The Festival relies heavily upon the inspired professional accompaniment of two very special orchestras, as follows.
Canzona was formed in 1992 and comprises some of this country’s leading players of period instruments. The versatility of its director, Theresa Caudle, who plays both the violin and cornett, creates the stimulus for a flexible line-up of wind and string instruments and many of Canzona’s concerts are as a chamber group. The players of Canzona have a particular passion for 17th century music, but whatever they are playing, from Monteverdi to Mozart, they make every effort to play on appropriate instruments for the period.
Canzona is frequently expanded to orchestral proportions and has performed with many outstanding conductors and choirs including Polyphony and the Holst Singers (conducted by Stephen Layton). Canzona continues to have a long-standing association with several choirs including the Leith Hill Musical Festival, the Somerset Chamber Choir, and the Bristol Bach Choir. Choral works performed include J. S. Bach's St. John & St. Matthew Passions and Magnificat; C .P. E. Bach’s Magnificat; Handel's Messiah; Monteverdi's Vespers and music by Purcell and de Lalande.
Canzona has appeared at the Royal Festival Hall, St John’s Smith Square, St Martin in the Fields, King’s College and Trinity College Cambridge; Salisbury, Wells, St Albans and Blackburn Cathedrals; and has taken part in the Three Choirs Festival and the Spitalfields Festival. For two years Canzona was the Resident Ensemble at Magdalen College, Oxford, giving a series of concerts and workshops there.
Canzona has made two highly-acclaimed recordings: Motets by André Campra on EtCetera, and Theresa Caudle and Canzona’s recording “Violino o Cornetto” of 17th century Italian sonatas for violin and cornett on Nimbus Alliance.
The Southern Pro Musica evolved from the need for a professional orchestra to provide support for choirs based in Hampshire and West Sussex. The availability of increasing numbers of fine free-lance musicians choosing to base their careers in the south enabled the orchestra to enlarge its area of operations to work with choral societies further afield and also to undertake purely orchestral engagements. The orchestra’s first concert performance was given in Portsmouth Guildhall in August 1991.
In 1992 the orchestra was invited by the Southern Orchestral Concerts Society to become the resident chamber orchestra for its annual concert series based at Petersfield Festival Hall. In this series it performed with many distinguished national and international soloists, including in recent years Alison Balsom (trumpet), Natalie Clein (cello), Michaela Petri (recorder) Nicholas Daniel (oboe) and Antje Weithaas (violin). In an exciting further development, in 2013 Southern Pro Musica was appointed by Guildford Borough Council as their ‘principal provider of Classical music’, providing a broad range of orchestral concerts and educational outreach work in Guildford.
In addition to its regular orchestral concerts, Southern Pro Musica undertakes an annual series of children’s concerts each year, introducing live orchestral music to many thousands of young listeners, and these concerts have been given in Winchester, Petersfield, Worthing, Portsmouth, Chichester, Southampton, Guildford and Dorking. The series is given in association with the charity Children’s Concerts, and has been generously supported since its inception by John Lewis and, more recently, by the Foyle Foundation which has provided funds to enable children from state primary and junior schools to enjoy attending a concert. In its work providing first-class professional orchestral support for leading choirs in the south, the orchestra performs regularly with the Portsmouth Choral Union, Chichester Singers, Guildford Choral Society, Southampton Choral Society, and the Petersfield Musical Festival and has also worked with the Winchester Music Club, Sussex Chorus, Dorset Guild of Singers, Epworth Choir, Froxfield Choir and the Wokingham Choral Society and is proud now to be associated with the Leith Hill Musical Festival.
The Southern Pro Musica made its first commercial recording in 2001 when Priory Records issued a recording with the English Cathedral Singers, and further CDs have since appeared including a collaboration with the National Children’s Choir of Great Britain and music for narrator and orchestra with the distinguished musician and broadcaster Brian Kay. Another recent development has been the establishment of Friends of Southern Pro Musica.