Proms at St Jude’s: Nonesuch Orchestra to let kids become question masters


music - Credit: Archant

This family concert will see kids allowed to quiz musicians about running an orchestra, says Michael White.

More than fifty years ago a group of what conductor Robert Hodge calls “young mums, as they then were, in Queen’s Park” decided there was more to life than socialising at the school gates or post-natal clinic, and set up a string ensemble for themselves to play in.

They called it the Nonesuch Orchestra, for reasons no one seems able to remember, and established two basic rules for how it should function – one being that it has a special focus on educational concerts for children, and the other that it gives experience to young professional conductors, helping them to build careers.

On that basis it’s had the likes of Nicholas Collon (now music director of the edgy, super-chic Aurora orchestra) and Graham Ross (now music director at Clare College, Cambridge) pass through its hands. And for the past two years its conductor has been Hodge, who will preside when the Nonesuch come to St Jude’s for a lunchtime schools & family concert on June 25th.

Armed with a music degree from Royal Holloway, London, Hodge initially went into teaching before going back to study, at the RCM, and setting up a new life with a baton.

Now, in addition to Nonesuch, he directs both the semi-pro City of Cambridge Symphony and a privately-funded youth orchestra in Wimbledon. But being an ex-teacher, he likes to talk as well wave a stick. So in accordance with Nonesuch tradition, this concert will be interactive, with a running dialogue between the platform and the audience about music, the business of an orchestra, and anything else that surfaces.

“Sometimes the questions are confrontingly direct” says Hodge, “like Is conducting your real job? Or How much does your violin cost? But that’s a good thing. We don’t want our audiences to be inhibited”.

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Nonesuch Orchestra Schools Concert. St Jude’s,Thurs 25th, 12.45pm.