The Harvest Waltzes by W. F. Sommerville

William Fife SommervilleWe are currently rehearsing this set of waltzes that was composed by the great grandfather of Morag Fairhead, the orchestra’s timpanist. Originally written for piano, the music was published by Methven Simpson in Dundee in the mid to late 1800s. Morag has recently had the music orchestrated by Alasdair Mitchell, a well-known local cellist and conductor.

William Fife Sommerville was born in the Bankfoot area of Perthshire in 1848, the son of a minister. He lived for most of his early years in Dundee and was a member of the Dundee Amateur Musical Society. It was during this time he wrote and had published "The Harvest Waltzes" and composed the music for a song by Dr Augustus Jukes called "The Wanderer's Wish".  In 1881 he emigrated to Fort Worth in Texas to manage the Matador Ranch for a group of Dundee businessmen. While there, he introduced the Gilbert and Sullivan operas to Fort Worth and with his tenor voice sang with his wife in at least two of them. Unfortunately, he was tragically killed in 1890 when he was  knocked off a windmill by the sails he was trying to release. He was highly thought of in the town and by order of the local Chamber of Commerce all businesses were draped in black for a week and were closed on the day of his funeral to allow citizens to attend. His wife and two surviving sons returned to Fife. He is buried in Fort Worth.

The music will receive its orchestral premiere at our concert in May, more than a century after it was written. At this concert, Morag will play drums owned by her grandfather.

9th February 2014


I am writing this on my one year Anniversary of joining CAOS and indeed of retrieving my trombone from where it has been sleeping in the attic for 20 years. I can honestly say that rejoining an orchestra has been one of the best decisions of my life.

I learned at school working my way through the grades, but when I started University I gradually let my playing slide (little trombone joke!), until after a few house moves, I had stopped. You get into a vicious cycle of not playing, having nowhere to play and then you can’t audition when opportunity knocks. So it was with some trepidation that I came along to CAOS last year, now in my 40s, having been encouraged by a friend who had stumbled upon my latent skills. The orchestra had recently lost their trombonist and I was immediately struck by how friendly everyone was – they all looked delighted to have a trombone section again, My Brass colleagues in particular were really welcoming ... brass sections really like anything that makes them louder!

Taking up playing again has been a challenge but really rewarding. I had forgotten the buzz of going on stage. I’d managed to remove from my memory the uncomfortable sensation of my “lip going”. On the first night, when the orchestra started up playing a piece ostensibly “andante”, the notes were flying past my eyes like a Formula 1 racetrack. My cheeks puffed out rather than in and counting 16 bars rest seemed to be like a task from University Challenge … but I was hooked again.

After a few months lessons were in order because I couldn’t work out how to improve … do I go back to Grade 1 or do I play one bar of Grade 8 repeatedly? I phoned a teacher and the conversation went …“I used to play 20 years ago … I was Grade 8 … but I joined an orchestra 3 months ago and I need to play a high D in a Brahms piece at a concert in 3 weeks … can you help?” How does a teacher prepare for a lesson like that? Lessons are now great fun. I’d forgotten about being told “Stop there” … seriously how wrong can you go when you’ve only played 4 notes? Answer ... very! I’ve been deconstructed like Masterchef and am hoping next year I reappear like the trombone equivalent of a Tarte Tatin: my top in harmony and my base well supported and not flat! Maturity has its benefits. I now know why I need to practice my lip slurs… up and down ... and why I need a book the size of the Yellow pages to help. Not having played for ages is strangely liberating, as I frankly have no idea what I can play so put it on the music stand and I’ll try. No longer constrained by the Associated Board Syllabus, I love picking trombone pieces off CDs, buying them and terrorising my teacher, who fortunately doesn’t seem to mind going off-piste, as I play a trombone tribute to Les Dawson!

So roll on rehearsals again in September. If you are out there like me thinking about playing again but unsure, the opportunity to come along and just join in until you recover yourself is fantastic. Your skills are just snoozing … well maybe snoring loudly but they wake up. It is a wonderful feeling when your little part slots in or Julian gives you a thumbs up and a well done – sends me home with a warm glow. As for that top D, well I hit it about once a week now, but I’ve nailed the C sharp … maybe next year when I’m a Tarte Tatin!

Ruth, a trombone again.

Confessions of a Resurrected Trombonist - Fifty Shades of B flat

28th April 2014

May 2014 concert

12th May 2014

Considering the fact that all of the music in this concert was written in the 15 year period between 1872 (the original score for L'Arlesienne) and 1887 (The Land of the Mountain and the Flood), it provided a remarkably varied programme. We kicked off with the Entrance and March of the Peers from Iolanthe, a rousing and tuneful opener which only hints at the wicked satire of the Gilbert and Sullivan opera.

The scene was set, then, for tunefulness as the order of the day, but not without a considerable emotional content. The next item was the first ever performance of The Harvest Waltzes, written by WF Sommerville in Dundee, and published as piano pieces shortly before his emigration to America. He was the great grandfather of Morag Fairhead, the orchestra's tympanist for the last 30 years. It was with sadness that the orchestra had learned, earlier in the year, that Morag would be retiring after this concert, but also with pride that she had asked Dr Alasdair Mitchell to orchestrate the waltzes so that we could have the privilege of giving them their first public performance. We hope that we managed to give them the "Viennese" lilt that Julian asked for, and that Morag, who to add to the sense of occasion was playing her grandfather's beautiful antique tympani, will remember her parting concert with pride and affection.

The first half concluded with Hamish MacCunn's Land of the Mountain and the Flood, unmistakeably sentimental and utterly Scottish. This was perhaps more challenging than we realised when we took it on, but also more interesting and subtle. Every section of the orchestra had plenty to do, and enjoyed its challenges. The warm applause from the audience was very gratifying.

In 1872 Georges Bizet was asked to write incidental music to Alphonse Daudet's play l'Arlesienne, a tale of unrequited love and its destructive power . Bizet produced a series of brilliant miniatures, but the play was too long and the first night was a disaster. Knowing his music was worth salvaging, Bizet contrived a suite which was an instant success (Suite No 1), and, though the structure bore little relation to the story, l'Arlesienne was a forerunner to the similarly themed Carmen, which followed three years later. Bizet, like WF Sommerville and so many other composers, died young, at the age of 37. After his death his friend Guiraud cobbled together a second suite from the music for l'Arlesienne as a tribute to his friend, including a tender minuet from The Fair Maid of Perth, beautifully played for us by Judy Gilbert (flute), Helen Talbot (harp), and with a lovely bassoon obbligato from Shari Cohn-Simmen. The orchestra poured heart and soul into the turbulent world of these two suites, punctuated by the despairing lover's sighs and the tolling of the bells of Arles, paradoxically finishing the story with the glorious, even triumphant Farandole.

Contributed by the Brass section

Summer Strings

1st September 2014

Players from the string section met as an informal group on five evenings over the summer. The group played well-known string music by a range of composers including Bach, Corelli, Greig, Handel, Holst, Satie, Tchaikovsky and Vivaldi plus a couple of pieces composed by CAOS members. Although not the appropriate time of year, Corelli’s Christmas Concerto proved particularly popular. The sessions were enjoyed by all with many commenting that it was an ideal way to keep playing over the summer when the orchestra does not meet.

December 2014 concert

14th December 2014

The moment had arrived. After weeks of rehearsal we were ready to perform in the CAOS concert, in a rather chilly but pleasingly full Polwarth Church. Britten’s Soirees Musicales was bright and cheery, providing a strong and tuneful start to the concert. The alternating phrases between woodwind and strings came off without a hitch, and there were vibrant dynamics from the brass. We then played Strauss Emperor Waltzes, dancing tunes which kept lively. The fears that we would slow down were largely unfounded, and there were some beautiful flourishes from Helen the harpist.

The final piece was Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony, a challenging choice, but one that we have loved rehearsing and performing. It started majestically with solos from the clarinets and bassoons, and introduced the key tune that recurred in all four movements. The horn solo in the second movement was played beautifully by James, and in the subsequent sections the melodies from the different instruments intertwined very well. The waltz was a lilting tune, and we even managed to get through the tricky fingering section and gave a light touch to the movement. The final movement provided a triumphant end to the Symphony.

This was my first concert rehearsing and performing with CAOS and it has been a highly enjoyable experience. The orchestra is exceptionally friendly, and makes everyone feel welcome and included. The conductor Julian has been encouraging from first to last, and we enjoy his (sometimes) terrible jokes. It has been a great way for me to get playing again, and I look forward to the concert in May!

Juliet Brown (Oboe)

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky


2015 Spring concert - “Around the world with CAOS”

10th May 2015

Our Spring concert started in Finland with The Karelia Suite by Sibelius, a wonderful outing for the horn section. We then travelled east In The Steppes of Central Asia by Borodin with its haunting musical image of a camel train crossing the desert. Our next stop was back home in Scotland with John Maxwell Geddes’ Dances at Threave. This performance was made special by the presence of the composer in the audience. The first half of the concert ended with Malcolm Arnold’s Little Suite No. 2. In the second half we travelled to sunny Spain for Bizet’s Carmen Suites 1 & 2, hopefully leaving the audience to return home humming the familiar Toreadors’ song.


Threave Castle, Dumfries & Galloway


2015 Christmas concert

6th December 2015

Summer Strings 2017

1st September 2017

Over the summer months, twenty of the string players met on five evenings for our now firmly established Summer Strings. We were joined by a few non-CAOS players who we hope will be encouraged to join the orchestra when we start rehearsals in September. New music for this summer included Warlock’s Capriol Suite, Shostakovich’s Waltz from Jazz Suite No. 2, Leopold Mozart’s Sinfonia di Camera and Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer. At each rehearsal we played Strauss’s Pizzicato Polka with the objective of improving our ensemble pizzicato which has been described as “scatter-gun” by our conductor. Time will tell if this has been beneficial. Some old favourites such as Karl Jenkin’s Palladio and Corelli’s Christmas Concerto were also played. Suggestions for next year’s music will be welcome.


Christmas concert 2018

1st December 2018

CAOS Xmas 2017 poster V4

The format of this year’s Christmas concert was a departure from our normal. We opened and closed the concert with Christmas carols that got the audience involved. After Shostakovich’s Festival Overture, the first half continued with a number of short works played by small groups from the orchestra: Rutter’s Pie Jesu played by a brass quintet, the fist movement of Gounod’s Petite Symphonie played by the wind section, Karl Kenkin’s Palladio played by the string section and Mascagni’s Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana arranged for horns and trombones. Douglas’s What a Wonderful World also arranged for horns and trombones brought the first half to a close. After the interval we played Journey into Space by Tom Cunningham, a local composer, who was in the audience and then the main work - the First Symphony of Camille Saint-Saens.