Possibly the first local musical ensemble to begin playing despite the threat of Covid-19 is the Meon Valley Orchestra. This brave band of players got their instruments out and began rehearsing in mid-August in the Meon Hall in Pound Lane, Meonstoke.
Although many asserted that they had practised regularly at home other players shamefacedly confessed that the lockdown had eroded their enthusiasm somewhat. Even so, instruments were dusted off and all members said it was great to be playing again even under the strict regime of wearing face masks when socialising and sensible distancing in the hall.
The Meon Valley Orchestra began humbly over ten years ago when a handful of musicians began playing folk tunes in a house in Meonstoke. Although the original players were local, the group soon attracted musicians from further afield. Cathy Mathews, leader of the Havant Symphony Orchestra, conducted the group from the violin at first. But due to other commitments, she handed over the baton to another professional, Lorraine Masson from the Four Strings Quartet.
Within a year or so the group had formed themselves into the Meonstoke Village Band and began playing at summer fetes, flower shows, Christmas events and church services. As the numbers of instrumentalists increased, the band outgrew the original rehearsal venue and moved to the converted church stables at Bishop Waltham. That too became cramped so a move to Soberton Village Hall was called for. To acknowledge the increasing numbers of musicians coming from a wider area, the band was renamed the Meon Valley Orchestra.
In 2014 the MVO, together with the Portsmouth Philharmonia, performed its first charity concert, raising over £2,000 for the Ninewells Cancer Campaign.
Since then the MVO has raised over ten thousand pounds for research into pancreatic cancer, immunology and brain tumour. The UK Gout Society, Parkinson’s and the Solent Diabetes Association have also benefited from the MVO’s charity concerts. Over the last ten years the MVO has received letters of support and encouragement from the actor, the late John Hurt, all civic dignitaries from Fareham, Gosport and Portsmouth, the Attorney General Suella Braverman MP and Caroline Dinenage MP.
Few would deny that over the years the MVO has come of age musically. Instead of simple rustic tunes, it now plays much more advanced light classical music and challenging popular material. It is now a fifty-strong, full-sized rehearsal orchestra.
New players, of any ability, are always very welcome to join. Practice sessions are from 9.15 am till 12.00 noon on Thursdays at Meon Hall, Meonstoke. For more information and advice about joining please email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 07760 176687.