Culture: Showcase for New Composers; A New Group Aims to Provide a Platform for New Composers to Have Their Work Performed. Terry Grimley Reports

Article excerpt

Writing orchestral music is difficult enough, but persuading an orchestra to play it can be at least as difficult again.

So the Central England Ensemble, set up last year with the objective of providing a showcase for Midland composers, has a valuable contribution to make to the region's musical life.

Its complementary aim is to provide performance opportunities for a range of local musicians. They include students and university and conservatoire-trained players who have chosen a career outside music, or in areas of music other than professional performance.

The idea for the group, run by a quartet of young women, was dreamed up by former members of the Midland Youth Orchestra when on tour with the MYO three years ago.

'We've been going for just over a year, and we have featured a piece of music by a West Midland composer in each programme,' says leader and manager Anna Downes, a music teacher who had her first taste of orchestral management as a student in Exeter.

'The size of the orchestra varies. We have a database and get people according to what the programme is. The youngest member is 14, the oldest 60, but the vast majority are in their 20s and 30s. There are people who are in other professions or work in music as teachers, and a few people who are still in sixth form. It's run by four of us in our spare time.'

At its biggest the ensemble can be a large symphony orchestra - as demonstrated by its forthcoming concert at the Adrian Boult Hall on January 26, which includes one of the grandest of British orchestral showpieces, Holst's The Planets, complete with female chorus. With another big British classic, Elgar's In the South, this flanks the premiere of Michael Whitcroft's Rhapsody for Guitar and Strings, with Simon Dinnigan as soloist. …