano it took several forms before Boulanger settled on the orchestral symphonic poem that you hear today. Despite her failing health, the composition is full of energy and vigour.

Like much French music, the woodwind section features prominently in this work. The opening section is underpinned by quaver movements in the strings, providing the momentum for the solo flute that takes the main theme. The dreamlike nature of the work is matched with darker, more introspective moments from the brass and percussion and a dreamy, mysterious feel in the strings and harp.

The opening portrays the atmosphere of a spring dawn which builds to create a sense of anticipation; colourful harmonies and counterpoint bloom to evoke a playful awakening of nature.

There are fleeting moments of reflection on the transience of spring and the bittersweet emotions that accompany it, but these don’t linger, the initial exuberance returns and makes way for a vibrant,
energetic conclusion.

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The Lark Ascending

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Ralph Vaughan Williams is considered a towering figure in the world of British classical music. He created a vast, diverse body of work which continues to resonate with audiences today. The Lark Ascending first appeared as a Romance for Violin and Piano in 1914 but later re-emerged in its more familiar format for solo violin and small orchestra in 1921. In the intervening years, Vaughan Williams had served in the Royal Army Medical Corps after which he returned to civilian life. He bore the scars of the horrors he had witnessed during his service though and mourned the erosion of traditional culture. Through the inclusion of folk melodies and folk like song within his work Vaughan Williams tried to re-capture this.

The Lark Ascending is based on George Meredith’s poem of the same name. It is without doubt an introspective work, tainted by Vaughan Williams awareness of the atrocities of the war yet it conjures up a devotional depiction of the skylark's song; a song which, whilst it outstrips any human song is somehow intrinsically linked to it. Represented by the solo violin, the song of the lark

“The woods and brooks, the sheep and kine,,
He is the hills, the human line,
The meadows green the fallows brown,
The dreams of labour in the town:
He is, the dance of children, thanks
Of sowers, shout of primrose banks”

The opening bars immediately transport the listener to a serene, pastoral setting and the melody in the solo violin with lush orchestral accompaniment unfolds to evoke rolling hills and open skies. Vaughan Williams uses lush harmonies in the strings alongside shimmering colours in the wind and
brass which paint a vivid, sensual picture of the natural world. The virtuosic passages in the solo violin invite us to immerse ourselves in the calm, contemplative atmosphere of Vaughan Williams musical landscape through the breath-taking vistas that the soaring lark encounters.


The Moldau (“Vltava”)

Bedřich Smetana

Composed in 1874, "Vltava" takes listeners on a picturesque voyage along the Vltava River, from its humble beginnings as a small brook in the Bohemian Forest to its grand convergence with the Elbe River. Smetana's genius lies in his ability to capture the essence of the river's flow, the changing landscapes, and the folk melodies that resonate with the Czech spirit.

The music begins with a gentle, flowing theme that represents the tranquil source of the river, surrounded by lush nature. As the brook gains momentum, Smetana introduces a lively and playful melody to evoke the joy and exuberance of the water as it meanders through the countryside. The
music brims with energy, painting a vivid sonic picture of the babbling brook as it cascades over rocks and rushes downstream.

As the river's journey unfolds, Smetana skillfully incorporates traditional Czech folk melodies that capture the essence of the people and their connection to the land; this is particularly so in the dance like section that portrays the wedding scene. The music swells and subsides, mimicking the ebb and flow of the river's current, while the melodies weave in and out, evoking the sights and
sounds of the surrounding countryside.

Majestic brass fanfares and triumphant melodies portray the flow of the river through the vibrant city of Prague. This climactic moment symbolises the city's historical and cultural significance and the music exudes a sense of pride and grandeur, as if the river itself pays homage to the city and its rich heritage.

As "Vltava" nears its conclusion, Smetana portrays the river's merging with the mighty Elbe River. The music builds to a powerful and resounding finale, capturing the unity and strength that arises from the joining of the two waterways. The triumphant chords and majestic orchestral textures leave a lasting impression, representing the enduring spirit of the Czech people and their deep connection to their homeland.


Breaking Waves ("Bränningsar")

Helena Munktell

Helena Munktell, a Swedish composer of the late Romantic era. Although she has only recently become known to a wider audience, Munktell is regarded for her captivating and evocative compositions. "Bränningsar" (Sea Fires) stands as one of her most notable works and showcases her ability to capture the tumultuous and awe-inspiring power of the sea.

Composed in 1893, "Bränningsar" is a symphonic poem that takes its inspiration from the relentless crashing waves and the fiery spectacle of sea storms. Munktell's composition transports listeners to the edge of the ocean, where they are immersed in the sights, sounds, and emotions stirred by the
sea's tempestuous energy.

The atmospheric introduction hints at the calm before the storm and as the music unfolds, the first hints of turbulence emerge. The orchestra builds tension through rhythmic patterns and dramatic melodies while rich harmonies and sweeping gestures, evokes the vastness and power of the sea.

As the composition progresses, the full force of the storm is unleashed. The music surges and crashes, mirroring the tumultuous waves and the intensity of the elements. Thunderous percussion, soaring brass, and sweeping strings combine to create a vivid sonic portrayal of the sea's fury before the music swells and then subsides, reflecting the ebb and flow of the storm, as if the listener is caught in the midst of nature's maelstrom. Munktell's delicate melodies and shimmering orchestration offer moments of calm, reminding us of the sea's capacity for both destruction and awe-inspiring beauty.

As "Bränningsar" reaches its conclusion, the music gradually subsides, returning to the calm and stillness of the sea and the storm retreats, leaving behind a sense of peace and reflection. Munktell's composition creates a lasting impression, a reminder of the immense power and majesty of nature
and its ability to evoke a range of emotions within us.


In Nature's Realm

Antonin Dvořák

Antonín Dvořák was a Czech composer of the late Romantic era. He possessed an innate ability to capture the essence of nature and infuse it into his music. "In Nature's Realm" (V přírodě in Czech) is a vibrant orchestral overture that exemplifies Dvořák's deep connection with the natural world.

Composed in 1891, "In Nature's Realm" transports listeners to idyllic landscapes and picturesque scenes. Dvořák employs a rich and varied orchestral palette which utilises the full range of the orchestra to evoke the sights and sounds of the natural world. The piece opens with a majestic, sweeping introduction depicting the grandeur and beauty of the natural world. From gentle, flowing
passages that depict babbling brooks to powerful, sweeping melodies that mirror majestic landscapes, the music paints a vivid portrait of nature's bounty.


As the music unfolds, Dvořák showcases his exceptional gift for melody and the themes that emerge have a sense of folk-like simplicity and grace and evoke the melodies of his native Bohemia. These themes are passed between different instrumental sections, creating a sense of conversation and interaction, mirroring the interconnectedness of nature's elements. The music ebbs and flows, mimicking the ebb and flow of the tides, and culminates in a thrilling climax that showcases the full power and splendour of the orchestra.


George Morton

George Morton studied Music at the University of Sheffield and, since graduating, has settled in the leafy city of Sheffield and continues to enjoy its proximity to the Peak District National Park and locally-brewed beer.

As a conductor, George is in demand across the North of England.  He is founder and Artistic Director of Rep Orchestra, a professional ensemble based in Sheffield which devotes its concerts to exploring innovative and exciting projects.  He is Musical Director of the Sheffield Philharmonic Orchestra and Nottingham University Wind Orchestra.  He has appeared as Guest Conductor with ensembles including Roma Tre Orchestra, London Mozart Players, Covent Garden Sinfonia, Bombay Chamber Orchestra, Hallam Sinfonia, Stamford Chamber Orchestra, Sounds of the Engine House and the Swan Ensemble.  Over the next year George will make his debuts with Northern Ballet Sinfonia and the Vaasa City Orchestra (Finland) and returns to conduct the Roma Tre Orchestra.

George is also an arranger and orchestrator; his reductions have been performed to great acclaim at venues across the world and are published by Universal Edition, Schott Music, and Boosey & Hawkes.   George is the founder and director of Steel City Music Publishing, an independent publishing house that specialises in producing arrangements, orchestrations and transcriptions for chamber orchestras and ensembles.  

Twitter: @george_conducts

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Hannah Thompson-Smith

Hannah was born in South Devon in 1981. She moved to Birmingham in 2000 and in 2004 gained a 2:1 degree in violin performance at the Birmingham Conservatoire. Here she studied with soloist Philippe Graffin, Jacqueline Ross, and Baroque violinist Nicolette Moonen. After graduating, she moved to Manchester to complete a PGCE and postgraduate studies at the RNCM studying with soloist Leland Chen. She then moved to Sheffield and began her busy teaching and playing career whilst continuing to develop her violin skills with Robin Ireland, former player from the Lindsay String Quartet.

Hannah now enjoys a very varied career of teaching and performing. She is
currently Music Coordinator at Westbourne Junior School where she leads and
teaches the music curriculum and continues to teach the violin and coach young musicians and ensembles. As a freelance violinist, she plays locally and
wider afield for several orchestras and ensembles performing orchestral, string
and choral accompaniment repertoire. A large part of Hannah’s orchestral
career consists of leading orchestras, including the Hallam Sinfonia and chamber groups. Hannah regularly performs with Sheffield based quartets and
trios and also enjoys performing solo and in duo. She has given solo recitals in
the St Andrew’s Festival in Sheffield, the Worksop College recital series, the Doncaster lunchtime recital series and has performed in duet with Robin Ireland in the Broomhill Festival in Sheffield. She has appeared as soloist with the Rotherham Symphony orchestra, the Hallam Sinfonia, Sheffield Sinfonietta and has recently performed the Four Seasons with Cheltenham Sinfonietta.

Hannah enjoys playing a wide range of musical styles and takes part in many diverse engagements. She appeared in the BBC Christmas Carol Special 2020 accompanying Aled Jones. Hannah and her pianist have recorded works by local composers, performed on Radio Sheffield and recorded with local artists in a range of styles from Country and Western to music of the 80’s. She has appeared on tour with international tribute artists celebrating the music of George Michael, Whitney Houston and Queen in leading venues such as the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, Nottingham Symphony Hall, Royal Albert Hall, Sheffield City Hall and the City of Birmingham Symphony Hall.

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Andrew Knowles

Images used in the video during our evening performance are very kindly provided by Andrew Knowles Photography.


Andrew has held the position of Principal Trombone with the Hallam Sinfonia for a number of years. Originally classically trained in London, Andrew then spent 35 years working in the corporate world until deciding 3 years ago
to leave that behind and concentrate on his music activities and photography.


As a photographer Andrew concentrates on landscape work. Having grown up in the heart of the Peak District he has a huge affinity with this outstandingly beautiful national park right on the border of Sheffield. He also spends time in the Lake District and intends to take his camera to the Scottish Highlands to further develop his skills.

Andrew says: ' It's a great honour to have my work shown as part of the Passenger Seats concert. I hope when people see the images, they get a sense of my love for landscapes and woodland, and especially light which I spend much of my time trying to predict and capture. '



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Hallam Sinfonia


Violin 1

Kate Fehler, John Cooper, Catherine Pugh, Richard Gilbert, Tom Davies, Richard Allen

Violin 2

Mary Dougherty, Matthew Cobbold, Rachael Evans, Catherine Bowman, Holly Ormrod-Stebbings, Hannah Watson


Charlotte Kenyon, Helen Mather, Kiri Smith, Laura French


Charlie Hardwick, Joy Paul, Sue Dumpleton, Nat Blakesley, Jeremy Dawson, Amy Gould, Dominic Smith, Matthew Moore


Stuart Wilson, David Shearn, Christie Harrison


Judith Ennis, Tony Jones, Kath Hathaway


Vicky Holmes, Carolyn Bean, Helen Jenkinson (Cor Anglais)


Karen Burland, Catherine Murray, Becky Stroud (Bass Clarinet


Dawn Allenby, Liz Versi


Jo Towler-Wareham, Anna Campbell, Gill Hillier, Emma Drury


Matthew Redfearn, Jocelyn Allsopp, Alex Burns


Andrew Knowles, Sophie Anderson, Richard Dixon


John Pullin


Mick Godber, Tommy Roberts, Gareth Widdowson


Alley York


Chris Noble

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