The Sheffield Chamber Orchestra was formed in 1950 and is a small classical orchestra of around 40 musicians, comprising of woodwind, horns, trumpets and percussion, in addition to the usual complement of strings.
This core orchestra is supplemented by additional instruments, such as trombones, as required. It is essentially a body of amateur musicians but has the benefit of being professionally trained by its conductor, George Kennaway, and leader, Ralph Dawson.
Each year the orchestra gives three concerts in Sheffield, normally two in Firth Hall at the University of Sheffield and one at High Storrs School. Our concert programme usually includes a concerto and it is the orchestra’s policy to work with and provide a performance opportunity for young professional musicians who are just starting out in their careers as concert soloists. 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 regularly includes contemporary music in its concert programmes. In addition to performing existing works by contemporary composers, in the last few years the orchestra has commissioned new music by Stephen Dodgson, Arthur Butterworth, and most recently, Leo Birtwhistle and Ed Bennett as well as Sheffield-based composers Chris Wiltshire and Ray Hensher. As such, the variety of music performed by the orchestra is unique in the Sheffield region.
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 conductors 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.
The Sheffield Chamber Orchestra usually showcases at least one Making Music Award Winner each year. Our chairman Julie Ryan (flute) is the Orchestra’s Making Music representative.