50-Year History of the DSO

Conductor Peter Platt, 1975
Concertmaster Joan Gardiner, 1944
Joan Gardiner: Concertmaster 1966 – 1985
Concertmasters Allan McDermott, Sydney Manowitz and Conductor Nicholas Braithwaite, 1997
Concertmasters Allan McDermott, Sydney Manowitz and Conductor Nicholas Braithwaite, 1997

Orchestras have been playing in Dunedin for over 100 years. How was the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra established?

In the 1930s, there was the 4YA Studio Orchestra, which played live broadcasts for half-an-hour each week.

In 1958, a new group called the Concert Orchestra was formed with the specific intention of accompanying the Dunedin Opera Company. Soon after this, the Dunedin Choral Society called on the Orchestra’s services, and eventually the orchestra started presenting its own concerts as well.

Conductor Jack Speirs, 1988
Conductor Jack Speirs, 1988

In late 1965, the Dunedin Civic Orchestra Inc., the orchestra’s current legal body, was formed. Grants were secured from the Dunedin City Council, the University, QEII Arts Council of New Zealand, and the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation.

The inaugural concert of the Dunedin Civic Orchestra Inc. was held in the Dunedin Town Hall on 19 February 1966. It was a grand occasion, with the Governor-General attending.

The years since then have been predominantly happy ones for the orchestra. Earlier in this period we changed our name to the Dunedin Sinfonia, in 2000 to Southern Sinfonia, and more recently, in 2016, to Dunedin Symphony Orchestra.

Violinist Patricia Leen was presented with a 50 years’ service award at the Anniversary Concert, Ode to Joy Left to Right: Prof. Brendan Gray (President, DSO Board), Patricia Dean (Double bass), Jim Mackay (Clarinet), Bill Henderson (Trombone), Patricia Leen (Violin), DSO General Manager – Philippa Harris

We are focused on increasing our profile and support, and presenting programmes that are varied and feature a wide range of local and overseas artists. The DSO enjoys support from players and audience alike, not just from Dunedin, but also from all over New Zealand.  The Dunedin Symphony Orchestra is very much part of Otago and Southland’s cultural heritage.

The official opening of Hanover Hall by   Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern on Friday 2 November 2018

The orchestra moved into its new home, Hanover Hall, in December 2016 (the former Hanover Street Baptist Church).  Hanover Hall provides the orchestra with an acoustically safe and enlarged rehearsal space as well as office space, and provides opportunities for other associated forms of music.

Read more about Hanover Hall in the Heritage Quarterly Autumn 2019 edition of Heritage New Zealand here

Watch the official opening of Hanover Hall by  Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern on Friday 2 November 2018

Listen to Alison Bowcott, a players’ representative on the DSO Board. She was interviewed by Radio Dunedin on the occasion of Hanover Hall’s official opening. The Hall was opened on Friday 2 November by the Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern.