Lancashire Chamber Orchestra
About Lancashire Chamber Orchestra
It was the notion shared by John Ashworth, then Head of String Teaching in Lancashire Schools and Paul Ward, a former sub-principal cellist in the Halle orchestra and cello professor at the Royal Manchester College of Music, “that teachers need not only to teach but that they should also play together and have the opportunity to do so to a high standard under professional direction”. Thus the Lancashire Chamber Orchestra was formed -initially as the Lancashire String Orchestra- in 1969, and from very modest beginnings (under Paul Ward’s direction initially and pursuing a string repertoire only) and with only a few players it has grown into today’s ensemble. Following Paul Ward’s retirement in the early 1970, the orchestra was extremely fortunate to have had as its principal conductors Andrew Penny, Richard Vardigans and for some fifteen years, Robert Chasey, principal second violin with the BBC Philharmonic, who greatly expanded both its size and repertoire, introducing it to many new experiences and venues with a host of outstanding soloists many drawn from the BBC Philharmonic. His successor as principal conductor in 2004 was the young American conductor Kenneth Woods (now famous for his blog “View from the Podium”). He continued to build –formidably -on the work of his predecessor and over the next eight years the orchestra developed and expanded considerably, attracting many new players. Kenneth introduced both his players (and the ever more curious audiences!) to a wide ranging repertoire of often new, unfamiliar rarely performed works such as Hans Gal’s violin concerto (first UK performance), Viktor Ullman String Quartet, (which he himself had expanded for string orchestra), both Chamber Symphonies by Shostakovich and a host of works from the contemporary American scene. He is undoubtedly best remembered by both orchestra and audiences for the “benchmark” five Beethoven symphonies he directed during his tenure. An outstanding soloist too he also directed memorable performances of two concertos from the cello. Kenneth’s work schedule led to his appointment as Principal Guest conductor of the Orchestra of the Swan and Chief conductor of the English Symphony orchestra in Guildford succeeding the late Vernon Handley, and his heavy work schedule also resulted in his leaving the orchestra in 2012 after eight years. Since his departure no permanent successor has yet been appointed, but the orchestra has maintained its regular self promoted concerts at Altrincham Girls’ Grammar School under the direction of several distinguished conductors including Jon Malaxetxebarria (RNCM), Richard Davis (BBC Philharmonic) and Michael Bawtree (Scottish Opera), and programmes have fully retained their often innovative and challenging and extremely diverse nature. For many of which we have continued to have some of the very finest soloists, among whom special mention should be made of Daniel Browell who has performed no fewer than five piano concertos with us. Additionally the orchestra has continued its long standing and much-cherished associations with several leading Northern choral societies including Altrincham Choral Society, Blackburn Musical Society and Chesterfield Philharmonic choir delivering high standards of performance on every occasion and in venues throughout the region. Choral concerts have been an important and integral feature throughout most of the orchestra’s existence. A regular popular (and mostly annual) event throughout much of the orchestra’s existence has been a Play-Day when a guest conductor and players from other groups are invited to join us for a day to rehearse (without performance) a substantial work from the repertoire.