The Redditch Orchestra - A History
The Redditch Orchestra must be one of Worcestershire's oldest amateur orchestras. Jimmy Price who had recently been appointed by the County to teach violin in schools established it in 1948. Jimmy had been a professional violinist working in leading orchestras and playing under many great conductors including Beecham in the RPO. Jimmy gathered a group of keen amateur musicians from his travels into school and formed the Redditch College Orchestra, named because it rehearsed at the college and eventually became an adult evening class. The Orchestra performed three concerts each year at the college and in other venues in the Redditch area. In February 1981 Jimmy had a sudden illness and John Graham principal cellist and conductor of the Redditch Youth Orchestra (also started by Jimmy Price in 1950) took over the baton. In 1985 the Orchestra left the college and became self-financing and also changed its name to The Redditch Orchestra. The Orchestra has had three other conductors, Nic Fallowfield, Mike Bates and Russell Abraham with guest conductors being asked to conduct specific concerts.
The Orchestra is made up of 35 members and it is enlarged for concerts to 40-50 players depending on the programme. Concerts are usually held in St Stephen's Church in Redditch or The Artrix, Bromsgrove. The Orchestra often perform a repeat of a concert in other venues and these have been in Pershore, Worcester, Alcester and Birmingham. The Orchestra has on occasions combined with choral societies to accompany some of the great choral masterpieces, has made two concert tours to France, one to Belgium and one to Germany.
The Orchestra repertoire is varied, but mainly comes from the classical, romantic and early twentieth century. The programmes are designed to be interesting and a challenge for players to rehearse, to attract an audience and to be financially viable in terms of music hire, copyright and soloist's fees. Soloist's playing with the Orchestra have included, Alan Schiller, Frank Wibaut, Elaine Donohoe, Anup Biswas, Martin Millner and Tom Bowes performing standard concertos plus challenging works such as the Barber and Szymanowski violin concertos.
The Redditch Orchestra is facing the new millennium and its next fifty years in good spirit but with the ever perennial challenges of attracting new players, coping with concert programmes and venues in Redditch (which are far from ideal), and improving audience size.