01 Sep 2018

Feature: The leader of the orchestra

Three years ago, Michael Dolan and his wife Janet moved to Snape from London. Originally from Scotland, the other possible choice for relocation, they had both had tremendous careers and have quickly established themselves at the heart of social and community life, bringing their respective vast knowledge into play to enjoy their passions and pass on their expertise.

Mike has something very special to offer us at Prometheus Orchestra, something that his predecessor Pam Munks similarly had; They share a lifetime of experience literally in the forefront of British orchestral playing at the very highest level.

Mike was approached to play in Prometheus for a concert, and keen to carry on making as much music as possible, he accepted the subsequent offer of leading the orchestra.  He thought ‘I could enjoy this, I like the enthusiasm of the players and the relaxed friendliness’.

What are the important things to Mike in orchestral playing?

‘Flexibility is key, listening to all the other parts and adjusting accordingly, always playing with phrasing and shape and the right colours for the composer and the moment.

It’s really just chamber music on a large scale but with a conductor to guide us … Which is why it pays to look at the conductor occasionally’.  He adds this jokingly, kindly but it’s clear he means it too.

He tests out musical ideas on his wife (herself an accomplished musician); can she hear the difference in the bow stroke? … like this or like that?  Where does the music lead? What’s the destination?

Getting the detail right, the broad ideas, always thinking and drawing from a wealth of learning and the inspiration of world-famous musicians with whom he has been personally acquainted.  Pinchas Zukerman, Yehudi Menuhin & many more; the sort of company one keeps regularly during decades in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.


The Beethoven Romance.

Mike once had a conversation with Menuhin about the comparative merits of the two Beethoven Romances.

Said Menuhin (something like): ‘They are both beautiful pieces but the F major (which Mike plays in the upcoming concerts) is a beautiful piece for the violin.’  The piece showcases the violin’s upper register with much of it being played on the highest string, the E string.

Mike says this is a gift for a violinist, an opportunity to make as beautiful a sound as possible.

‘Hopefully (he smiles wryly) … with a very sensitive accompaniment by the orchestra’.

‘The Romance for me is a classical piece and should not be pulled around but should speak eloquently for itself. Charming at the outset it has a more dramatic middle section before

giving way again to the beautiful melody of the beginning.    Every romance has its element of tension he says and after 44 years of marriage; he would know.

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