Orchestra could be left with nowhere to play

HOMELESS: Paul Judson (left), musical director of Sunderland Symphony Orchestra and organist David Mills in their present home at West Park Church, which is due to close in the New Year.
HOMELESS: Paul Judson (left), musical director of Sunderland Symphony Orchestra and organist David Mills in their present home at West Park Church, which is due to close in the New Year.
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MUSICIANS could be silenced should the group they perform in fail to find a new home, orchestra bosses today warned.

Sunderland Symphony Orchestra practice and hold concerts at West Park Church, near Sunderland Bus Interchange, as they have done for the past 15 years.

But the arrangement is set to change after the building was put up for sale.

The congregation at West Park has joined together with Stockton Road United Reformed Church (URC), which is nearby.

Plans to close the centre followed a six-month review by URC over the future of the building.

And bosses have told the orchestra that the historic, Grade II-listed site could be sold anytime from January 1 onwards, meaning the orchestra group, which has about 40 members, could be homeless early in the new year.

They will be able to continue to use the site, but may be given notice to stop meeting there at any time.

The group are busy rehearsing for this year’s Christmas concert, which will be held at West Park, but after that the future is uncertain.

“We could be put out at a day’s notice, so we could have nowhere to play,” said orchestra chairman David Mills.

“We know it’s going to be sold and we’re now just waiting for a notice board to be put up by the agent.

“If we had £300,000 spare I’m sure we’d look to buy the building because it’s suited us perfectly, but we can’t so we have to look elsewhere.

The orchestra, which have performed at the Sunderland Empire, the Stadium of Light and the Sage, in Gateshead, in recent years, is now appealing to other venues across Wearside to help them find a new permanent base.

“West Park has superb acoustics, so the new place has to be a church or ideally a concert hall that can accommodate an orchestra and an audience,” added Mr Mills.

“The main problem is that it has to be somewhere we can perform, rehearse and store our various instruments as well.

“Ideally, it would have to be a venue that would allow us to practice on Wednesday evenings complies with our insurance regulations regarding the equipment.”

Those who think they can help Sunderland Symphony Orchestra find a new home should call Mr Mills on 549 1784 or email orchchair@btinternet.com.