The Sheffield Chamber Orchestra was formed in 1950 and is a small classical orchestra of around 35 musicians, comprised of woodwind, horns, trumpets and percussion, in addition to the usual complement of strings. This core orchestra is supplemented by additional instruments, as required.
It is essentially a body of amateur musicians but has the benefit of being professionally trained by its conductor, and professionally lead by Ralph Dawson.
Each year the orchestra gives three concerts in Sheffield, usually in Firth Hall at the University of Sheffield, plus other locations such as All Saints Church, Ecclesall or St Andrew’s Church, Psalter Lane. Our concert programme usually includes a concerto and the orchestra has, over many years, provided a platform for young aspiring musicians. Many of these have gone on to become national and international concert artists. The relatively small size of our orchestra enables us to be adventurous with our wide-ranging and innovative repertoire from the baroque to the present day.
The Sheffield Chamber Orchestra also includes contemporary music in its concert programmes from time to time. So, in addition to performing works from the established and acknowledged greats, in previous years the orchestra has performed new works by Stephen Dodgson, Arthur Butterworth, and most recently, Leo Birtwhistle and Ed Bennett as well as Sheffield-based composers Chris Wiltshire and Ray Hensher.
The Sheffield Chamber Orchestra is a registered charity and is financed mostly by ticket sales, subscriptions paid by the members themselves and kind donations by a loyal group of Friends of the Sheffield Chamber Orchestra. In 2001 the orchestra received a generous gift in the form of a legacy following the death of Arthur Humphrey, one of the orchestra’s patrons. Other than professional fees paid to the conductor and leader, the orchestra is managed on an entirely voluntary basis by a dedicated committee of members.
The Orchestra is a member of Making Music, (formerly the National Federation of Music Societies) whose aim is to represent and support amateur and semi-professional music groups, including orchestras and music promoters throughout the UK. Making Music represents over 130,000 musicians and music lovers in the UK and is a source of finance for its members via subsidies for young concert artists and project funding.