Review: Rusty and Not So Rusty Musicians with the BSO

Yet again the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra held another of its Rusty and Not So Rusty Musicians, Symphony in a Day, events in Portsmouth’s Guildhall.

On the 9th of September over seventy amateur musicians from all over the south of England came together to be coached by BSO performers through Dvorak’s Eighth Symphony. The whole ethos of the day is to approach a major wok head on and learn to play it well from start to finish.

It was a bit of a reunion for some musicians. Many of the participants already knew each other from playing in different local orchestras. Others had recently attended the BSO’s own two-day course for strings at Hawkwood College, near Stroud. Some had met previously at Winchester Summer Music in Park Place Wickham. There was a lot of cheery meeting and greeting.

Sue Thornton (flute) and Abi Mansfield (‘cello) came from Portsmouth Philharmonic. Francis Keppel and Esther Jennings (both violinists) were from the Meon Valley Orchestra. Richard Evans (viola) was from Petersfield Orchestra. There were players from Magna Symphonia and other ensembles besides.

Hard working Ben Jennings, the BSO Participate Programme Manager was there to welcome warmly the arriving players. He was showing the ropes to Chis Bell who is relieving him as he moves on to educational outreach.

Once registered, the players settled down to the morning’s sectional rehearsals. Woodwind, brass and strings parted company for the morning.
In the main auditorium the strings were conducted by BSO’s leader of the second violins, Vicky Berry who managed to steer the musicians through the tricky corners of Dvořák’s wonderful work. An attractive brunette with a young family, she has a business-like but extremely encouraging manner.

In Dvořák 8 the first violins have some stratospherically high passages to negotiate while the seconds have to count meticulously and pay strict attention to their rhythm playing. Joan Martinez on violin demonstrated how all this should be played. A handsome lad, he is a superb instrumentalist who is half Spanish and half French Polynesian. His violin bow technique is enviable.

In the lunch break contacts were refreshed and new friends made.

In the afternoon the orchestra assembled fully for Kevin Smith to conduct the entire ensemble. A highly experienced musician; since 1993 Kevin has been the principal bass trombonist for the BSO. He’s also played for Sammy Davis Jr, Lisa Minnelli, Witney Houston and many more singing stars. He has a relaxed and casual air, perfect for players who are just finding their way in orchestral music. He nurtured confidence and emboldened individual instrumentalists to play up precisely when required; right on cue.

The day concluded with a free concert for an audience mainly made up of players’ friends and relatives. Thanks to the BSO guidance the rusty and not so rusty musicians really did sound like a decent orchestra. Dvorak would have had nothing to grumble about.

To find out more about Rusty & Not So Rusty Musician projects please visit

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