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Dunedin has a vibrant arts culture and one of the most significant parts of the culture is the Southern Sinfonia. The sinfonia is a treasure, and fortunately one which is not hidden away from public view.
To celebrate its 50th year, the sinfonia has chosen to make some major changes to mark the occasion and one of them is the change of name to the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra.
One of the most exciting pieces of news to come out of the recently-announced changes is the sinfonia has outgrown its premises, growing from a small group to a larger orchestra playing symphonic music.
To accommodate the growth, it is leaving behind the rehearsal rooms and office at the Carnegie Centre and moving in May to Hanover Hall, in Hanover St. What welcome news for an orchestra which has given so much pleasure to so many.
Generations of residents and visitors alike have been fortunate enough to share its music. The sinfonia has provided consistently high-quality performances to a wide audience and now, it looks to continue, from a position of strength, well into the future.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary, the sinfonia will hold a 2016 concert series including a gala performance in April featuring Dunedin-educated international conductor Tecwyn Evans, now based in Europe, and one of Dunedin's favourite sons, Jonathan Lemalu.
Also featuring will be Clair Barton and the City Choir of Dunedin.
There are, however, plenty more Dunedin links to celebrate in the upcoming concert series and no celebration will be complete without a performance of a work by Dunedin composer Anthony Richie.
The City Choir is also another wonderful part of the artistic community and having the choir perform with the orchestra during the celebrations will add much to the programme.
World-class musicians have started their careers with the orchestra, including conductor Holly Mathieson and violinist Jenny Banks.
The pair will perform Beethoven's Eroica in July. The orchestra is also attracting world-class performers to Dunedin because of its reputation in the global arts community.
Dunedin now needs to get enthusiastic about the concert series, talking about it, anticipating the performances and backing to the hilt the sinfonia as it prepares for a momentous year.
There are already some major milestones ticked off. A wider range of repertoire led to the Royal New Zealand Ballet asking the sinfonia to accompany it.
Having grown to 70 musicians, there was a need for the orchestra to find a place to rehearse, store their instruments and have office space.
The former Hanover Street Baptist Church fits the bill. The hall has history and is a category one Heritage New Zealand building, a special place for a special orchestra.
Sadly, with arts in New Zealand, there is always a downside and in the case of the newly-named Dunedin Symphony Orchestra, it is funding.
The orchestra has $65,000 so far and hopes to raise $145,000 from trusts to go towards the move but that still leaves nearly $100,000 to raise from donations and grants.
Funding has always been a challenge for the orchestra, although it has three main sponsors: Creative New Zealand, the Otago Community Trust and the Dunedin City Council.
While trying to avoid the word ‘‘battle'' as it looks for funding, the orchestra needs community support to not only provide the standard of music demanded by audiences as well as perform the number of planned concerts.
One of the strengths of Otago is the support its residents give to sporting and arts organisations and this time, subscriptions and donations are crucial to the survival of the orchestra.
For 50 years, the sinfonia has been an integral part of the southern community. This time, the community must take a supporting role in the orchestra's next 50 years.