OUR HISTORY AND WHO’S WHO
Peter Fender had two wonderful holidays in the town of Scicli in south-east Sicily in Autumn 2013 and Easter 2014, having been captivated by the TV series Sicily Unpacked and the Sicilian detective drama, Inspector Montalbano. He then decided he wanted to put on a concert in the town and was introduced to Marcello Giordano Pellegrino. Marcello is a fine local musician – a tenor, pianist and teacher – who also runs Skenè Management which, amongst other things, organises concerts. Marcello organised and promoted the hugely successful first concert in Summer 2014 in the courtyard of Villa Penna, against the backdrop of the town’s stunning panorama. That year the concert was performed by The Angel Orchestra from London, with a few friends and relations. Such a good time was had by all that Peter decided to continue the format and took over the organisation for 2015, creating a special orchestra for the event, the South London Sinfonietta (he lives in South London).
One of the pleasures of performing in a Mediterranean climate in Summer is that concerts are always in the open air: subsequent concerts were held in the Cloisters of the Town Council Atrium in Modica (2015), the amphitheatre of the Stone Museum in Sampieri overlooking the sea (2016 & 2017) and then back to Scicli, to the Cloisters of the Carmine Convent (2018). After a ‘year off’ in 2019, the following two years, sadly, had to be called off due to issues associated with the pandemic. The 2022 course and concerts were again held in Scicli. See the Gallery for pictures of past concerts and courses.
Another important local musician in Scicli is Girolamo Manenti. Girolamo is a clarinettist, bass clarinettist and conductor and he has in recent years taken the lead in the organisation of our concerts, assisted by Marcello Pellegrino. Much thanks is due to them both.
Along the way we have made a great friend in Massimo Borgese. Massimo is the proprietor of Scicli B&B, in which Peter has always stayed in Scicli. Massimo organises accommodation for a large part of the orchestra, plus the outdoor breakfasts in Caffe Sicilia. He is wonderfully gregarious and helpful and knows absolutely everything and everyone in Scicli!
Here are some comments from some of the many people who have been on the course:
“Probably one of the best courses of its kind. Wonderful music in a fabulous location. The emphasis is on fun, good food, relaxation, and great music” – RC, double bass.
“I love this course. Playing good music is always enjoyable, but to do so in such a beautiful place, with good weather pretty much guaranteed – what could be better? Beautiful beaches, history, art, amazing scenery, wonderful food. Interesting people to meet and play music with, but your own space too. I will definitely be going again.” – LH, oboe
“Taking my cello to Scicli was a fabulous experience. Rehearsing in the morning and going on trips in the afternoon, swimming in the warm sea from lovely clean, uncrowded beaches, culminating in performing to hundreds of people who seemed to arrive from nowhere in an amphitheatre overlooking the sea. What could possibly be better? The town is so beautiful – all those world heritage churches, and the thrill of recognising scenes from Montalbano.” – SJ, ‘cello
“Music course with a difference: Not too serious, good music, good wine, good food, good friends and good fun.” – MM, horn
Peter began his musical career as an early music specialist, playing the violin regularly with groups such as the Academy of Ancient Music, the Sixteen and the Hanover Band. More recently his focus has shifted towards conducting. In 2007 he formed the orchestra Philharmonia Britannica, keen to create interesting juxtapositions by mixing music with other art forms – such as acting, poetry, dance, comedy or video. He is also currently also the musical director of The Angel Orchestra, and the 6 Centuries Chamber Choir. Aside from his native England he has conducted across Europe. Known for his innovative programming, he has conducted many works by unjustly neglected female composers (Ethel Smyth, Amy Beach and Louise Farrenc amongst others).
Having studied conducting with Peter Stark and Michael Rose, Peter regularly leads conducting workshops – from days introducing conducting to non-musicians to advanced classes with full orchestra.
Peter has composed a wide variety of music (orchestral, choral, chamber, songs, solo piano, music for computer game) and has released three CDs of his music. As an arranger and editor he has worked on music by composers such as Imogen Holst, Ethel Smyth, Imogen Holst, Monteverdi and Haydn. Full details of his musical activities (plus a short film about him) are on his website. Peter feels that a year is not a proper one unless it contains at least three trips to Italy …
Our leader, Stephanie Waite, began playing the violin at the age of two and then studied in the Junior department at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Later, while reading English Literature at Cambridge University she studied violin with Levon Chilingirian. After a gap of several years, during which she ran arts and music projects for prison inmates, she returned to her playing, studying intensively with Diana Cummings. Now she enjoys a diverse career performing in many orchestras and string ensembles, and teaching a small but cherished group of students.