Sweet sound of community

THIS year the Community Light Orchestra is 21-years-old.JAMES MARSTON speaks to some of the members to mark the anniversary.

James Marston

THIS year the Community Light Orchestra is 21-years-old.

Today JAMES MARSTON speaks to some of the members to mark the anniversary.

THERE'S the rather discordant noise of strings tuning up as you walk into Henley Community Centre at about 10am on a Tuesday morning.

In fact it doesn't sound very tuneful at all but once tuned up and the Community Light Orchestra gets going it's a different story.

The rather more pleasant sounds of Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet overture fill the rehearsal hall and with a membership of more than 60, the noise made by the orchestra and the range of instruments used is impressive.

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Christine Ranson, one of the orchestra's first violinists, takes a moment away from her seat to the left of the conductor to talk about the orchestra's history.

She said: “The orchestra was formed in 1987 as the Ipswich Community Orchestra. There were 12 founder members and the early rehearsals were held on Tuesday mornings at the county music school in Bolton Lane, Ipswich, before moving to Murrayside Community Centre.

“A year later the community education office had to withdraw its financial support. The members, whose numbers had grown, were keen to continue independently and a new conductor, beryl Bird, who played keyboard in the orchestra, was appointed.”

Over the years the orchestra has expanded.

Christine said: “The rehearsal venue was changed to Thurleston high school. Concerts were performed in the school, sometimes with the involvement of pupils. It was about this time that since many member s came from outside the borough boundary it was decided to drop “Ipswich” from the orchestra's name.”

Giving three concerts a year and raising money for local and national charities the orchestra has performed since its inception.

Christine added: “The orchestra was really aimed at adult beginners or those returning to playing their instrument. The standard of playing and repertoire has improved over the years.

“There's no age group but it tends to be retired people as they have more time on their hands.”

On June 21 the orchestra is celebrating its milestone anniversary with a concert in St John's Church Ipswich.

Christine said: “The orchestra's repertoire isn't just classical music, we do all sorts of popular pieces as well and play a different range of styles.”

A number of spin off organisations emerged from the community Light orchestra including small ensembles, a wind group and the Community String Group.

Alongside the Tchaikovsky, the orchestra is currently rehearsing The Rose, by Amanda McBroom, music by Gilbert and Sullivan, a selection of arrangements by Duke Ellington for the anniversary concert.

As the orchestra begins to practice Amazing Grace Colin Pettingale takes a moment out.

Octogenarian Colin, of Adelaide Road, Ipswich is a French Horn player with the orchestra.

The 82-year-old said: “I've been playing the French Horn for about 30 years and I've been in the orchestra almost since the beginning.

“I enjoy creating music as well as the social side to the orchestra. It's a way of meeting people and getting out and about.”

Orchestra leader and retired telecom engineer Dave Lewis, 67, of Bromeswell, said: “I've been in the orchestra since 1994 and I pay the violin.

“The orchestra enables a wide range of people to play the sort of music they wouldn't otherwise play.”

Dave said a typical member is someone who is returning to playing after their family has grown up.

He said: “People like to go back to playing an instrument that they may have played as youngsters.”

For second trombonist Maureen Finch, of Henley Road, Ipswich the orchestra has been a source of enjoyment for the last 17 years.

She said: “My husband and I are now in our 80s and we are calling it a day but we've had a wonderful time in the orchestra.”

Maureen's husband Ted, 82, said: “I play the bass clarinet. I like to make music with other people and there's a great sense of comradeship.

“We raise a lot of money for charity with out concerts and we give pleasure to people.”

- Are you a fan of the Community Light Orchestra? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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