Our creative partners #7: Nonesuch Orchestra

Waterloo Festival thrives on creative partnerships, on bringing professionals from the world of arts and music to collaborate with and showcase their wonderful work to our communities in Waterloo, Lambeth and - thanks to the marvels of the internet - elsewhere.


In this series, we meet some of our creative partners for 2020. Up next: originally planned to perform in June at St John's Waterloo as part of the Festival, the Nonesuch Orchestra.

Photo: Christine Bradshaw

Founded in 1961 by a group of amateur musicians, the Nonesuch Orchestra is a string orchestra which rehearses on Thursday mornings to accommodate the lives of players who are free during the day.

The main aim of the society has always been to promote music in education as well as in public concerts. Every year we hold several workshops in primary schools all over London with the aim of igniting in the children the excitement of music-making by a live orchestra, and encouraging them to join in by singing, playing or even conducting!

Workshop with St Saviour’s C of E Primary School, W9
Workshop with Southmead Primary School, SW19
Workshop with Ballet4Life dancers at Belmont Primary School, W4
Rehearsing Haydn’s ‘Lamentatione' Symphony with recorder players from Orchard House School, Bedford Park, W4

More recently, we started extending our activities into secondary schools. In 2019 we worked with seven young composers from four schools, followed by a brief concert to showcase some of their work. This year, eight composers from three schools spent a day working with us, followed by a public concert that included their highly varied and stimulating compositions in the programme. They had been working under the guidance of composer Andrew Toovey, whose contribution was of incalculable benefit to us all. The concert was a part of the Festival run by CoMA (Contemporary Music for All), which was a tremendous support.


This development is one that we really hope to expand as it has clearly been hugely beneficial for the composers as well as for their schools. Now that musical education has been ruthlessly cut, this work is extremely and increasingly valuable.

Rehearsing the student compositions 2020

One of our aims is to promote young conductors and performers. Our first conductor was Arnold Foster; others have included Nicholas Braithwaite, Adrian Brown, David Drummond and Nicholas Collon. Our present conductor, Dan Shilladay, has been with us for five years and we are greatly benefitting from his wonderful musicianship, his introductions to new and challenging works, and particularly his discoveries of hardly known compositions by women. We are also lucky with our empathetic and talented leader, Stephanie Waite. Our three public concerts per year make the most of these advantages thanks to the commitment shown by our members and by music-student players, various funding bodies and our associations with groups such as Ballet4Life, Imperial College String Ensemble and the Lauderdale Suzuki Group.


We are planning a special celebration for our 60th anniversary next year. Please do look at our website, where examples of some of our activities can be heard and seen.

Rehearsing Stravinsky’s ‘Apollon Musagète’ with Ballet4Life at St Michael and All Angels Church W4 (as a part of the Bedford Park Festival 2018)

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