At the Summer and Christmas courses, we have a full-scale symphony orchestra for players of Grade 6 and above. Music is from the classical repertoire, and results are outstanding. At the Summer courses, we also have a Lower Orchestra for players of Grade 4+, where the music is somewhat lighter but children have the experience of playing within a full orchestra. Easter courses, being largely for younger children, have no orchestra.




We run three string ensembles: Training Strings (players up to Grade 2 standard), Intermediate Strings (Grade 2 and above), and Upper Strings (Grade 4 and above).

Wind bands

We run three wind bands for woodwind, brass and percussion: Training Band (players of at least Grade 1 standard); Intermediate Band (Grade 3 and above); and Upper Band (Grade 4 and above, Grade 5 in the summer).


Hogmanay 2011 107 (640x320)

10+ Choir

We always run two choirs, one for ages 7 years and older, and another for 10 years and older. In the summer there is also a 9+ choir. No prior experience is necessary for any of these. In addition, the summer course includes a chamber choir for older, more advanced, children with sight-singing experience.




Two recorder groups are timetabled, requiring Grade 1 standard on the recorder, from descant to bass. In the summer, we also have an Advanced Recorder ensemble for children who play the recorder at Grade 3 level or above.


Gamelan, Christmas 2011At Summer and Christmas courses, when Holiday Orchestra is held at West Road Concert Hall, we are fortunate to have expert tuition for playing the University’s full gamelan orchestra.


Hogmanay 2011 250 (640x428)At Christmas and Summer, we run two jazz workshops of differing levels taught by jazz musicians, for almost any instruments. Improvisation is encouraged for those who want to try it.


Hogmanay 2011 230 (640x428)Players with percussion experience can play with one of the bands. We also often run sessions such as Percussion Games or Junk Percussion which are open to players with no prior experience. Hogmanay 2011 274

Djembe Drumming


Djembe Drumming

African drumming (drums provided) features clear and precise rhythms. The drums are of different pitches and the overall effect is surprising and great fun!


Folk Music

Folk Music

Wherever possible, we include Folk Music at two different levels. One requires Grade 4+ on a suitable instrument and may focus on a particular folk tradition. The other, ‘Folk For Fun’ is for all-comers.

Folk Dancing has proved a very popular addition recently.


Ukuleles are increasingly popular, both with children and also with adults. We have brought them into the Holiday Orchestra timetable with, whenever possible, a beginners’ group and a more advanced group. We provide the instruments, but children may bring their own. No written music is used: the children learn the chords and the rhythms, sing the songs, and have a lot of fun.

Prime Brass

We often hold a `Prime Brass Workshop’ as part of the Summer Course. Members of Cambridge’s number one brass ensemble tutor our more advanced players, not just to play glorious music but also to get to know their instruments better and to learn some new techniques. The standard required is Grade 5 on any brass instrument.

Taster Sessions

As the opportunity arises, Holiday Orchestra provides `Taster’ sessions on some of the more unusual orchestral instruments such as double basses, trombones, tubas and bassoons. These sessions are intended for children who already play a different instrument to a reasonable standard and so read music competently. They can then concentrate on mastering the new instrument. A grade standard is always required.

Music Games

We usually offer Music Games sessions for which no prior experience is required. These sessions are especially suited to younger children and are intended to be musical fun. Varieties include Move and Sing, Rhythm Explosion, Percussion Games and Musical Merrymaking.


Music theory! In the ABRSM system, Grade 5 Theory is needed before a player can progress to Grade 6 performance exams. It is also very useful in the understanding and performance of music, but it is not an easy exam. However, Kirsty Body takes children through the basics of the four main topics and manages to make it fun and illuminating for them. We don’t promise an instant Pass but people do find this course very useful.


Despite having a wide range of musical offerings, we like to ring the changes by occasionally introducing new groups to give the children a different experience. Most of these have no grade requirements and have included Boomwhackers, Belle Plates, Ocarinas and Glock `n’ Roll.