While the statement, “I didn’t know there was an orchestra in Northland!” is sadly all too common, be assured you don’t have to go all the way to Auckland to hear good music.
We are a community orchestra based in Whangarei aiming to bring together local musicians of all ages to enjoy making music. Our members come from many different walks of life but all have a passion for orchestral music. We come together each week to rehearse and hold concerts three times a year across Northland. Rehearsals are weekly on Wednesday nights from 6.30 pm until 8.30 pm at The Old Library Building Arts Centre, Rust Avenue, Whangarei.
The Northland Sinfonia has been bringing music to Northland since 1939, originally under the name Whangarei Municipal Orchestra (WMO). Although the actual date of its formation is lost in the mists of time, our longest serving member, Lawrie Wordsworth, remembers rehearsing above the Old Fire Station some 70 or more years ago.
After a fallow period, the WMO was reborn in 1988 as the Whangarei Orchestra. The orchestra once again flourished as membership swelled. In 1999, in recognition of the many players and supporters who lived outside Whangarei, the title Northland Sinfonia was adopted.
Over the years, concert-goers have been thrilled with performances of works by a wide range of composers and soloists of high calibre. Forum North and St John’s Church Kamo have hosted marvellous concerts under the batons of its many musical directors including John Dylan, Uwe Grodd, John Yard, Roger McClean, Michael Vidulich, Naotake and Atsuko Fukuoka and Nigel Harrison. Some memorable concerts include the superb “Beethoven and Friends” concert in 2007 when the orchestra combined with Consortium and pianist Atsuko Fukuoka to perform Beethoven’s Choral Fantasie. The “Land and Sea” concert at Forum North in 2010 was a turning point and is said to have “raised the standard” of community orchestras with outstanding soloists Regine Hagg, Eva Harris and Marion Hammond. Since then the orchestra has grown in stature and confidence and tackles some of the more challenging repertoire as well as collaborating regularly with the Whangarei choral groups in works including the Mozart Requiem, Last Night of the Proms and in 2013 Brahms German Requiem.
After more than 20 years of involvement with the Northland Sinfonia Naotake Fukuoka was officially appointed Musical Director at the start of 2014.
Born in Yokohama, Japan, Naotake emigrated in 1991 with his wife and five children to nuclear-free New Zealand, where, they believe is the safest place to raise a family.
Since then Naotake has been a member of the Northland Sinfonia, and today, one of the longest serving. Despite his busy life as a drafter, land surveyor, civil engineer and father, he has always made time to contribute his musical passion to the orchestra as a timpanist, percussionist and occasional conductor. In particular Naotake gets the most satisfaction from seeing the musicians and audiences enjoying the music together.
The Fukuoka family have been a big part of the Whangarei music community throughout the years. Naotake’s family have been soloists for the orchestra with his on stage support either being in the form of a baton or mallets. This included a notable performance of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy in 2008 where Naotake conducted the Northland Sinfonia and his wife Atsuko featured as the solo pianist. Today, their children have left the nest, but both Naotake and Atsuko remain very active in the Whangarei music scene through both the Northland Sinfonia and Whangarei Youth Music.
Previous Musical Directors
Nigel was born in Lancashire UK and began playing piano aged 5 and clarinet from age 11. He gained a scholarship to Trinity College of Music, London as a Junior Exhibitioner and studied piano there each weekend until the age of 18. He attained Grade 8 in both piano and clarinet and was principal clarinettist of the Stoneleigh Youth Orchestra, Surrey, from age 16-18. While at Medical School he played Beethoven’s 1st piano concerto and Mozart’s piano concerto No 19 in F major with the medical school orchestra and sang lead roles in 5 Gilbert and Sullivan operettas.
On joining the Royal Air Force in 1978 music took a back seat for many years until 1993 when he started playing clarinet again. On leaving the RAF in 1996 he joined the Isle of Man’s ‘Manx Sinfonia’ and was principal clarinettist from 1999 to 2006. During that time he was soloist in the Krommer double clarinet concerto.
When he and his wife Caron emigrated to New Zealand in 2006, Nigel took up playing with the Northland Sinfonia and was principal clarinettist from 2006 to 2009 and played the Krommer Clarinet concerto in Eb with the orchestra in 2009 and Mozart clarinet concerto in 2011. He was appointed the principal clarinettist of the New Zealand Doctors’ Orchestra in 2012. He took up the baton for the first time in January 2009 and was the Musical Director of the Northland Sinfonia and guest conductor of the Whangarei Choral Society until 2013.