Who are we?

Chandos Symphony Orchestra is Malvern’s own fine amateur orchestra, founded in 1978; its membership, drawn from all over the Midlands region, now exceeds one hundred players.

Michael Lloyd rehearsing Chandos with cellist David Cohen

Under the baton of Music Director Michael Lloyd, Chandos has been fortunate to work with some very fine artists such as Christine Rice, Aydin Önaç, Jonathan Lemalu, Mary Plazas and Lorraine McAslan to name a few; and has performed at Symphony Hall Birmingham, Leominster Priory, Birmingham Town Hall and Worcester Cathedral, as well as its regular venue in The Forum Theatre, Malvern. Having been described by Christopher Morley in The Birmingham Post as “the remarkable Chandos Symphony Orchestra of Malvern” and by Jill Hopkins in the Malvern Gazette as “the fabulous Chandos” we are proud of our reputation.

The Orchestra rehearses intensively over two consecutive weekends culminating in a concert on the second Sunday. The Orchestra is committed to continuous improvement and  with this aim we hold one-day workshops, and a Young Musician Competition, to provide opportunities for up-and-coming performers.  There is always a place for musicians of a high standard, particularly in the strings, so if you are interested in joining the Orchestra (auditions are not necessary) please contact the Orchestra Manager.

A Little History

Founder Hugh Field-Richards takes us on a 40-year tour of the orchestra.

In 1977 I moved from Christchurch in Dorset to Malvern with my work. I had been playing there with an orchestra and choir (“Gli Amici della Musica”) since it was formed in 1969 and had been its chairman for a while. It was formed as a means of practical experience for music students and the more serious young musical amateurs in the Bournemouth area. Holding regular rehearsals was not practical because of the college terms, and so the principle of having rehearsals in the two (or sometimes three) weekends before the concert was begun.

The orchestra was self-run and part of the reason for its formation was exactly this, independence of any school or college influence. When I arrived in Malvern it was a considerable wrench to give up this orchestra where I had made many lifelong friends: Peter Stark and Malcolm Pearce, who have both conducted Chandos; Richard and Tricia Davies who also contributed hugely to Chandos in its early days.  After having asked around to see if there were any comparable orchestras in Malvern, I decided to start an orchestra there based on Gli Amici but with no age restriction. The most important characteristic of Gli Amici was the weekend rehearsal that I thought worth keeping as it gave a freshness of approach that I considered many other orchestras lacked.

I asked who the local wind players were and was pointed in the direction of Tony Dean who, while being very supportive, warned me of the rather sad fates of other attempts to form an orchestra in Malvern. Despite this (I never could take advice) and with his considerable help and knowledge of local musicians, we embarked on the first concert, finally held in 1978.

A friend reminded me a few years ago how I sat in our local pub working out the details of the orchestra and tried to think of the name. I had recently visited Great Witley to visit Witley Court and had seen the magnificent baroque church, which has associations with Handel and the Chandos Anthems, owing to part of the estate of the Earl of Chandos being removed to Great Witley.  And so, because of this, albeit very mild, association with the area, the name Chandos was chosen. ‘Sinfonia’ was added because the orchestra was really a small baroque affair and the word Sinfonia I felt was more suitable than ‘Symphony Orchestra’ (later, for exactly opposite reasons, the name was changed to reflect, rightly, the present size of the orchestra).

Getting the players was difficult but I was aided by several people who all became involved with the organisation: Richard and Tricia Davies; Tony Dean, who got in touch with all the wind players—including Robert and Maggie Brown which was the start of their long association with the orchestra; Bella Holt, who helped fix all the strings and was the leader for many concerts; John Sabey, who was our first soloist and was a general fixer; Peter Stark who came up from the Welsh National Opera as our first conductor and gave all his time for free; and, obviously, my wife Di who was treasurer for many years and later joined as a player with Chandos. The list is endless of those who helped along the way and who sank considerable amounts of time and money into Chandos. Orchestras take many years to achieve a momentum of their own and their persistence through this time in keeping what was, at times, an act of faith, is to be applauded.

Many players have also been associated with Chandos over the years and they were especially valuable in the very early days supplying their talents when sections were thin on the ground. I, and everyone in the orchestra, owe them all a considerable vote of thanks, as I suspect that otherwise Chandos might not have survived.

After 10 years I felt that my organisational involvement should make way for someone else. Running an orchestra (even with the support of a committee) and playing in it is not a recipe for comfortable living. Both the organisers and the conductor changed at this point to Joy and Don Mace, and Michael Lloyd. After their involvement Chandos became ten times the orchestra it was. Later on others took on the various necessary roles, some for extended periods: Andy and Karen Stewart, Richard Brooks, Linda Fowler and Roger Clift come to mind particularly.

Then there are all the players themselves some of whom, like Elizabeth Gilbert who joined at the second ever concert, have played with the orchestra for many years. It is inevitable that I have missed out the names of many who have also contributed greatly – forgive me, but it is just too long a list for one brief portrait. I can only say a considerable heartfelt thank you to them all and to the current Chairman, committee and team of helpers in bringing Chandos into its fifth decade. Michael Lloyd must have a further mention as it is his involvement over 30 years, with his drive, enthusiasm and talent.

Deep down I guess the reason that I formed Chandos was entirely selfish: I wanted to play in a good orchestra. Although I no longer play in the orchestra (after 40+ years), I frequently suffer the sin of pride when I see what it has become. Long may it continue.