Facing the music: Durham University Palatinate Orchestra (DUPO)

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Durham University Palatinate Orchestra (DUPO) is one of the university’s leading orchestral societies, consisting of a symphony orchestra and a chamber orchestra. We are an entirely student-run society, and we perform a diverse range of exciting repertoire in termly concerts in different venues throughout Durham, such as Castle Great Hall, Durham Town Hall and Durham Cathedral. We also embark on a summer tour every year. Destinations of tours in recent years have included Lyon, Prague and Brussels, and this year we are very excited to be going to Berlin.

DUPO has a focus on outreach, and we embark on a different outreach project each academic year. In the past, this has involved composing and performing music with local primary school children and running workshops for young musicians in Jersey. This year, we will be performing Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade in an interactive concert for primary school children from local schools in the area. We plan to intersperse the music with narration to bring the exciting story to life for the children.

We also collaborate with other societies. In 2019, DUPO worked with scriptwriters and actors from Durham Student Theatre in a performance of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. We have also collaborated with the Durham University Choral Society, and last year we performed in a joint concert with Durham University Classical Ensemble. 

Last term, DUPO returned to live performance with two concerts. DUPO symphony orchestra performed Ruth Gipps’ Symphony No. 4 to celebrate the composer’s centenary. Gipps was a Durham student, so we were proud to commemorate her time here in Durham by performing one of her symphonies. The chamber orchestra performed in a concert which showcased a range of European romantic styles, from Schubert to Scriabin. It was wonderful for both orchestras to be able to perform for a live audience again in an indoor venue after various alternative concerts that were held either outdoors or online due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Last academic year, DUPO adapted to the challenge that the pandemic posed by creating a series of virtual ensemble performances that we released on social media, and by performing in covid secure spaces, such as the botanical gardens and ‘The Tent’ on the Racecourse.

Both orchestras are currently hard at work preparing for two exciting concerts this term. On March 11th, our symphony orchestra will be performing in the Gala Theatre. The programme will feature Scheherazade, as well as Balakirev’s Tamara and Mendelssohn’s Capriccio Brillant, which is a vibrant piece that showcases our talented solo pianist, Jirka Svatos. It promises to be a wonderful night of music. On 15th March, it’s the chamber orchestra’s turn, and they will be performing in Castle Great Hall. This term, the chamber orchestra are exploring some repertoire by women composers Mayer and Chaminade, so this concert will be a great opportunity for us to highlight some brilliant works that have been obscured by the male-dominated musical canon.

We run auditions at the start of each academic year, so if you play a musical instrument and are interested in playing in an orchestra, keep an eye out on our social media pages in September. We would love to hear you audition! Follow us on Facebook or Instagram for updates and information about our concerts.

Illustration: DUPO

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