The BBC today reveals the five orchestras that have been chosen to be part of All Together Now: The Great Orchestra Challenge - a nation-wide search for the orchestra that best captures the spirit of great British amateur music-making in the UK.
The orchestras are:
London Gay Symphony Orchestra: founded in 1996, the LGSO is the UK's oldest LGBT orchestra. Members boast a mix of occupations ranging from gardening to graphic design, cabaret to neuroscience. The orchestra regularly plays all over London, with the occasional foray to Brighton, and is an enthusiastic supporter of multiple charitable causes.
North Devon Sinfonia: bringing music to rural North Devon under the baton of dynamic conductor Emma Kent, the North Devon Sinfonia performs an eclectic repertoire of symphonic music spanning the Romantic era, 20th century and the present day. Their line-up is rich and varied and includes a cheese maker, lupin grower, postman, and a number of doctors and teachers.
Slaithwaite Philharmonic Orchestra: based in the beautiful, musically-rich Colne Valley, the Slaithwaite Philharmonic Orchestra was originally set up by a group of ordinary working men from the textile industry. Their line-up includes a painter and decorator, social worker, a number of teachers, students and a funeral director. It remains at the heart of the small, close-knit Slaithwaite community (a population of only 6,000) to this day and is one of the country’s oldest amateur orchestras, celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.
Stirling Orchestra: formed in 1983 by a small group of amateur musicians, Stirling Orchestra draws from players from a wide range of backgrounds: horse riding coach, microbiologist, social worker and students from Stirling University. The orchestra performs mainly at Stirling’s historic Albert Halls, putting on three or four concerts a year.
The People’s Orchestra: this Birmingham-based orchestra have a huge wind section and ten saxophones – perfect for their core repertoire of film music and popular classics. Their line-up is equally varied and includes a BA pilot, retired aeronautical engineer, a number of students, doctors and teachers. The orchestra is also an independent music charity, which uses music performance to help grow musicians and community wellbeing in one of the most deprived areas of the UK.
The four-part series, which will celebrate the breadth and quality of amateur orchestral playing across the nation, will follow the five orchestras as they compete for a place in the Grand Final. It will begin on BBC Four at the end of August, with the final episode to be broadcast on BBC Two.
The Great Orchestra Challenge will be presented by BBC Radio 3 and BBC Proms presenter Katie Derham. The orchestras will be mentored by double-bassist Chi-chi Nwanoku, and judging the orchestras will be conductor Paul Daniel.
Paul Daniel (pictured right) says:"I'll be looking for the orchestra that goes beyond technical excellence; they’ll have to capture the spirit and excitement of British amateur music, they have to really engage us musically and emotionally and connect with their audience. No matter where and how they start out, I want my 'best' orchestra to discover and really develop its potential."
Further quotes and information about the presenters can be found here
The series will visit the orchestras in their home-towns, meeting the players in their homes and in rehearsal, taking part in masterclasses and staging their own concerts. It will follow them on their unique journeys, showcasing their development through exciting masterclasses and imaginative mentoring sessions as they work with Chi-chi and Paul and giving them unrivalled opportunities to perform at world-class venues including the BBC’s Maida Vale studios, St Peter’s Hall in Manchester and London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Each week’s episode will have a distinct musical theme, from the symphony to opera. The orchestras will present a performance based on the week’s theme in every episode, which will be judged by Paul.
The winning orchestra will be crowned the UK’s most inspirational amateur orchestra and will perform on stage at BBC Proms in the Park, in Hyde Park, filmed for broadcast in the final episode of the series.
All Together Now: The Great Orchestra Challenge is part of the BBC’s nationwide Get Playing campaign, which is encouraging everyone to play music together - from lapsed players who want to dust off their instruments and brush up their skills, to enthusiastic amateurs who play regularly. Partners of the project are ABRSM, Making Music and Music for All.
Get Playing culminates in a huge celebration on the Last Night of the Proms on 10 September with the BBC’s first ever ‘virtual’ or digital orchestra. To find out how to take part and to follow the easy instructions please visit the BBC Get Playing website www.bbc.co.uk/getplaying. Deadline is 27 August 2016. Groups as well as individuals are welcome!
London Gay Symphony Orchestra London Gay Symphony Orchestra is the UK's oldest LGBT orchestra and one of only a handful in the world. The orchestra is as much a social group as a musical one, and was founded by conductor Robin Gordon-Powell in 1996, to give people the opportunity to do something they enjoyed in a friendly and supportive environment without the fear of encountering prejudice.
The LGSO has given four or more concerts every year for the past twenty at venues including the Royal Festival Hall; toured internationally to Paris, Cologne and Zagreb; performed with Jimmy Somerville, Rosalind Plowright and Sue Perkins; recorded a score for the cult film Pervirella; commissioned work from upcoming composers; and raised thousands for charities such as Amnesty and Albert Kennedy Trust. Patrons include Allegra McEvedy, Amy Lamé and Sandi Toksvig. lgso.org.uk/
North Devon Sinfonia The North Devon Sinfonia is a symphony orchestra which draws on local talent for its members. The orchestra gives four concerts a year, both within the North Devon area and beyond, and specialises in the symphonic repertoire of the Romantic period and Twentieth Century. Highlights have included the debut performance of a new work for guitar, flute and orchestra with soloists Craig Ogden and Judith Hall; a performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.4 with local pianist Susan Steel; Verdi’s epic ‘Requiem’ with over 200 performers in Exeter Cathedral.
Conducted by Emma Kent (Birmingham Conservatoire & Royal College of Music), the North Devon Sinfonia aims to deliver high standard concerts that are both accessible and affordable. The orchestra offers a balanced programme of popular and lesser-known works to suit all tastes. www.northdevonsinfonia.org.uk/
Slaithwaite Philharmonic Orchestra Based in the beautiful Colne Valley, West Yorkshire, the Slaithwaite Philharmonic Orchestra celebrates its 125th anniversary this year. In its long history the orchestra has experienced both triumph and disaster but under the directorship of previous conductors Adrian Smith and Chris Houlding, and current conductor Benjamin Ellin, it has enjoyed uninterrupted acclaim for many years.
The orchestra has received awards including the NFMS Sir Charles Groves Prize (1993) and two PRS Awards (1991 and 1996) and has developed a reputation for bold and adventurous programming, as well as championing repertoire often neglected by professional orchestras visiting the region. Recent performances include Requiem’s of Britten and Verdi, Mahler’s 3rd Symphony and Tippett’s Piano Concerto, as well as fully staged and costumed performances of Puccini’s La Boheme and Tosca and Bizet’s Carmen. One of the highlights of the SPO’s 125th season will be a performance of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony in June 2017. www.spo.org.uk
Stirling Orchestra Formed in 1983 by a small group of amateur musicians, Stirling Orchestra now numbers 65 to 70 players. The membership is drawn largely from the Stirling area, although several come from much further afield, and embraces a wide range of backgrounds: professionals, students from Stirling University, retirees and the unemployed. Stirling Orchestra performs two or three concerts a year in Stirling’s Albert Halls and presents eclectic repertoire ranging from the ‘classics’ to 20th century, film scores and more.
Recent performances include a musical expedition to the South Pole, in which images from Scott’s ill-fated expedition provided the backdrop for Vaughan Williams’s Sinfonia Antartica, and a double matinee for families in which young children danced round the orchestra, while their older siblings filmed the performance and tried their hand at playing the instruments. Stephen Broad has been the orchestra’s conductor for the past 12 years. He is married to Joëlle Broad, who is leader of the orchestra. www.stirlingorchestra.org.uk
The People's Orchestra The People’s Orchestra is an independent Sandwell based music charity which uses music performance to help grow musician and community wellbeing in one of the most deprived areas of the UK. The orchestra is made up of a diverse mix of talented musicians who come together to create and perform shows in venues across the midlands. With no limit to instrumentation and including a growing saxophone section, the orchestra presents a repertoire of film, TV, games, show and light popular music, and attracts a high percentage of new audience members who have never seen an orchestra play live before.
Volunteers manage all aspects of the orchestra including a wide range of outreach events and a very successful ‘Steps to Work’ programme, which helps local unemployed people back into work. The People’s Orchestra believe that if people challenge themselves, reach for their goals and believe in what they are doing, they can change their lives and the lives of those around them for the better. www.thepeoplesorchestra.com