On Sunday 21st May, North Downs Community Orchestra held their "Summer Smooth" Concert at Hazelwood School in Oxted. Launched back in 2016 by Dave Ellis and Peter Matthews with just 12 very enthusiastic, amateur musicians, the orchestra has steadily grown in size to around 60 musicians, who all share their love of rehearsing and performing live music together in their spare time.
Their Musical Director, Sara Young, has been the conductor of NDCO since July 2019 which means she steered the orchestra through the pandemic.
Sara said: "The orchestra has been such a positive thing for our musicians since Covid. Pam Deverill, one of our founder members, and NDCO committee have made it such a fun orchestra which has really boosted the spirits of many local musicians who had been struggling with lock-down. Our huge thanks goes to Pam and our strong committee who helped to make this all happen."
At the start of the concert, Sara told the audience that one of the great things about being the Director of NDCO is that she gets to put together the concert's progamme and she likes to choose pieces that showcase different instruments. The first two pieces after the National Anthem were both written for strings. The first was a haunting soundscape entitled: "Voices in the Shadows" by American composer, Brian Balmages, followed by the uplifting and more traditional "Celtic Roots" by Soon Hee Newhold. Simple Gifts, a traditional Shaker tune arranged by Marsha Chusmir Shapiro, put the wonderful flutes centre stage while the audience themselves had a chance to perform by singing "Jerusalem" to launch the second half of the concert.
The programme featured a wide variety of musical genres, including a fantastic performance of Santana's "Smooth" and the very challenging "Mission Impossible" by Lalo Schifrin, deftly performed by the musicans and demonstrating just how much the orchestra has grown in confidence since it began seven years ago. A wonderful medley of Cole Porter classics had feet tapping throughout the auditorium before the concert ended with a fabulous performance of one of Sara's favourite classical pieces - Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 Finale.
Rainer Hersch, the orchestra's patron, who is a professional comedian and musician, had flown in from Berlin especially to perform as a violist with the orchestra. He said: "I remember our first rehearsal on Godstone Green when there were just 12 of us, including an accordian player! I had only taken up the viola three months previously. Now it is amazing and such a great thing to be a part of."
One of the musicians, Douglas Lloyd, who played the French Horn at the concert, has been a member since the beginning of the orchestra. He said: "NDCO presents a good opportunity for anyone coming into music or returning after a break. Sara is so much fun, we all love her!"
The spacious Bawtree Hall in Hazelwood School with its stunning views over the Surrey Hills provided a great venue for the concert, especially now that NDCO has grown so considerably in size. During the evening, NDCO expressed its thanks to a number of guest musicians who participated in the concert.
NDCO welcomes adult players of all orchestral instruments. The orchestra holds no auditions and offers a flexible approach to rehearsing, practising, and performing.
by Julia Church