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.
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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 2020-21 season  

 A time unique in all our lives, when public performances have almost completely been off the agenda, and KEMS musicians, like all others, have been starved of their lifeblood – playing and singing with others…  However, despite the Covid-19 anxieties and Pandemic rules and restrictions, the Orchestra has been has been remarkably active this year.
 
During May and June 2020, determined to keep the Orchestra together, Tim, the MSO Committee and I began planning, despite all the uncertainties, for some sort of live playing to resume in September. We came up with a workable plan for strings and winds to rehearse seperately on alternate weeks in St Peter’s and our Google Questionnaire asking “Do you want to be involved in the Autumn Orchestral Programme?” produced a most encouraging 47 responses, of which 77% said yes and 23% were maybe… A very positive outcome and with rules allowing we were able to implement the plan in September.
 
So in the Autumn term we explored string music by Walton, Camilleri, Britten, Holst, Parry, Mahler and Dvorak. Wind music by V Williams, Devienne, Widor, Camilleri, Messiaen, Bourgeois and others, as well as including orchestral repertoire by Spohr, Berwald, Reger and Wagner with both groups.
 
We were able to add value to the original plan by using St Michael’s to conclude each half term with a Tuesday rehearsal in the larger space with all of us together, allowing us to play through, as a full orchestra, the symphonic music we had been rehearsing seperately and despite the enforced pause in our weekly rehearsals in November because of the ‘spike’-induced four week emergency ‘lockdown’, we were able to enjoy these as planned on 17 October and 15 December with about 25-30 players each time.
 
Then from January 2021 through until April with everyone in heavy lockdown again, we were back in a musical limbo.
 
After the very positive feeling we had with playing in St Michael’s in the Autumn and the Church being available to us again, as soon as the lockdown easing allowed, we began a series of Relaxed Tuesday Orchestral Repertoire Sessions from 18 May to 22 June. These have been very much enjoyed and many more players have been keen and able to take part, with 40 or so playing and making a great sound each week.
 
We decided, with the help of Moira Taylor and Richard Moss, to advertise and invite players to come and try us out during these weeks in an attempt both to keep up the public profile of KEMS in the area and to attract possible new playing members. This initiative has yielded about a dozen responses so far and there is a good chance that the six or seven of them who joined us might turn into permanent members of MSO and the Society.
 
We have also enjoyed and been grateful for the playing during this time of some invited guests too, many from the Concert Band, who have willingly stepped in for missing viola, bassoon, clarinet, trumpet or trombone players who have not been able to be involved for some or all the weeks. This has enabled us to enjoy a full orchestral complement for all the five weeks of these summer sessions in St Michael’s.
 
So despite missing our audience for more than a year, the majority of our members have enjoyed some uplifting music making together – if distanced and different – it is amazing what the KEMS musical enthusiasm and spirit can achieve! But to make this happen at all has required a huge effort of time and determination.
 
I would especially like to thank Tim Ward for his continually positive and practical support, for his tireless work on drawing up the necessary protocol documents and for worrying out the detail of how we can safely play together as well as for getting together an efficient team of helpers to set up and then return the Church back to its original order for each rehearsal. This is only the latest example of the dedication and effort Tim has lavished on behalf of the Orchestra over the years. As Chair of the Orchestra Committee he has consistantly fought for the needs of the group on the main KEMS Committee, as indeed he did for the several years previously when he was the KEMS Chair. On his stepping down from official positions today after so many years of service to the Society, the Orchestra has much to thank him for, in addition, that is, to his flute playing! I, personally, will miss the whole-hearted backing and support he has given me and my ideas over this time – Thank-you Tim.
 
Thanks to the Committee for their input and to Paul Spedding for his cooperation and help with the Church bookings.
 
Sadly we have had to say goodbye to Bill Ramage, a member of KEMS since his school days he tells me(!) and our Principal Horn for the last four or five years. He has recently moved to the far SW corner of Cheshire and with the long journey involved to get to our rehearsals and a change in his work patterns, he has had to reluctantly resign.
Also I have just heard from Jean Fullwood, very grateful for her thirty years with KEMS enjoying wonderful musical experiences playing violin in the Orchestra. She has had to finally call it a day but is looking forward to being in the audience when concerts resume.

We thank them both for their long-time and valued commitment and dedication to the Orchestra.
 
…and we are all hoping that this coming September will bring more normal freedoms so that we can return to ‘business as usual’, with the 2 metre rule a distant memory and concerts back on the calendar, so that in the Autumn we can embark on our exciting, already published KEMS programme.
 
Thank you all for your patience and continuing enthusiasm over this last challenging and musically fallow year and I look forward to welcoming you to a new season of hope, new friends and amazing music-making in the Autumn.

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 Orchestr, 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.
Macclesfield Symphony Orchestra Rehearsals  
Rehearsals take place each Tuesday evening between 7.40 - 9.45 pm at St Peter's Church, Windmill Street, Macclesfield SK11 7HS (map below). For a full rehearsal schedule, click here.
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