Encore Chichester Community Orchestra was first conceived of by Sally Kingsbury and Alex Wilby, two cellists who have attended Professor Laura Ritchie’s Cello Weekend events at the University of Chichester. Sally also recently completed her degree at Chichester. One day while playing duets in a cello lesson, Sally and Alex said wouldn’t it be nice if there was an orchestra for adults that wasn’t all about competition and polish, but about making music together and having fun? They turned to Laura and asked if she would consider leading it and she instantly said yes.
The first rehearsal was in September 2016 and the group originally met in a community centre in Chichester. It was soon clear that the residents above did not appreciate a full orchestra underfoot and by kind permission we now meet at the University of Chichester in the Music Department.
ECCO is very connected with the university. Prof Ritchie sources the music, arranging it when necessary to allow different instruments to join in and also to create parts at the right level for people, and conducts the rehearsals.
When and where does ECCO meet?
The orchestra meets at the University of Chichester on a Wednesday evening from 7-8:30 pm. Generally we are either in the Music Block or the Chapel (when it is not being used by students or for professional concerts). Parking on the campus is free in the evening, and if you are unsure where to go, someone will always agree to meet you and walk with you from the car park to the rehearsal room.
Does it cost?
Members do pay £5 per session and this money is paid into a ring-fenced account at the University that is specifically for Prof Ritchie’s Special Projects. She uses this to buy music for workshops, to attend conferences (usually with students as co-presenters), and to fund special trips and projects. There is no subscription cost, people only pay when they come.
Do I have to be a certain level?
No. There are no auditions for entry to be a part of ECCO. People can come when they are able and nobody will blink an eye if for any reason someone only comes once every three weeks. Honestly there have been people who have dusted off their instruments after 20, 30, and even 40 years of not having played. People come with second instruments, and others come just to play- because living in a flat does not allow them to play their instrument like they can in a large group setting.
What do the people say?
Here’s what a few players commented after our informal concert:
I thought we sounded fantastic last night and found the experience really uplifting. Before joining ECCO I hadn’t played for over twenty years which was a great source sadness and regret but I lacked the confidence to join any groups. Learning to play again with you all has been both magical and great fun, so thank you all!”