THE STAFFORD ORCHESTRA

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In December 1964, under the musical directorship of John Devenport, the English Electric Orchestra was founded as part of the EE Sports & Social Organization. It soon flourished, staging sixty musicians for its first public concert at the New Theatre Hall, Stychfields in 1965. In December 1965 the orchestra attracted a big audience at its birthday concert. Stychfields Hall was to remain the orchestra's rehearsal venue for 31 years, until moving to St Leonard's Social Club, in April 1995.

By 1969 the Orchestra was performing regularly. One musician was John Dunn, a lecturer at North Staffordshire Polytechnic, who played recorder and violin. At one Stychfields concert that year John Dunn played a recorder concerto.

In 1977 Trevor Stokes became Musical Director, being succeeded in 1981 by Leslie Smith. When Leslie left in 1993 to concentrate on his work with Stafford Choral Society his place was taken by Andrew Baker, the well-known Stafford Music Librarian and Composer. Andrew made great efforts to publicise the Orchestra and to recruit new players but, as ever, it proved difficult to attract a sufficient balance of good string players.

By then times were changing: English Electric had been absorbed into Lord Weinstock's then-mighty and cost conscious GEC empire in 1968. Still later the company was sold to Alsthom, and renamed GEC ALSTHOM. This resulted in diminishing Company financial support until, in March 1995, the company sold Stychfields Hall to Stafford Borough Council. The Orchestra was left to finance itself and to find a new home as an independent organisation at St Leonard's Club. At the same time, it was retitled the Stafford Orchestral Society.

The enthusiastic Bob Birchall took over as Musical Director that year at the tender age of 35. Although he remained in the post for only sixteen months, he did much to change the focus of the orchestra away from "company band" to a Stafford town centred organization.

Tony Preece took over as Musical Director in August 1996, and through his contacts with Salt Parish Church and Sandon Church established those villages as regular concert venues. A joint concert in 2005 with Stafford Concert Band at St Michael's, Penkridge, which started as a one off fundraiser for the Asian Tsunami, became so popular that it has been a repeated venture. Every Christmas the orchestra joined forces with the English Electric Company Choir (presently The Stafford Singers for a concert which was later broadcast on Stafford Hospital Radio. Since the 1990s another annual event has been the Macmillan Cancer Relief concert held in Staffordshire County Council Buildings: this has been a regular feature of the orchestra's concert year since the early 1990s and has largely been due to the enthusiasm of our old friend and colleague Eileen O'Dempsey. Tony Preece injected a note of novelty into the orchestra's normal light classical repertoire with his skilful parodies of well known pieces, including the Strauss sendups Tales from the Doxey Marshes and Bootle's Waltz, the Brandyberg Concerto (including the sleigh ride), and the Last Night of the Proms number, the Plump and Circumspect March. Finally the orchestra has been renamed The Stafford Orchestra, to reflect its close association with the town.

In November 2009 Anthony Rose was appointed Musical Director of Uttoxeter Choral Society and also Musical Director of The Stafford Orchestra. He graduated with a BA (Hons) from Durham University, where he was Organ Scholar at Hatfield College. With the choir of Hatfield College he has directed services in Durham Cathedral, York Minster, Gloucester Cathedral and St Albans. While still an undergraduate he founded Durham Baroque Ensemble and Players and performed concerts throughout the North East. Specialising in Early Music, Anthony is deeply involved in early music revival and Baroque aesthetics. He is also a keen composer and has been involved with Conductors and Composers workshops with the Northern Sinfonia, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Brian Ferneyhough and Martyn Harry. His work Expediency saves the Day was performed by the Northern Sinfonia at a Durham Composers' Concert in Newcastle in 2003.

At this time our leader was Peter Norris; apart from our principal clarinet Andrew Gulley, other long-serving members of the orchestra included Jim Seddon, 1st violin; Bob Foster, principal viola; Russti Taylor, bass; and Mary Appleyard, 2nd viola. Founder member Bunty Palmer (flute) retired in 2006. The folowing members had notched up over ten years service: Gill Baskett, horn; Dave Hawkins, flute; Helena Grealish, violin; Frances Melville, principal flute; Dennis Boon, trumpet.

2013 The Stafford Orchestra

Conductor: Peter Lacey
Leader: Peter Norris
Violin: Doug Barrett, Alex Cameron, Sarah Foster, Helena Grealish, Rod Grealish, Laura Hancock, Patricia Lain, Peter Norris, Arline Wilson
Percussion: David Wilson
Viola: Bob Foster, Chris Washington
Cello: John Outram, Frances Paget, Liz Robley
Flute: Dave Hawkins, Frances Melville
Oboe: Katrina Harborne, Rachel Vickers
Clarinet: Liz Dawson, Penny Lawton
Bassoon: John Baker, Ruth Blackburn
Horn: Jim Appleford, Gill Baskett
Trumpet: Jo Coombs, Ian Harding, David Taylor
Trombone: Tom Appleford, Ray Barraclough, Dave Lees

2015 Our Musical Director and Conductor is Paul Nivens. Liaison with Stafford Singers is by Arline Wilson. The Stafford Orchestra rehearses at Doxey Church every Wednesday evening at 7.30pm.

Here is a video of the Stafford Orchestra performing "Feast" by Michael Revell in St Mary's Collegiate Church on 23.05.15 conducted by Paul Nevins. This piece was commissioned by Stafford District Arts Council for the Orchestra's 50th Anniversary and was part of the Stafford Music Festival 2015.


Here is a photo of the Stafford Orchestra with Stafford Singers at the Doxey Church Carol Concert on 16.12.15.

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Version: 07 26 May 2016 updated by John Wilcock