NEW orchestras don’t start every day of the week, but one that has, in Manchester, in the recent past is the Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra, founded by conductor Tom Newall.
They’re playing at the Royal Northern College of Music on May 29 (2pm), in the first of a new series called Young Explorers Concerts. The special programme for children, Music From Distant Galaxies, features the Stars Wars suite by John Williams, Short Ride In A Fast Machine by John Adams and The Planets suite by Holst.
Tom had the initial idea, says manager Rachel Cotton, so he could conduct a high-quality ensemble on a regular basis and give students and emerging young players a chance to work to a professional schedule.
“I became involved when Tom began looking for people to help him turn his idea into a reality,” she says. “We started the orchestra with no funding and just a small amount of investment from Tom and me, to get the first concert off the ground – and from there it has grown rapidly.”
The idea of a ‘repertoire orchestra’ turned into a complete new arts organisation which could not only provide work for emerging players but have a focus on taking orchestral music into disadvantaged communities.
“We approached Manchester Communication Academy – a school and community hub in Harpurhey – with the idea of a concert at the school and a parallel outreach programme. “They were really excited by the idea of a 70-strong symphony orchestra in their community, and so the journey began to plan our inaugural concert,” Rachel adds.
The project is supported by Arts Council England, and they have set up a community choir and a primary school singing project in north Manchester.
“The choir and primary schools joined the orchestra at the Bridgewater Hall as part of Jason Manford’s charity Christmas concert, an experience I am sure they will never forget,” she says. “Over the next three years we plan to continue to grow the work we do.”
Meanwhile, there’s the RNCM concert, plus a performance at Blackburn Cathedral in June and then a two-week tour to Danville, Kentucky, USA, where they have been invited to be orchestra-in-residence for a community arts festival.
They’ll be playing live for showings of Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas animated film in November and December, and making a return visit to a UK Star Wars fan convention. May the Force be with them.