It is a bit of a juggling act, says rector and viola player

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Professional conductor Steve Bingham and his wife appear for the first time in a City of Peterborough Symphony Orchestra concert in Peterborough on Sunday, March 1.

Steve will be in charge of the baton and his wife, professionally known as Brenda Stewart, and a rector of seven rural West Cambridgeshire parishes, will play a viola solo in Berloiz’ symphony, Harold in Italy.

Travel is also to the fore in the concert because an Italian girl finds herself in Algiers in Rossini’s sparkling overture, and Gershwin is an American in Paris as a tourist in the French capital.

The concert is at The Voyager Academy, Mounsteven Avenue, Walton, 3pm to 5pm. Tickets start at £10.50 and school children are free. More details at

Brenda Stewart covered a variety of questions in an interview with the Peterborough Telegraph.

Do you play instruments other than the viola?

I started on the violin, changing to viola later but I still play it from time to time. Singing was my second ‘instrument’ at music college and I still sing a lot and direct a choir. I sometimes have to play the organ at church, where my efforts are best described as accident-prone.

Who introduced you to the viola?

I have my second violin teacher to thank. She told me to take a viola from the school cupboard. It was a bright orange Chinese viola and it was love at first sight. I was 14.

Who is your favourite composer?

Beethoven is head and shoulders above everyone else. His music is great and so satisfying to play. But Haydn’s quartets are wonderful, too, and such fun. And in the 20th Century it is Shostakovich and Britten who are my stars.

What is special about the piece you will be playing with the orchestra?

It tells the story of Berlioz’s memories of a trip to Italy in which he wanted the viola to be like a ‘melancholy dreamer’, like Byron’s Childe-Harold. Hence the name. I like the idea of being a character in the story.

What countries do you remember as most memorable?

Travelling and working in Dubai and Bahrain was fascinating and also going to Australia.

You have been a member of the Steve Bingham String quartet for 30 years, have an active career in freelance orchestral playing and you are Rector of seven rural parishes in west Cambridgeshire. How do you manage?

It’s a bit of a juggling act, but I wasn’t prepared to let my playing go just because my day job was now in the Church. I don’t do any one-to-one teaching now and, in a funny way, I have more freedom to choose what music-making I do - the Bingham String Quartet, chamber orchestras, the occasional recital with piano, duet concerts with Stephen and, of course, concertos. And my parishes are benefitting from the concerts we put on from time to time.

Which instrument do you think children should begin with?

I don’t think it matters so long as they get the chance to have a go. They might not get the right instrument first time but at least they are playing.

Favourite film, play and book?

Film - The Truman Show. Play - The Merchant of Venice. Book - There are too many. Jane Eyre is one I come back to every so often because it is so good.