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'We're keeping the Royal in RLPO'

Phil scotches rumours it's to lose its R, and Larry Neild quizzes the boss

Published on March 28th 2011.


'We're keeping the Royal in RLPO'

WHAT’S in a name, and a Royal one at that?

Liverpool’s much loved Phil is in the process of refreshing the way it presents itself to the world. And it’s led to specuIation in some Hope Street musical quarters that the RLPO is to drop its “Royal” moniker.

This is truly one of the golden periods in the Phil’s history, we’ve rarely been stronger - Michael Eakin

Indeed, Google the RLPO and up pops the home page “Liverpool Philharmonic”.

Could the Phil, given its Royal tag by the Queen in 1957, follow the Beatles, they wonder, and hand back what is a regal gong?

Her Majesty is, after all, patron of the RLPO. But No! Never! is the loud message from the Philharmonic Hall.

It seems the Philharmonic is Royal and ever more shall be so. The new look is all part of what they call “naming architecture” to clarify the multi-range of activities at the Phil.

One thing is certain, they say – the orchestra and the choir will remain Royal.

The problem for the Phil is the wide range of activities centred around the hall and other elements of the organisation.

Said a helpful spokeswoman: “We realised we needed something embracing everything we do here, from the RLPO to our choir, which also has a Royal title. The two words common to everything we do are: Liverpool and Philharmonic, which means love of music – hence the Liverpool Philharmonic.”

The Phil is the only organisation in the country that has a large ensemble orchestra which owns its own home – the Philharmonic Hall, not the Royal Philharmonic Hall as it is sometimes incorrectly called.

The debate about the so-called naming architecture has been a hot topic among musicians there for a number of weeks.

It comes as the RLPO prepares to kick off a European tour with its first ever visit to Paris.

It also comes as the organisation faces a massive cut in its budget because of a spending axe by Liverpool City Council and the Arts Council.

While the Liverpool Phil is staring at a drop in income, approaching half a million pounds, the Berlin Philharmonic tops the Euro league for public funding.

The German orchestra, led by Liverpool born Sir Simon Rattle, receives more state funds than the RLPO and the other seven principal UK concert orchestras put together.

Against this background the RLPO is now knocking at the door of Europe to earn its place as one of the world’s orchestral greats.

The Russian conductor, who arrived at Hope Street in 2004 and has a contract running into 2015, has recently been named chief conductor of the Oslo Philharmonic, a post he will take up in August 2013.

He plans to job share between Liverpool and Oslo, but as 2015 approaches there is bound to be some nervousness up at the Phil, wondering if the 34-year-old will hang up his scouse baton.

Even the RLPO’s chief executive Michael Eakin describes their chief conductor as one of the most sought after classical music artists on the planet. In other words, the world is his oyster.

The charismatic Vasily Petrenko is in the forefront of this assault on the European superleague.

This is Petrenko’s take on the cut in public funding: “We have achieved a huge amount and there is still a lot more we can achieve for ourselves and for the city and people of Liverpool , but all this could be lost very quickly with a reduction in funding of this scale.

“The most successful orchestras in the world are those which have artistic ambition fully backed by their local city. It is only with this backing that we can continue to achieve world class standards and give Liverpool the economic and artistic benefit we have been providing in recent years.”

The city council has slashed the money it gives to the RLPO by 20 percent, that’s £284,000 off the £1.42m it has received from the Town Hall during 2010/2011.

To add to its woes, the Arts Council of England - the Phil’s biggest public paymaster - has announced a more modest cut of just under seven percent, which represents a drop in income of £166,000.

As the Phil’s chief executive, Michael Eakin, explained, public funding from councils and arts bodies represents a third of the £11m income. The rest comes from ticket and CD sales, the activities of the orchestra, the Philharmonic Hall and sponsorships.

The RLPO is more than a posh band. Its influence permeates the very soul of the city, enriching the lives of people who didn't even know classical music was for them.

And it is an incredible ambassador for Liverpool.

Its arrival in faraway cities is lauded, and the rich, famous and most influential of those cities will be in the audience, bathed with a message ... Liverpool is a city of art, culture and business.

Add to that the RLPO-run In Harmony Project which has seen every child in West Everton given a string instrument to play, and the rest of the community and outreach work delivered by world-class musicians.

Earlier this month, Huyton-born Paul Lewis played a sell-out concert at St George’s Hall. He first played at the Philharmonic Hall as a member of Knowsley Youth Orchestra and is now on of the greatest concert pianists of his generation.

Upping the tempo Michael Eakin says: “We are playing for Liverpool on the world stage. Later this month we are playing in Paris for the first time. This is truly one of the golden periods in the Phil’s history, we’ve rarely been stronger. The critical acclaim we are getting for our concerts and records is remarkable, and we are still on the rise. We are getting better all the time.

“We are financially stable but that has been very hard won with phenomenal support from the city council. We are going to have to make some tough decisions and the key challenge for us is how to maintain the momentum. There’s no going back to the dark days for the RLPO.

“To use a football analogy we are knocking at the door of Europe, getting into the European Champion’s League. We are already one of the top orchestras in the UK and we can be even stronger in Europe. At the moment promoters and concert halls want the orchestra with Vasily as our reputation grows.

“Liverpool has the best cultural offer outside London, with the RLPO, the theatres and everything else. Together, it is important for the city’s economy.”

Famous Liverpool 'Royals’

Royal Liverpool University Hospital

Royal Liverpool Children’s Hospital (Alder Hey as is)

Royal Liverpool Golf Club (it’s in Hoylake actually)

The ferries Royal Iris (RIP) and Royal Daffodil

The Royal Liver Building

Royal and SunAlliance

Jim Royle


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13 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

OrfWithTheirHeadsMarch 24th 2011.

Great idea to ditch the Royal bit. They should change the name to the Liverpool People's Orchestra as a tribute to the political struggles we have fought in our republican city.

AnonymousMarch 24th 2011.

A member of the orchestra who is a friend was telling me last week about the disappearing Royal tag. Seems there is a lot of disquiet about it at the Phil.

Pyotr IlichMarch 24th 2011.

Why would they do anything so negative and stupid as to get rid of the title - they're not run by the Con-Dem government are they?

Miss CellaneousMarch 24th 2011.

Just googled RLPO and up pops the home page for Liverpool Philharmonic. Looks rather classy, even if the word Royal isn't there. The email address is liverpoolphil.com. I'm not sure many people would automatically go for that address even know the name is shortened in Liverpool to The Phil. Anyway if this banging of the drums to keep the Royal tag shows the powers-that-be in Hope Street just how loyal Phil people are to the Royal title, then it has done some good. One thing though, if the officials and marketing bods at the Phil had no intention of dropping the 'Royal tag why is there apparently some disquiet among the ranks of the orchestra???

D. SharpMarch 24th 2011.

The new man in charge of National Museums Liverpool is wrecking our museums and galleries in his own image because he thinks it's new and trendy.

Perhaps the RLPO are worried another cultural Osborne is going to do the same to the orchestra in the accursed name of "branding"?

The world would be immeasurably improved if all the 'branding'-obsessed P.R. drones were quietly gassed.

Vi O'LynneMarch 24th 2011.

In recent years the RLPO's events programme has been printed in pocket-sized booklets (good) in a nasty little five-point, sans-serif typeface that is unreadable in most public artificial light conditions (bad).

I do wish they'd do something about it. Were they trying to save on ink?

Sax N. ViolinsMarch 24th 2011.

Whoever coined that nonsensical "naming architecture" phrase ought to be publicly thrashed and left in a pillory around the time of the Hope Street Farmers' Market.

Monty CelloMarch 24th 2011.

"Naming architecture". I have heard it all now.

Cora NglaisMarch 24th 2011.

No you haven't! They will go on inventing more and more of this rubbish to try to justify their overpaid employment.

AnonymousMarch 25th 2011.

Cora N: who exactly is overpaid at the Phil? Against what criteria? Please explain. Thanks

Phil WorkerMarch 25th 2011.

Overpaid? At the Phil? hahahahahahaha - that's hilarious! I work there and the money's shite! Who are you, Cora ? With a name like that you might be in the RLPO - well, you lot might be overpaid but as for the rest of us, seems you're about as well informed on that as you are on the complete lack of a plan to drop the "Royal." Now get on and toot on your Cor whilst I go round and scrape up your crap, there's a good wool

RoyalistMarch 28th 2011.

Maybe LivCon has latched onto something here. In the Daily Post (Monday, Mar 28) page 4 headline reads .... Philharmonic notches up a Parisian triumph, and the caption states.... The Liverpool Philharmonic on stage in Paris. Maybe they left out the word Royal remembering how those Frenchies reacted to all things royal and regal.

Cora NglaisMarch 31st 2011.

I was referring to the sort of people who come up with rubbish like "naming architecture".

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