Sinfonia Viva Chief Executive Announces Retirement

Sinfonia Viva Chief Executive Announces Retirement

The chief executive of Grammy-nominated Sinfonia Viva, the East Midlands’ professional orchestra, is to retire at the end of April after 26 years with the organisation.

Peter Helps, who was awarded an MBE in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to arts and culture, has been at the helm of the Derby-based Orchestra since 1995 – steering it through challenging times.

During his tenure as CEO, Sinfonia Viva has gained national recognition for high quality classical music in diverse settings from major venues to village halls and for its innovative education and community work.

Key achievements have included developing a long-standing relationship with Rolls-Royce plc and securing funding for the Orchestra’s mobile venue to enable performances and community outreach creative projects in both inner city and rural parts of the region.

The quality and vision of Sinfonia Viva’s work has been recognised in many ways over recent years from being a finalist in the National Lottery awards for ‘Dark Clouds’ which marked the start of WW1 centenary to being nominated for a Grammy through its collaboration with Gorillaz.

The Orchestra is best known locally for its performances at the annual Darley Park concert which, at its peak, attracted audiences of around 35,000 every year.

Most recently, Viva has successfully secured funding to enable it to find new ways, including virtual performances and engagement, to ensure a wide range of audiences and participants can benefit from high quality classical music.

Mr Helps has also been heavily involved in voluntary work to support the Arts both locally and nationally including involvement in the Association of British Orchestras, the Family Friendly Arts Campaign, Derby Arts Forum and Cultivate East Midlands and several cultural strategic groups working in Derby.

Mr Helps, who worked in hotel and theatre management before joining Sinfonia Viva, said: “The past year has been the most challenging for the arts sector but I am proud of how the organisation and everyone involved with Sinfonia Viva continues to work so hard to weather the storm and find new ways to engage with our established and new audiences.

“With the Orchestra looking to apply for a new round of Arts Council National Portfolio Funding a alongside ACE’s new strategy now seemed a good time to make way for the next person to guide the Orchestra for the future.

“Although I am sad to be retiring from my role here, I am confident that Sinfonia Viva will come out of the pandemic stronger and more resilient to change to ensure that audiences in all corners of the East Midlands and beyond can continue to participate in and enjoy high quality classical music.” 

Sinfonia Viva Chair of Trustees Tony Davis concluded: “We are grateful for Peter’s commitment and dedication to Sinfonia Viva over the past 26 years and wish him well in the future.

“Viva, with its well-established mix of both concert performances and nationally acclaimed education and community projects, is unique in that it is not a conventional orchestra.

“The breadth of the Orchestra’s work, whether that is in the concert hall, village hall or in local communities and educational settings, shares the common denominator of making high quality classical music accessible to all.

“There are still many challenges ahead for the Orchestra and the whole arts sector but thanks to Peter and his colleagues our reputation for innovation and excellence will hold us in good stead for whatever the future holds.”

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