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. He was followed as conductor by distinguished Cornish-born composer, Judith Bailey, who  finally stepped down from our podium in March 2023 but has very much not retired as a musician.

Our conductor Tim Boulton’s musical career has taken him all over the world, but for the last 20 years he has centred his professional life on developing local and community music making in Cornwall.

Since 2003 Tim has worked tirelessly to promote opportunities for young musicians.  As Director of Cornwall Youth Orchestra (for ASONE Music Education Hub) and MusicAbility’s network of youth ensembles he regularly works with large numbers of young people while also sustaining a teaching practice that includes many of the counties’ most able young string players.  Tim has established a strong partnership with Music For Youth whose thriving regional festival supports musicians in many genres, including a dedicated festival for young rock and pop bands.  Tim’s approach to music is underpinned by years of international performing experience but his musical roots were cultivated by attending many IMS (Prussia Cove) courses in the early 1980s.  His current work with IMS includes Inspiring Young Musicians courses for musicians from across the South West, various outreach projects in Cornwall and regular performances at IMS concerts in September and January each year.

Tim and music therapist partner Ruth Boulton established MusicAbility CIC and the charity MusicAbility Foundation to promote the benefits of music in the community, through health and education services and by promoting concerts and other events.  They are currently developing MusicAbility Centre in Parade Street, Penzance.

Tim is honoured to be treading in the footsteps of the orchestra’s illustrious past conductors.  He is a great believer in the power of music and the benefit it brings to the community and he looks forward to serving both the orchestra’s members and also the people of Penzance, the orchestra’s audience and loyal supporters.

Our leader Emma Stansfield’s passion for teaching, performing and studying music has taken her all over the world before moving to Cornwall in September 2019. She studied violin and viola at both Junior and Senior departments of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama with Tim Boulton, Krzysztof Smietana and Rivka Golani. After graduating she taught violin and viola in Abu Dhabi for eight years including setting up a youth string orchestra for Abu Dhabi’s most talented string players.

Emma holds a diploma in music education from the Kodály Institute in Hungary and also completed a Master’s degree at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) studying with Richard O’Neill (Takacs Quartet) and Carla Maria Rodrigues (principal viola, San Francisco opera). She was awarded several scholarships at UCLA, including the Elaine Krown Scholarship for the arts. During her time in California she taught on UCLA’s music partnership programme working with underserved communities, as the teaching assistant for the strings department and for musicologist and cellist Elisabeth Le Guin’s Early Music Ensemble.

Since returning to Britain, Emma has been teaching Kodály musicianship at Junior Guildhall and is working with her former teacher, Tim Boulton in West Cornwall. Since moving to Cornwall, Emma has started string programs in four local primary schools, coached Cornwall Youth Orchestra and helped organise and teach on a music summer program for the Syrian refugee families settled in the area.

As a performer, Emma has a particular love for playing chamber music and is versatile in her experience, from performing with Kanye West and Harry Connick Jr. to orchestral playing and solo recitals. In the Emirates, she ran a chamber music series and in the USA, her quartet was a fellowship quartet at Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music in New Hampshire, USA. 

Founder – Walter Barnes

Tim Boulton - Conductor

Conductor – Tim Boulton

Leader – Emma Stansfield


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 we especially want to hear from trumpeters, viola players and 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 email Join the orchestra and one of us will get back to you.

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