The North Downs Community Orchestra was founded in 2016, and was set up as a warm, welcoming, and fun community orchestra open to musicians in the North Downs region of Surrey, Kent, East & West Sussex, and South London.
From the beginning: the first rehearsal, 23 March 2016
HOW IT ALL STARTED
In late 2015, two men were bemoaning how they loved playing their clarinets in their school orchestra but didn’t have anywhere to make music in their local area. It was a light bulb moment – if there wasn’t an existing orchestra, they would create one! Their vision was an orchestra where anyone with an instrument and some musical knowledge could make music in a fun and social atmosphere, with no auditions and a flexible approach to rehearsing, practising, and performing. Those men were Dave Ellis and Peter Matthews, and the orchestra they formed was the North Downs Community Orchestra, or as we like to call ourselves, "The Fun Orchestra." Our first rehearsal was held on 23rd March 2016.
Sleigh Ride Christmas concert, St. John's, November 2019
THE ORCHESTRA TODAY
Our musical director and conductor today is Sara Young. The orchestra meets 2-3 times a month in or around Oxted, and plays around 2 or 3 concerts a year. Today, our members are a varied group, comprised of musicians of all levels from the surrounding North Downs region of Surrey, Kent, East & West Sussex, and South London. We include:
Members who played their instruments in school 20 odd years ago and found them gathering dust in the attic – they used to be good, but are rusty;
Musicians who have only had a few lessons but always wanted to play in an orchestra;
Musicians looking to practice their second instrument;
Experienced musicians who do not want the pressure of other orchestras that require lots of time commitment and practising;
And many other backgrounds!
Above all, we want to play music, have fun while we do it, and give back to our community by sharing our music via our performances and concerts. We don't turn away musicians based on instrument seat quotas or skill level, and our repertoire ranges from popular classical music to music from films and musicals that caters to all differing levels of skill.
OUR ETHOS AND MISSION
Keeping in the spirit of our founding musicians' intentions, NDCO seeks to give musicians the opportunity to play music with others with a no-grades-and-no-auditions policy. Our membership structure is flexible, and we offer the option of "pay-as-you-play" payment. We do not require upfront commitments, we do not hold auditions and we don't require any grades. We never turn away members no matter how many instruments are in a section. We stand by our ethos of inclusivity, mutual respect, consideration, and support for all.
We offer an outlet for people to experience the joys and challenges of playing in an orchestra, band, or ensemble without having to audition or have grades. There is a positive air of enjoyment, friendship, and support in our group, and we all find therapeutic benefit in playing our instruments with likeminded people. In 2019, the NDCO became a registered charity to help us further our goals and give music back to our community.
There is always a social interval or ‘tea break’ at rehearsals, and we hold a social at the end of each term. We welcome new members, and we try to provide everyone a warm and inclusive space to make music together. For photos of our current members, past concerts, and more information on membership, please visit our membership page.
For more information on our organisation and ethos, take a look at our documents for download.