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2015 Christmas concert

6th December 2015


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

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

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.

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

Confessions of a Resurrected Trombonist - Fifty Shades of B flat

28th April 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.

The Harvest Waltzes by W. F. Sommerville

9th February 2014

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.

December 2013 concert - a personal account from Gill in the cellos

8th December 2013

DannyMillerThe orchestra performed its December concert in Polwarth Parish Church under the baton of Dean McGain-Harding. Dean heroically stepped up from his usual seat in the brass section to be our guest conductor during the autumn term of 2013.

As we were preparing for the pre-concert rehearsal in the church, I was delighted to notice that our erstwhile conductor Hector Scott had arrived and was unpacking his viola in order to play with us. This provided some welcome support for the only viola available to play in the concert and indeed to the lower strings generally.  We have a good number of cellos in the orchestra but no double basses so two cellos nobly play the double bass part despite their concern that the audience might think they are not quite able to follow the proper cello music.Brahms’s haunting Symphony No 2 in D major filled the first half of the programme. We played movements 1,3 and 4 of this wonderful but challenging work. During rehearsals, I didn’t know why we were not working on the 2nd movement but one glance at the music made me very grateful that someone had made the tactful decision to edit our version! It was a brave choice for an amateur orchestra to perform but I certainly felt that my skills had been stretched (or even developed) by playing it. Also, when I recognised a recording of Brahms 2 being played on the radio, it made me realise that our interpretation had not been too bad at all although I don’t think members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra should suffer sleepless nights with any job security concerns.

Our relief at having completed the performance of the Brahms was enhanced by having the Edinburgh Military Wives Choir join us to sing carols during the interval. The choir helped to create a lovely festive atmosphere while audience and orchestra enjoyed mince pies and refreshments together.

The second part of the evening began with a stirring performance of the finale of Mozart’s Grand Partita played by the brass and woodwind sections of the orchestra so we happy string players were able to take a break and sit amongst the audience to enjoy this piece.

Danny Miller joined us as the soloist in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor and impressed us not only with his brilliant violin playing but also his helpfulness, patience and unassuming nature. It was a genuine pleasure to accompany him and I still can’t believe that he felt he had to apologise to us when once he made a mistake during rehearsals.

The orchestra played along with the Edinburgh Military Wives Choir in Dean McGain-Harding’s own Coventry Carol Medley which formed the festive finale to the concert. We’re very grateful to Dean for all his hard work with us in the autumn term and hope he will enjoy getting back to playing his trumpet with us in the spring.

In January2014 we’re very pleased that the very amiable Julian Appleyard, who has worked with us on several previous occasions, will take up the CAOS conductor’s baton for the next session.

Life Membership

5th November 2013

The orchestra has created the new membership category of Life Member. This will be offered to long-serving players on their retiral from the orchestra. The aim of this initiative is to retain links with ex-players by keeping them up-to-date with the orchestra’s activities and providing them with complimentary concert tickets.

Summer 2013 rehearsals

1st September 2013

As a new venture, informal rehearsals have been held over the summer with the string and wind players meeting separately. Dean McGain-Harding did the conducting and the regular attendance of many members showed the popularity of the sessions. Thank you Dean.

May 2013 concert

12th May 2013

Piano_smallFor this evening’s concert we were joined by the pianist Anna Mavromatidi for a performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 under the direction of Hector Scott. It is always a thrill for the orchestra to play with a soloist, especially one as accomplished as Anna. The audience was captivated by her brilliant playing.

The second half was a performance of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 6 conducted by Julian Appleyard. Julian is an old friend of the orchestra, having taken many of our Tuesday evening rehearsals. It was a pleasure to finally perform under his direction.