Join the Club: Wessex Concert Orchestra

PUBLISHED: 11:27 11 February 2011 | UPDATED: 18:51 20 February 2013

Join the Club: Wessex Concert Orchestra

Join the Club: Wessex Concert Orchestra

Wessex Concert Orchestra's Musical Director, Andrew Baatz, talks to Dee La Vardera

Wessex Concert Orchestras Musical Director, Andrew Baatz, talks to Dee La Vardera

When was the club set up?

Last year we celebrated our 70th anniversary. The orchestra was formed in 1940 by workers at Westinghouse Brake Company Ltd which was, at that time, a munitions factory. It was known as the Westinghouse Concert Orchestra but changed its name when it was re-launched in 2004, keeping the same initials. Since then the orchestra has doubled its number of members and continues to go from strength to strength.

Who is it open to?

Orchestral musicians of a reasonable standard, subject to a vacancy for their instrument. We dont set a strict grade-based entry standard so players performing at around Grade 6 should find most of our repertoire within their grasp, although concerts contain challenges for us all. We welcome additional string players, as well as woodwind, brass and percussion, and we are always on the lookout for accomplished younger players who have the musical and personal maturity to take part in all our activities.
We would also be very pleased to hear from non-players who could help out with the administration, marketing and development.

When and where do you meet?

Mondays from 7.30pm-9.30pm at Monkton Park Primary School, Sadlers Mead, Chippenham, SN15 3PN.

How many members do you have?

We have around 45 members, ranging in age from 16 to 75. Our orchestra is very well-balanced and we are very fortunate to have musicians who play instruments not normally encountered in a non-professional orchestra, such as harp, contra-bassoon, cor anglais and bass clarinet.

Are there any rules or regulations which members have to follow?We are a registered charity and therefore subject to some Charity Commission rules.

Do you have links with other clubs or organisations?

Not formally, although we have a very positive attitude to the idea of working in collaboration with other creative groups who share our ideals. We also have an extensive music library, and sets are available for individuals and musical societies to hire.

What is the best thing about being a member of the club?

This is a friendly, exciting orchestra which strives for a balance between tackling challenging works and enjoying the social benefits of making music together in a supportive environment. We also play a much wider range of music than most other orchestras in the area, including film scores, British Light Music, arrangements from musical theatre, through to opera excerpts, symphonies, concertos and contemporary music.
We are known as one of the friendliest orchestras in the area. We have a break during rehearsals to socialise, and we organise informal social events such as pub trips and curry nights. Groups of friends from the orchestra have been to music summer schools together and we regularly meet up in smaller sections to do string or wind workshops, sometimes professionally facilitated.

What is the most interesting story from the clubs history?

In 1945, the orchestra performed live twice on Works Wonders, which was a series of programmes broadcast on BBC radio from factory canteens, and was described as a lunch-time concert presented to their fellow workers by members of the staff of a large munitions work somewhere in England. In recent years, we took part in a joint performance with the professional Orchestra of The Swan from Stratford-upon-Avon, and numerous outdoor proms-style performances for festivals and at military bases. Next year, more than 20 of our members will travel to Liverpool to take part in a joint event with the Liverpool Philharmonic.

What is your next event which is open to potential new members?

Our next concert is on 12 March in Malmesbury Abbey with the wonderful violist Enik Magyar, from Hungary. The programme includes Bruch Romance Op 85 for Viola and Orchestra and Tchaikovsky Symphony 5.

Describe your club in five words.

Friendly, challenging, inspiring, supportive, developing.

For more information on the Wessex Concert Orchestra and to make contact, go to

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