Today a small amateur orchestra based deep in rural England made history, by staging their first concert after only Zoom-based individual rehearsals for many months. This brave venture leads the recovery of national amateur music-making in the face of the terrible damage wreaked by Covid on the arts world and is hugely important.
The orchestra has a full symphonic line-up, with about 30 musicians of all ages, and its repertoire for this concert included a Beethoven overture, alongside jazz numbers, Shostakovich, and Gershwin. This breadth of music demanded considerable flexibility from the musicians and their conductor, who rose to their task with enthusiasm.
Given the setting of a flourishing but disaster-stricken village hall in need of funds, the audience was probably more charitably-oriented than classical-music aficionados but the selection of music seemed to maintain their interest. The concert was provided with an excellent printed programme, with information about the works and their composers, but very few people were seen consulting it during the performance. It perhaps would have called for a verbal introduction to each piece by the conductor – this would not have extended the length of the concert by very much.
Amongst the varied delights provided by the musicians was a short piece: Lymington Quay, written by one of their former leaders. This was a neat blend of familiar tunes, and surely could be a local landmark for this talented orchestra. Let us hope that they can continue their exciting work.