Conductor Justin Doyle is back in his home city to take up the baton for Lancaster's Haffner Orchestra

Justin Doyle has had quite the musical journey from singing for the Pope as a young boy to directing orchestras across the world, now he is back in his Lancashire home ground with some very big shoes to fill... conducting the orchestra founded by his dad.

Tuesday, 16th February 2016, 12:11 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th February 2016, 3:45 pm
Justin Doyle in action with the Lancaster Haffner Orchestra

The Haffner Orchestra recently appointed Justin as their new musical director and he couldn’t be more thrilled with the post.

He says: “The Haffner is a great orchestra. It gets better from year to year. It’s interesting to watch how it’s developed and changed, and to see its developing role in the north west.

“It’s great that people can come to hear a good, live orchestra in this part of the world, and I’m pleased to be part of its future.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Rachel Cornwall (left) & Lorna Sullivan (right) of the Lancaster Haffner Orchestra

“Quite a lot of young players are joining the orchestra. I’m thrilled that audience numbers are so good - the more who know about us, the more come.”

Members of the 60-strong orchestra are as equally delighted to have him join the score, after what was a rather rigourous audition.

Spokeswoman for the orchestra and celloist Helen Price says: “We had to shortlist from more than 20 applicants.

“The final four each had around an hour and a half with the orchestra - it was a long day but wonderful experience.

Lancaster Haffner Orchestra with the Lancaster Singers

“Justin is an amazing conductor, his energy and enthusiasm, he really knows how to fire up and manage an orchestra.”

And this is an ‘exceptional’ orchestra.

The Haffner Orchestra was founded by Justin’s father Gerard, a senior lecturer in music at the former St Martin’s College, nearly 40 years ago.

They began as a chamber orchestra meeting to rehearse at the college, now the University of Cumbria.

Lancaster Haffner Orchestra musical director Justin Doyle

Helen adds: “We have an outstanding orchestra with wonderful players who are very committed.

“We have players who have joined us from across the north as well as our talented members closer to home.”

The orchestra meet to rehearse in six week cycles with three big performances throughout the year.

Justin was struck with the musical bug himself from a very early age – at seven years old he was handed a baton by his father, who said, “Beat in three!” Justin adds, “I did”

Rachel Cornwall (left) & Lorna Sullivan (right) of the Lancaster Haffner Orchestra

He adds: “The joy of conducting is enabling an orchestra or chorus to achieve something they thought they couldn’t do… making something extraordinary happen. It’s also good because you get different sorts of players and you can bring different music out of them.”

From the age of seven to 13 Justin was a chorister at Westminster Cathedral Choir School. “Singing as a young professional aged eight was an amazing experience. We sang for the Pope!

“I developed a deep-rooted love of music”.

It was at Sedbergh School he nurtured his talents under the direction of his cello teacher Nigel Horsfall and Christopher Tinker.

After school came King’s College, Cambridge, where he went as a choral scholar and conducted the university orchestra. Following time in London, his big spur came in 2006, when he came second out of 180 young conductors in the Cadaquéz International Conducting Competition.

Recently Opera North has been a major employer, and Justin has conducted operas by Mozart, Britten, and Verdi as well as guest conducting engagements with orchestras such as the Royal Northern Sinfonia and Johannesburg Philharmonic.

Lancaster Haffner Orchestra with the Lancaster Singers

He also maintains a commitment to music education in the north, as conductor of University of Manchester Chorus and Young Sinfonia

The Haffner Orchestra next play the Great Hall, Lancaster University on Saturday February 27.

Lancaster Haffner Orchestra musical director Justin Doyle