A brief history of Penzance Orchestral Society

In 1906, six young men of Penzance who had formed themselves into a musical ensemble called ‘The Clefs,’ decided to form an Orchestra. They were Walter Barnes, E. A. Gordon Rogers, George H. Shakerley, Alfred W. Robinson, Barrie B. Bennetts and Osbert Howarth. The elected conductor was Walter Barnes, who said he had “colossal ignorance of everything appertaining to the conducting of an Orchestra”.

The Penzance Amateur Orchestra played their first public concert on April 7th.1907, at St. John’s Hall. The concert was welcomed as a “Signal Success”. Those were the small beginnings from which the present orchestra grew.

Although he was a talented violinist, Walter played the violin at only one concert given by the orchestra – this was in celebration of their 30th anniversary in March 1937.

Walter’s last concert was in November 1941. He died early in 1942. He had been grooming J. Morgan Hosking to ‘follow in his footsteps’ as conductor, but he was away on war service. So, R.J. Maddern Williams took up the baton and kept the orchestra going during the remaining years of war.

In 1946, when Morgan Hosking returned from active service in the Navy, Maddern Williams resigned so that Mr. Barnes’ wish should take effect. Thus the 108th concert was Mr. Hosking’s first appearance as regular conductor. His last concert was the 233rd in April, 1981. He conducted the orchestra for a period of 35 years and handed the baton to David Ball, when many thought he was too young to ‘retire’. When asked why he decided to retire, he said he wanted people to say, “Why did he go?” not “When is he going?”. He died in 1993.

David Ball, a local-born science teacher who had long been a organiser of concerts in his parish at St Hilary, conducted the orchestra from November 1981 to April 2001 then rejoined it first as a oboist and subsequently as a viola player.

The current conductor, Judith Bailey, was born in Camborne. She trained at the Royal Academy of Music where she studied clarinet, piano, composition and conducting. Her freelance career in music has been largely centred in Hampshire, where for 30 years she directed the Petersfield and Southampton Concert Orchestras. During this period she had a large number of compositions for orchestra and instrumental ensemble published, often coming to Cornwall to do her writing at the house near Hayle, to which she moved permanently in 2001.

The current leader, Pamela Rosenfeld was born in London, and became a Junior Exhibitioner at the RCM, before graduating from The Guildhall. She moved to Cornwall to teach for the County Music Service in 1975. She has led many ensembles, including the Rosenfeld Trio (for South West Arts), local choral societies and orchestras.

Founder – Walter Barnes

Leader – Pamela Rosenfeld

Conductor – Judith Bailey


Being an unthreatening society, we don’t hold auditions, but we do require that you have reached a standard to cope with the symphonic repertoire: at least Grade 5 for string players, and grade 8 for wind and brass. At the moment our only vacancies are for violinists but it’s always good to hear from other players to add to our waiting list and to call upon when we need deps for rehearsals. Just fill out the Join the orchestra form and click send and one of us will get back to you. You may also use this form simply to send us a general enquiry.

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