Community orchestra comes of age

The Community Light Orchestra: 21st Anniversary Concert, St. John's Church, Cauldwell Hall Road, Ipswich, Saturday June 21.From the outset I should like to declare a deep personal interest in this orchestra.

The Community Light Orchestra: 21st Anniversary Concert, St. John's Church, Cauldwell Hall Road, Ipswich, Saturday June 21.

From the outset I should like to declare a deep personal interest in this orchestra. In 1987 I read an article in the EADT about a venture in Bury St. Edmunds which brought together lapsed musicians and adult instrumental beginners for a day's orchestral course. As a result of this I contacted John Seabrook, community education officer at Suffolk County Council, requesting we did something similar in Ipswich.

Some time later John wrote to me to say that he had arranged a rehearsal venue, for Tuesday mornings, at the County Music School in Bolton Lane. Conductor, Clem Cocker and about a dozen people turned up - more brass and woodwind than strings - and from that unlikely start the orchestra came into existence.

From the beginning the driving force was enthusiasm and friendship and this remains just as true today. After a year the community education office withdrew funding and the ensemble became independent. Beryl Bird, who was a keyboard player in the group, was appointed conductor. The orchestra kept growing until it numbered about 80 members, including some very skilful players who help to nurture and encourage the less confident players. Almost from the start it was decided to put on three concerts a year and many thousands of pounds have been raised for Charity.


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When Beryl decided, in 1991, that the orchestra needed a professional conductor we were convinced that Barry Salmon was the man for the job. As the (then) chairman it was my task to invite Barry to take up the post. Barry, I have to say, was very reluctant and refused our invitation and it was only due to my persistent pleading that he eventually agreed to give us a trial run.

Seventeen years later the orchestra is still delighted to be under Barry's expertise and I think, and hope, that Barry is still happy to be guiding his extended family.

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Which brings me to the birthday celebrations: it was such an honour and a pleasure to be present at this joyous occasion. As I mentioned earlier, the enthusiasm was still apparent and it was wonderful to see their evident pleasure in performing together.I particularly enjoyed the Procession of the Sardar by Ippolitov-Ivanov and So Nice, a samba - rhythmically spot-on - composed by Valle. The latter piece reminded me of how, in those early days, we struggled with Latin-American rhythms (every player having their own interpretation of how they should be performed).

It was a special treat to hear a former member, Zoe Edmunds, who is now a professional flautist, perform with her accompanist Tom Rumbold. They performed Tambourin by Gossec and Sicilienne by Faure as well as Le Basque by Marais and three movements from John Rutter's Suite Antique.

During the excellent refreshment interval members past and present had the opportunity to meet up and renew friendships.

Over and over again I was asked if I was proud of (inadvertently) being the instigator of the orchestra. I couldn't be more proud and wish them all good fortune for their next 21 years of playing together.

Judith Newman

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