Orchestra Manager:Andrew Wailes
For 150 years the RMP has regularly presented concerts featuring its own choir and orchestra, and although the RMP Choir has become more established and familiar to Melbourne audiences, it was the RMP Orchestra that introduced to Australian audiences such works as Beethoven's Fifth and Eighth Symphonies and Mendelssohn's Fifth Symphony, as well as numerous symphonies and concertos by the likes of Haydn and Mozart, not to mention many of the great works of the choral repetoire premiered in Australia by the RMP.
As Australia's oldest continuously existing musical organisation, the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic has within its charter the provision for the running of both a choir and an orchestra and it is important to note that much of the earliest orchestral activity in Melbourne was connected to the then Melbourne Philharmonic.
It was indeed partly the orchestra of the Philharmonic that merged with various other ensembles (chiefly the orchestra associated with the University of Melbourne) to form what eventually became the MSO.
Under the RMP Chief Conductor of the time, Sir Bernard Heinze, the RMP Choir became the ABC's preferred choir, and during this period the need for an RMP orchestra became less relevant. Throughout this period of some forty years it was the Melbourne Symphony that almost exclusively accompanied the RMP Choir in concerts of major orchestral and choral works. In more recent years the RMP has formed close working relationships with ensembles such as the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, Melbourne Youth Orchestra and the Australian Classical Players.
To coincide with the RMP's 150th anniversary celebrations in 2003, the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Orchestra (RMPO) was re-formed to support the RMP choir in its own subscription concerts, as well as other choral organisations, and from time to time, to perform in its own right.
Players are paid professionals and advanced tertiary students, and entry is by invitation. Already the RMPO has developed a reputation for high quality orchestral playing.
In recent times the RMPO under its Chief Conductor Andrew Wailes has given highly praised performances of works including J.S. Bach's St John Passion, Mozart's Requiem and Vesperae Solennes de Confessore, Haydn's The Creation and Te Deum for Empress Marie Terese, Handel's Messiah (including the Mozart transcription), Rutter's Gloria, Mendelssohn's Elijah, Elgar's For the Fallen, Vaughan Williams Dona Nobis Pacem, Carissimi's oratorio Jephte, Vivaldi's Gloria, Karl Jenkin's Songs of Sanctuary, Pergolesi's Magnificat, Corelli's Christmas Concerto, numerous classical symphonies by Haydn and Mozart and the world premieres of Stuart Greenbaum's From the Beginning and Nicholas Buc's Sky Saga.
The RMPO can provide orchestral forces ranging from a baroque chamber ensemble to a full sized symphony orchestra of up to 80 players. The normal strength is around 50 players.
The RMPO has accompanied groups including the Australian Boys Choir, The Vocal Consort, the Australian Catholic University Choir, Box Hill Chorale and the Melbourne University Choral Society and has appeared in venues ranging from Melbourne Town Hall to St Paul's Cathedral, BMW Edge at Federation Square, St Patrick's Cathedral, Costa Hall (Geelong), the Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre (Mt Gambier), Portland Civic Hall and Crown Casino.
The RMPO has a very busy annual program, often with over 20 concerts during the year. Most of these are commercial ventures, and the Orchestra is a significant source of funding for the RMP.
The Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Orchestra was greatly honoured to be invited by a major music promoter to tour China from 18 December 2007 to 9 January 2008. The tour, which was also sponsored by the Central Government of the People's Republic of China, was the most extensive by any foreign orchestra in Chinese history. The eighty five musicians in the touring party performed 16 concerts in some of China's most prestigous venues, beginning with the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing. Music performed included works by Beethoven, Schubert, Bizet and Johann Strauss, as well as various Australian and Chinese composers. The tour extended to more than a dozen cities. In many of these, audiences rarely have the opportunity to enjoy live concert performances by a symphony orchestra. Several concerts were filmed for Chinese television and footage from the tour will be used on several Australian educational web sites.
With its players representing many of the finest young orchestral musicians in Melbourne, the RMPO consists of both current tertiary music students as well as music postgraduates and young professionals who are well on the way to establishing full time professional careers. Many players have already held important positions within tertiary, youth and community ensembles both here in Australia and internationally, and a considerable proportion of players have already gained performing experience with ensembles such as the MSO, the Australian Youth Orchestra, Orchestra Victoria, the Academy of Melbourne, various Symphony Australia orchestras and the Australian Philharmonic (Aussie Pops) Orchestra.