04 May 2011

Simon Oliver writes: Today we are performing Mahler's Fifth Symphony in the newly-refurbished Butterworth Hall at the Warwick Arts Centre in Coventry. For the Philharmonia it's very important we travel around the country, bringing our world-class conductors to people who can't get to hear us at the Royal Festival Hall. We have residencies in Basingstoke, Bedford, Leicester and, from November this year, Canterbury. We also often perform in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Cheltenham, Southend and many other places around the UK.

I will always remember my Dad taking me to my first classical concert at the Royal Festival Hall way back in 1982 when I was fourteen years old. It is very strange to recollect that the orchestra we went to hear was indeed the Philharmonia! We lived in a place called New Milton in Hampshire and it was a three hour trip to London on the train. I loved the concert, it had a profound effect on me and inspired my choice of career. But the journey back was horrendous, we missed the last connecting train at Southampton and we had to sleep in a cold station waiting room until a mail train could take us back home very early the next morning! Dad was not pleased, but he handled it with his usual grace. Imagine then if that performance could have come to us!

Travelling to towns and cities outside of London enables us to bring so many great performances to people young and old who would not normally experience a live symphonic concert. For this reason, I am immensely proud to be in an orchestra that performs all over the country. If the Philharmonia had travelled as much back in 1982, who knows, my father could have had a decent night's sleep!

I will always be grateful he took me to London however. It's because of that cold, uncomfortable November night that I'm now in one of the world's great orchestras.