Welcome to the website of Penzance Orchestral Society, the UK’s westernmost symphony orchestra, which has been running since 1907.
We have two seasons a year, during which we hold ten weekly rehearsals before giving public concerts in March and November. Members (eg players) pay an annual subscription of just £40, which covers music hire, rental of both rehearsal and concert venues and the fees of our two annual soloists. We currently have vacancies for violinists, trumpeters and a harpist but we always welcome enquiries from all players as we sometimes need deputies or expanded wind or brass sections. Our concerts are in Penzance and we rehearse in Humphry Davy School. Our leader is Emma Stansfield and our conductor, Tim Boulton.
As a registered charity (no 265510) we welcome donations to help us continue our work. One of the nicest ways you can support us is by becoming a Friend. For £15 a year (and you’re welcome to donate more!), you’ll be sent details of our concerts in plenty of time and given the chance to book ahead of the crowd. In our concert intervals you’ll be welcomed with free wine and a chance to meet our other supporters and members of the orchestra but your main reward will be knowing you’re supporting a remarkable piece of West Cornwall culture! To contact the Friends’ secretary, Piers, please click here.
Even if you don’t want to commit to becoming a friend, please join our mailing list to avoid missing out. We will only mail you twice a year and you can unsubscribe with a single click. Click here to sign up.
Our Autumn 2023 concert will mark our first under the new team of Tim Boulton as conductor and Emma Stansfield as leader. Tim has built the programme around the old concept of four elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. The pieces are thus Smetana’s watery tone poem Vltava, Graham Fitkin’s Metal, Vaughan-Williams’ ever popular The Lark Ascending and a version of Handel’s Royal Fireworks Music reorchestrated for our full forces by our outgoing conductor, Judith Bailey. The programme will also feature a brand new commission from composer Andrew Wilson, Earth Signs, designed as an earthbound counterpart to The Lark Ascending. Our violin soloist to be a returning favourite of. society and audiences alike, Preston Yeo. The concert will be a 3pm matinee in St John’s Hall Penzance on November 25th 2023. Tickets cost £10 but are free to anyone under 21. You can book them through the Minack by clicking here or buy them on the door.
Preston Yeo is a British prize-winning violinist regarded for his intensely imaginative and virtuosic performances captivating audiences world-wide. Picking up the violin aged four, he enrolled at the Purcell School just three years later as one of the youngest-ever pupils.
Going on to study at the Royal Academy of Music, Preston attained a First-Class Bachelors, Distinction for his Masters, Distinction for the LRAM teaching licentiate, and a DipRAM for his Masters graduation recital, fully supported by the Helen Worswick Scholarship and other charitable trusts. He was then appointed as a 2022-23 Meaker Fellow and Royal Academy Junior Department violin professor that same year.
As a soloist, Preston enjoys frequent collaborations with awe-inspiring conductors, orchestras, and composers, performing core concerto repertoire and giving world- premieres of composer’s works. He was appointed Concertmaster of the Worthing Philharmonic Orchestra at the start of 2022, after having undergone rigorous training and extensive experience in orchestral leadership as part of the 2019-20 LSO Experience Scheme. At the renowned IMS Prussia Cove Spring Masterclasses, Preston studied with Prof. Gerhard Schulz of the Alban Berg Quartett in 2023 and continues to take part in the IMS Open Chamber Music sessions and Outreach Projects in and around Cornwall.
Preston plays the Nicolò Gagliano c.1746 violin currently on loan from the Academy.
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
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 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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