The Cobwebs Story

October 1995
Start of the 'Blow the Cobwebs off your music stand' course at Annfield Plain Library directed by Chris Griffiths with funding from Derwentside District Council and Durham County Council. First "Join the Sinfonia" day playing Wagner and Bartok at Bishop Auckland Town Hall.

January 1996
Continuation of course for a second 10 week term.

February 1996
First Cobweb concert at Benfieldside Church sharing a programme with a string quintet from Northern Sinfonia. Schubert's 'Rosamunde' overture, Vaughan-Williams' 'Greensleeves'.

March 1996
First "Scratch" performance: Haydn's 104th symphony at Bishop Auckland College. Spontaneous gathering of a perfectly constituted chamber orchestra (except for clarinets masquerading as trumpets. A trick we have often resorted to since).

April - June 1996
Cobwebs course turns into an orchestra and Thursdays become the regular rehearsal evening.

Autumn 1996
Concerts in Blackhill Methodist Church and Bishop Auckland Town Hall. Adoption of the Tarantella from Britten's "Soirees Musicale" as the Cobweb theme tune. The first of many occasional performances, playing during lunch at an arts seminar. Some members participate in the filming of "Spennyopolis: A Symphony for a City". Marks & Spencer become sponsors of the project.

January 1997
Mahler 1 Challenge at Alnwick Playhouse conducted by Chris Griffiths with Iona Brown leading players from the Cobweb Orchestra, Northern Sinfonia and Young Sinfonia.

February - April 1997
Informal rehearsal and performance of Beethoven's 1st Symphony at Peterlee College. "Meet the Sinfonia" evening at The Sinfonia Centre conducted by Alan Fearon and led by Bradley Creswick.

May - July 1997
Collaboration with Durham People's Opera Group. Performances at Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Hall, Durham and at the Durham Miners' Gala.

Autumn 1997
Scratch performance of Beethoven 5 at Bishop Auckland Town Hall with five different conductors handing over the baton mid-bar. "Music for Lovers" concert in Durham Town Hall. First appearance of distinctive Cobweb waistcoats and new-look glossy newsletters, now being received by 200 people.

March 1998
Huge gathering of players at Stanley Civic Hall for performance of Sibelius's 2nd Symphony and Berlioz's "Harold in Italy" with Mike Gerrard as viola soloist.

April - July 1998
Community concerts in Ferryhill and Chilton. Library tour with cellist Jeanette Mountain. Playing at the wedding of founder-member Tracy Turner. Performance with No Limits Theatre Co. accompanying a dance piece.

October 1998
Start of a regular Cobweb group in Cumbria under the direction of Ian Potts and Karen West and financial support from Cumbria County Council.

November 1998
By now traditional Autumn visit to Bishop Auckland Town Hall, this time with three cellists sharing the solo part in Elgar's cello concerto accompanied by an orchestra of over 80 players. Performance for late-night shoppers in Marks & Spencer's Northumberland Street store in Newcastle. Newsletter distribution passes 400.

February - March 1999
Performance with Allegri String Quartet at Sunderland University. "Join the Sinfonia" day at Gateshead playing Brahms 2nd Symphony. First joint rehearsal of Cumbria and Durham groups. One-off events in Cumbria get off to a successful start with Mendelsohn's 1st Symphony in Eskdale. Has there ever been such a large orchestra in such a small place.

Summer 1999
Yet another pinnacle of the orchestral repertoire scaled: Bruckner's 7th at Bowes Museum: Cobweb members joined by players from Northern Sinfonia and Royal Northern College of Music. Outdoor concert at Van Mildert College, Durham. Cobweb activity reaches Yorkshire with the Annfield Plain Group's perfomance in the Community Theatre, Saltburn. Release of CD.

A review of the first 10 years...
by Andy Jackson

For those of you who couldnít make it to the 10th Birthday party at Hexham, here are a few edited extracts from my rambling and frequently interrupted address to the assembled players and supporters.

"Iíll start with a few figures:

Regular rehearsals:
Nearly 900 weekly rehearsals involving around 14,700 player attendances.

Study Days:
86 events in 37 different venues attracting 3,424 player attendances.
(That does not, of course, mean that 14,700 or even 3,424 different players have played with us. Working out exactly how many different people have joined in Cobweb events over the years is impossible without creating a huge database of all those who have ever been on the mailing list and cross referencing them against the attendees for each event, but Iíve come up with a rough figure based on the average number of active players and the patterns of repeat attendances. My guesstimate is that 1,200 different musicians have passed through the orchestra since we started).

Concerts:
132 in 71 venues some as far away as London and Tuscany with 5,576 musicians playing to paying audiences of at least 15,000. The actual number of people who have heard us is far larger than that. Taking into account less formal concerts such as playing for shoppers in Marks & Spencers or playing Handelís Water Music on the quay in Sunderland, the number of people who have heard us live something like 20,000. That gives an audience to players ratio of 3.587:1, which at least calls into question the impression we sometimes have of performing to audiences consisting of the inhabitants of a small bungalow and their dog.

Venues:
have included churches, theatres, concert halls, art galleries and museums, town and village halls, schools, nurseries, libraries and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. We have also played at conferences, publication launches, exhibition openings, garden parties. The list continues to grow. All this activity adds up to 1,118 events in 111 venues with 23,700 player bums on seats, but that is only a small part of what weíve done.

Residentials:
10 of them so far including 2 trips to Tuscany.

Offshoots:
String quartets, wind quintets, Composers and Arrangers group, Guinea Pig Orchestra, Music by Heart, Cabaret Ensemble, Cobfriends, Intermediate Orchestra, Conductorsí group, the website.

Collaborations:
With schools, disabled children, other orchestras and choirs, Northern Sinfonia both as an orchestra and as soloists, players from the bands of Scottish Opera, Royal Opera House and Opera North, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Anton Bruckner Orchestra of Lintz, visiting virtuosi and conductors such as Baldur Bronnimann, Boriana Nakeva, David Lawrence, the Allegri String Quartet and Alistair Dawes.

Unusual events and achievements:
Beginners days, the Pudding Suite, sightreading Bruckner 4 for lunch, Beethovenís 5th with 5 conductors, Elgarís Cello concerto with 3 soloists, 4 films, 4 CDs, accompanying a company of disabled dancers, weddings, greetings cards, the lift sharing scheme, the Instrument Bank, charity concerts raising £5000 in the last year alone, the ticklist (which my spellcheck refuses to recognise, insisting that I rename it "ticklish"), the waistcoats.

The repertoire:
We have played an overture by Arriaga, an Avison concerto and symphonies, loads of them: Brahms (2,3 and 4), Buckner (4 & 7) and Beethoven (all 9 of his), and thatís just the first 2 letters of the alphabet. But then there is our own unique repertoire, consisting of arrangements made specially for us of music by Dowland, Corelli, Purcell, Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Boyce, and, a speciality, forgotten English composers such as Cipriani Potter, Henry Moze and John Garth. Then there are the pieces written for us by contemporary composers Roderick Oakes, John Hawkes, Lizelle Kirby, Stephanie Cant, Derek Hobbs, Greg Pullen, David Hutton, Paul Beck and my own modest contribution. Performances may be ephemeral, but the scores and parts which make them possible are certainly not. Our backlist now takes up 4 shelves in the library at the Sage Gateshead, a very solid reminder of what we have created over the last 10 years.

Thanks:
I did pick out a few individuals, like Cobfriends chair Lee Fairlie, our librarian Liz Carlile, our regular tutors Ian Potts and Derek Hobbs and some of our Northern Sinfonia friends, but really, the thanks go to all the players and supporters whose contribution makes Cobwebs such an exciting and unusual orchestra."

Next Event:
Sun 2nd Jul 2017
Bowes Museum, Newgate, Barnard Castle DL12 8NP
Cobweb Chamber Orchestra Performance
more details
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