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Origins according to Dr. Paul & Mrs Dot. Bristol

Dot and I sat in the kitchen of our home in Earls Colne, mulling over my difficulty finding a vacant flute slot (where have I heard that before)? There were no very local orchestras, surely there must be enough players to form an orchestra of good quality in the Halstead area?

Thus began CPO and in April 1989 we had an open meeting to which any interested parties were invited; about fifteen turned up and we had the beginnings of the orchestra. By October 1989 our first concert was set up; We had experienced a steep learning curve in the art of networking (although we knew it as phoning the friend of a friend of a friend of a friend) and collected enough players to perform an inaugural concert on October 21st 1989 at Holy Trinity Church, Halstead. Most of our "starter" members generously pump-primed the orchestra with a subscription (later abandoned as unsustainable), and with these funds we publicised the concert and those players that we had to buy in.

The programme was to open with Vaughan-Williams "The Wasps" Overture, followed by Eelgrass "wand of Youth" Suite No 1, and would finish with Dvorak’s "New World" Symphony. We asked a young conductor called Julian Bigg to do the honours, who subsequently went on to conduct "Les Miserables" in the West End. Jill Davison was to lead on a trial basis and the trial is still going as she has been leader of the CPO ever since!

We made the tickets ourselves, and I spent hours shut away in Bob Dixey’s office (he still does an enormous amount for the orchestra), trying to understand how his word-processor worked. I could not even call for help as his phone was so modern that I could not figure out how to work that either!

The church itself presented us with some problems; October is a cold month for an unheated church, so we had to import an industrial heater that bore more resemblance to an Olympus jet engine than to an appliance for the comfort of concert-goers and players. It had to be shut down as soon as the serious playing began, as the noise shared that resemblance. I had to rewire the pulpit in order that it could be moved (as we still do today), and rope in my partners from the surgery to move it.

We were blessed with a surprisingly large audience, so that the absence of heating after 7.30 was barely noticeable, and the performance was greeted with enthusiasm.

History of the Orchestra

The Colne Philharmonic Orchestra was formed in 1989 through the enterprise of former Chairman of the CPO and local Halstead GP Paul Bristol. As a musician himself he felt the need for an orchestra in the area which provided good amateur players with the opportunity to enjoy rehearsing and performing music together under the direction of a professional conductor. Since then, the orchestra has built a reputation for quality performances, with a varied and challenging repertoire. It has had the patronage of renowned soloists such as virtuoso violinist Thomas Eisner of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, oboist Alun Derbyshire and more recently Beth Spendlove, as well as talented young musicians starting out in the professional music world.

The Colne Philharmonic has been privileged to experience the talents of a series of professional conductors. The first was Julian Bigg who went on to be Deputy Musical Director of 'Les Miserables' in London. His successor was Andrea Quinn who conducted the CPO until 1993 and is currently Musical Director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, in addition to conducting the London Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. She was followed by Jacques Cohen, who conducted his last concert with the CPO in February 2000, and is likewise carving a place for himself in the professional conducting world.

In 2001 the orchestra was delighted to welcome Anthony Weeden as its new conductor and we look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with him.

The CPO usually performs three major concerts each year in ChristChurch Braintree and attracts players from as far afield as Cambridge, Bishop's Stortford, Southend and Colchester.

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