The North Downs Community Orchestra was founded on 23rd March 2016. Set up as a warm welcoming fun Orchestra open to musicians in the North Downs region of Surrey, Kent, East & West Sussex & Southern London.
The Orchestra seeks to give musicians the opportunity to play in a Community Orchestra and has a great "no grades - no auditions" policy of welcoming musicians who play an Orchestral Instrument. Specifically the Orchestra does not require members to have achieved certain grades and does not hold auditions - if you can play your instrument to a reasonable level, then do get in touch.
Rainer Hersch: Patron
Internationally acclaimed conductor and comedian Rainer Hersch is Patron of the Orchestra.
A professional conductor, musician and comedian who has performed on every major comedy stage in Britain and abroad.. Rainer has appeared many times at the Edinburgh Festival; had numerous comedy-concert series at the South Bank in London; featured in comedy clubs all across Europe and in TV shows around the world. Rainer has conducted many professional Orchestras globally is a professional Pianist and is an aspirational Viola player. The Orchestra is honoured to have Rainer as our Patron; a commitment that inspires us to be the best and most fun we can.
Sara Young: Musical Director and String section development
Sara Young began learning the violin aged 6, and was awarded a Junior Exhibition at the Royal College of Music before undertaking academic studies at Oxford University.
At Oxford, Sara played with many chamber groups and orchestras, and post university, she played with the Saloman Orchestra. Sara led the Havering Concert Orchestra 1982-86 and was a founder member of the Essex Chamber Orchestra, (Leader 1992/93) with whom she celebrated 40 years of music making in April 2019.
After success in IT in the City, Sara was invited to teach at Youth Music Centre Hampstead, Bexley Music School, and worked as a peripatetic violin teacher for Bexley local authority. Subsequently Sara enjoyed four years at Holy Trinity College, Bromley teaching violin, octet and string orchestra.
Following 18 years and several roles at Hazelwood School, where her String Quartet took the Silver Medal at the Young Prague Music Festival 2015, Sara retired as Director of Music in 2018. Her most significant achievement however, was successfully encouraging parents and grandparents to sit alongside their children and grandchildren in the orchestra: as a passionate advocate for community music, Sara believes that the educational and social benefits of making music with others cannot be underestimated. Consequently Sara was delighted to be invited to begin working with NDCO for their summer concert in 2019.
Sara continues to perform with orchestras and bands, including Essex Chamber Orchestra, Jersey Symphony Orchestra, Tonbridge Philharmonic, and ‘Bagatelle’ and, in a different genre, ‘The Victorious River Band’ where she plays electric and acoustic violin. Following her appointment as Musical Director Sara said, ‘I am absolutely delighted to be appointed as the new Musical Director of the North Downs Community Orchestra, and am looking forward to a bright and fun filled future of collaborative music making!’
Richard Cross: Principal Guest Conductor and Wind section development
Richard Cross has worked as a trombonist in opera, ballet, orchestras, shows and pop. Orchestras include Bournemouth Symphony, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Royal Northern Sinfonia and D'Oyly Carte Opera, with work encompassing concert performances at The BBC Proms, broadcasts, Naxos recording sessions and outreach engagements. His arrangements have been recorded on CD and broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.
In chamber ensembles, he has performed for The Archbishop of Canterbury at key services and events. On the lighter side, he has played jazz and big band music on board the QE2, as well as recording for the pop industry at EMI Abbey Road Studios. Richard is a graduate of The Royal Academy of Music where he studied classical trombone principally, alongside conducting, composition and arranging.
Our members are from a variety of musical backgrounds. Around 20% had never played in an Orchestra before. About 33% were new to their instrument some having only a few weeks experience and with about 40% returning to their instrument after a substantial break in playing, over 30 years in some cases.
We are an orchestra for adults. Players under 18 may play with us for very special reasons, if agreed in advance. They must be accompanied by a parent/guardian, at all times.