Macclesfield Symphony Orchestra
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Registered charity no 517554
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Macclesfield Symphony Orchestra  

Macclesfield Symphony Orchestra (formerly known as KEMS Orchestra) has established itself as a performing orchestra in its own right as well as accompanying Macclesfield Singers in joint concerts.
The orchestra  has attracted eminent conductors over the years; in recent years they have included such figures as composer Colin Touchin (former head of composition at Chetham’s School of Music and Director of Music at Warwick University); Martin Milner (former leader of the Hallé Orchestra); and Stephen Threlfall (former BBC Philharmonic cellist, now Director of Music at Chetham’s).

Since the 2001-02 season, the Orchestra has been conducted by Anthony Houghton, who for many years was Principal Clarinet of the Northern Ballet Theatre and Manchester Camerata Orchestras and who was a regular player with the Hallé Orchestra and BBC Philharmonic. Anthony has played a major role in expanding the Orchestra’s repertoire in recent years. A few examples will demonstrate the range and styles of music played during the past few years:  
•  Copland Rodeo  
•  Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue  
•  Brahms Symphony No 2  
•  Milhaud Suite Provencale  
•  Delius Brigg Fair  
•  Dvorak Symphony No 8  
•  Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto  
•  Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherezade  
•  Elgar Symphony No 1  
•  Bruckner Symphony No 6  
•  Saint-Saens Organ Symphony No 3  
•  Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony
•  Karl Jenkins The Armed Man
•  Brahms Symphony No 4
•  Delibes Coppelia    
•  Prokofiev Peter and the Wolf
•  Britten Young Person’s Guide
•  Prokofiev Peter and the Wolf
•  Sibelius Symphony No 1
•  Bernstein Candide Overture
•  Sibelius Symphony No 3
•  Adam Gorb Silk Impressions
New players welcome
The Orchestra always welcomes enquiries from prospective players; in the first instance, please e-mail Sue Hudson giving brief details of your playing experience and we will let you know if any vacancies exist at the present time.
Music Director Tony Houghton looks back on the 2022-23 season  

 Our 66th season began with promise of great new beginnings, with exciting and challenging music on the agenda as always and two wonderful violinists as prospective new MSO Leaders lined up for half-season trials.
Rūta Labutyte was to lead up to Christmas and she immediately endeared herself to us in the September and October rehearsals with her skilful playing and charming personality. Our orchestral works of music from Britten’s Peter Grimes and Coleridge Taylor’s Othello Suite for the November Concert were new to most and along with the more familiar Elgar Music Makers with the Choir, required every moment of our ten week’s preparation time. In late October Rūta suffered some health problems and had to return to her home in Lithuania for a short while and there was a last minute doubt about whether she would be back for the concert. However in the end she did return in time and the concert was a great success with the orchestra performing these amazing scores in exuberant and brilliant style – a satisfying result from the dedication and hardwork put in by everyone.
Unfortunately Rūta sadly decided to end her promising UK music career and to begin it all again in her home country, which meant she was not able to complete her time with us and we had to find a replacement for the Christmas event.
We were very lucky to find the very talented Matthew Chadbond (recent RNCM student, Manchester based and Leader of the Slaithwaite Orchestra) available and keen to join us to relish the famous violin solo in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Ballet Music and he led with great charisma and charm. As always this concert is a delightful evening full of carols and popular seasonal favourites – always a bit of a rush for us with only a few weeks to learn and rehearse the music but players and singers rose to the occasion with a will and enjoyment, and everyone left the concert with plenty of Christmas bonhomie and all those lovely tunes playing in their minds for days after.
2023 began with Henry Rankin as the second trialist leader and it was not many weeks before it became clear that he was not only the ideal candidate and a great player but that he was very keen to take on the job on a full-time basis and by February the offer had been made and accepted: and the March orchestral concerts in Macclesfield and Congleton were performed by Henry as our new MSO Leader.
These back to back concerts on 4th & 5th March were dedicated to Ron Thorn, as the Orchestra’s special celebration of his fifty years of dedication to the orchestra in the viola section. The French music programme included the unique Harold in Italy by Berlioz, the work has a solo obligato viola part but it is more of a symphony, featuring the orchestra, than an instrumental concerto, a fitting tribute I thought. It needed a special soloist, and we had one in Vicci Wardman (RNCM professor and international viola soloist) but disaster struck a few weeks before the concert when she had to pull out with a damaged hand! However Vicci was able to save the situation by suggesting and recommending her star pupil, Jeanette Szeto who not only had the piece at her fingertips but at only two weeks notice was thankfully available for both concerts and the Tuesday rehearsal scheduled for the work.
The concerts were great successes, the more well-known Bizet and Debussy works bringing in good-sized audiences in both venues and, particularly in Congleton’s favourable acoustic, the Berlioz sounded magical with Jeanette playing magnificently and drawing from the players acute listening and sensitivity as well as the flamboyance and drama required especially in its finale!
The next concert, of Mozart works for Choir and Orchestra was a great contrast, with reduced forces and only four short weeks of rehearsal to change the focus from overblown Romantic sound to the Classical style. There was a particular challenge enjoyed by the trombones who featured not only in the solemn masonic moments in the Magic Flute Overture but in the choral works, where they had such an important, special and relentless role. It was a joy working on these Mozart pieces and on the concert day, as Henry had a previous engagement, yet another guest leader had to be engaged and Laurie Dempsey stepped in with calm and efficient professionalism to spread the required confidence to the group to enable them to produce their best: resulting in another great collaboration of Singers and Orchestra.
Our already successful season was to be spectacularly completed with a wonderful final concert. Heather Bills was our brilliant soloist in the Elgar Cello Concerto, a work of special significance for many of us and requiring great musicianship, sensitivity and subtlety from everyone. I couldn’t have asked for more, the orchestra was on the edge of its seats and responded with excellent awareness and flexibility to every nuance from that beautiful cello sound; there was intense concentration to every fleeting, fragile, emotional moment and commendable authority in the sudden resounding tuttis when asked for. It was a triumphant performance. To bookend the programme, two little-known works, which I was very glad to find were well accepted by players and audience. Alan Rawsthorne’s Street Corner Overture made a very sparkly and upbeat start to the concert – a forgotten gem it was good to have brought into the light. It was good too to give Vaughan Williams Symphony No. 8 a rare outing. This also is lively exuberant music that should be heard more. It wasn’t until the afternoon of the concert day, when we were joined by piano, harp and that massive array of percussion for the first time, that the true effect of the piece was heard by the players, and I was very impressed by the courageous and uninhibited playing from the orchestra that undoubtably allowed us to give a very exciting and convincing performance. I was delighted that our larger than expected audience so obviously enjoyed it too – giving us a great ovation and several curtain calls.
We were very glad to welcome many new members to MSO this season. Sarah Ledbury, Anna Hazel, Eve Corrie & Susan Denerley in the strings and in the winds and brass, Andrew Smithson Hn, Gareth King Tbn1, Nicola Bright Tbn2 and Jacqui Jouannet Fl/Picc. Sadly, after long and valued service in MSO as 2nd Tpt, Andy Hope has decided not to continue after this season. We wish him the very best wishes for the future.
The vital jobs behind the scenes that keep MSO running rehearsal after rehearsal and concert after concert, which have been so ably and generously done by a very small team are and have been very much appreciated but many are coming to the end of their (often much extended) tenure and extra help is desperately needed if we are to continue to operate effectively. We are most grateful to the Orchestra Committee members, to Bob Crawshaw for website masterminding, Richard as secretary and orchestral representative on the KEMS committee, Sue for personnel management and Tim as librarian. Most of all though, I would like to make special mention of Andrew Tyler, who as Orchestral Chair has been most pro-active in working for the good of the orchestra, making sure that all the essential practical details are taken care of, too often by doing it himself(!) for concerts, he has lobbied tirelessly for helpers, organised setting up and clearing away – he is always the last one away on Tuesday nights. As my right-hand he has been fantastic and, as a total enthusiast and talented player, he has been a rock in the Bass section. …but sadly, for us, we are likely to lose him soon as he is shortly to be moving away from the area. Many thanks for everything Andrew, best wishes for your move down South, and we hope you will find other music groups to make music within your new locality who will benefit from your commitment and energy.
I am delighted that our other Andrew, in the horns, has volunteered to help with the librarian job to allow Tim, who has given so much in this role and many others in the Society for so long, can just enjoy his flute playing without such a burdon of responsibility. Thanks too to Linda for recently adding her experienced and knowledgeable voice to both the KEMS and Orchestra Committees. However, more volunteers are needed so please consider if there is anything you can offer in the way of time or expertise, if only a very little, please come forward, it will make a real difference. The ideal would be that there were many hands to spread the load and divide up the duties into managable parts.
Next season’s programmes and dates are now published, and I hope you will find them as exciting and irresistible as always and begin to look forward to our future music making with even greater anticipation than ever!

Thanks for the music and best wishes for a great summer to you all.

Orchestral Director: Anthony Houghton
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ANTHONY HOUGHTON  conducts Macclesfield Symphony Orchestra and was Founder and Conductor (until 2013) of Macclesfield Concert Band. He was born in Warrington but brought up in the Lincolnshire countryside near Grimsby, where he attended the Choir School and played Clarinet with the Youth Orchestra. After study at the Royal Manchester College of Music (now the RNCM) he settled in Manchester working as a freelance Clarinet and Saxophone recitalist, orchestral and session player. He was Principal Clarinet of the Northern Ballet and Manchester Camerata Orchestras for many years and played regularly with the Hallé, BBC, Opera North and other UK orchestras.
 Anthony is Clarinet, Saxophone and Ensemble Tutor at Manchester Grammar School, until summer of 2019 was Instrumental Tutor, Chamber Music Organiser and Ensemble Director at the Music Department of the University of Sheffield and acts as Adjudicator at music festivals and competitions.

He is on the executive of the national symphonic band organization (BASBWE) and, in addition to directing the KEMS Macclesfield Symphony Orchestra, was conductor of Sheffield University Wind Orchestra with whom he has directed performances around the UK and Europe. .

A lifetime enthusiasm for the intimacy of chamber music and a continuing professional activity in this field has fed Anthony ’s long time passion for enabling chamber music and ensemble participation in others at many levels.
Orchestra Leader: Henry Rankin
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HENRY RANKIN  originally from Northamptonshire, Henry is a coffee-loving violinist, violist, multi-instrumentalist and composer based in Manchester. Henry enjoys an eclectic career, performing with classical ensembles, orchestras and as a session musician across the UK and internationally. As a composer, Henry has credits with both the BBC and the National Geographic channel. He studied the violin and viola at the Royal Northern College of Music with Susie Mészáros and the violin with Julia Hanson at the University of Manchester.
Macclesfield Symphony Orchestra Rehearsals  
Rehearsals resume on Tuesday, 5th September 2023 from 7.40 - 9.45 pm at St Peter's Church, Windmill Street, Macclesfield SK11 7HS. For a full rehearsal schedule, click here.
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