The BBC has revealed the five orchestras chosen to be part of the new series All Together Now: The Great Orchestra Challenge, which the broadcaster describes as ‘a nation-wide search for the orchestra that best captures the spirit of great British amateur music-making in the UK’.
The series is being launched as part of the BBC’s Get Playing initiative, a partnership with ABRSM, Making Music and Music for All. It will feature five orchestras, all of which are Making Music member groups:
London Gay Symphony Orchestra. Founded in 1996, the LGSO is the UK's oldest LGBT orchestra. Members boast a mix of occupations ranging from gardening to graphic design, cabaret to neuroscience. The orchestra regularly plays all over London, with the occasional foray to Brighton, and is an enthusiastic supporter of multiple charitable causes.
North Devon Sinfonia. Bringing music to rural North Devon under the baton of dynamic conductor Emma Kent, the North Devon Sinfonia performs an eclectic repertoire of symphonic music spanning the Romantic era, twentieth century and the present day. Their line-up is rich and varied and includes a cheese maker, lupin grower, postman, and a number of doctors and teachers.
Slaithwaite Philharmonic Orchestra. Based in the beautiful, musically-rich Colne Valley, the Slaithwaite Philharmonic Orchestra was originally set up by a group of ordinary working men from the textile industry. Their line-up includes a painter and decorator, social worker, a number of teachers, students and a funeral director. It remains at the heart of the small, close-knit Slaithwaite community (a population of only 6,000) to this day and is one of the country’s oldest amateur orchestras, celebrating its 125th anniversary this year!
The People’s Orchestra. This Birmingham-based orchestra have a huge wind section and ten saxophones – perfect for their core repertoire of film music and popular classics. Their line-up is equally varied and includes a BA pilot, retired aeronautical engineer, a number of students, doctors and teachers. The orchestra is also an independent music charity, which uses music performance to help grow musicians and community wellbeing in one of the most deprived areas of the UK.
Stirling Orchestra. Formed in 1983 by a small group of amateur musicians, Stirling Orchestra draws from players from a wide range of backgrounds: horse riding coach, microbiologist, social worker and students from Stirling University. The orchestra performs mainly at Stirling’s historic Albert Halls, putting on three or four concerts a year.
The four-part series, which will celebrate the breadth and quality of amateur orchestral playing across the nation, will follow the five orchestras as they compete for a place in the series' final. The winning orchestra will perform on stage at BBC Proms in the Park, in Hyde Park.
The Great Orchestra Challenge will be presented by BBC Radio 3 and BBC Proms presenter Katie Derham. The orchestras will be mentored by double-bassist Chi-chi Nwanoku, and judging the orchestras will be conductor Paul Daniel. The series will begin on BBC Four at the end of August, with the final episode to be broadcast on BBC Two. The People's Orchestra is a member of Making Music.